The Ruby Women Group from Global One, Mathare, Kenya.
The struggles of women in poverty are many. Early pregnancies being perhaps one of the better known issues, but there is another big one, almost invisible and marked as a big taboo: menstruation.
This is a story about a group of 40 women, who received a Ruby Cup and the journey of opportunities this gift sparked.
Prior to this journey the women's periods were a burden. Their meager income did not allow them to buy reliable menstrual products and they were often forced to stay at home or wear the same pad (or rags) for several days.
Sex for sanitation
When talking about the lack of money for sanitary products, a serious topic came up: Sex for pads. “No man will do anything for free”, one woman said. This woman was referring to a decision many girls and women in poverty are forced to take. They are so desperate that the only way for them to get money for buying pads is by selling their body.
Exchanging sex for pads might get them the means to buy the products but it also comes with severe consequences. The biggest risk is that they end up pregnant or HIV positive.
Providing A Solution
Aware of this issue, Global One decided to look for a sustainable change for the better and decided to support a group of their women members with Ruby Cups.
The idea was to provide 40 women with a Ruby Cup and education on female anatomy and reproductive health. This little menstrual cup should relieve them from the economic burden of buying pads every month and allow them to participate freely in daily life, regardless of menstruation - and it did.
"I got my first period when I was looking after cattle back in the village. I did not know what was happening, I washed my panties but I only had one pair so I had to put them back on."
A couple of weeks later we received an email from Safia from Global One telling us that the women had formed a group called ‘Ruby Women Group’. This group meets weekly for support, discussion and a new project: improving the lives of more women by providing reliable menstrual products.
Leaving The Past Behind
Having experienced the direct comparison, they all agree on one thing: no woman should have to suffer because of her period. They all want better conditions for their daughters - and fellow women. One woman for instance remembered her first period:
“I got my first period when I was looking after cattle back in the village. I did not know what was happening, I washed my panties but I only had one pair so I had to put them back on. The blood kept coming so I kept washing them and putting them back on. I was very scared and cold, I did not know what was going on.”
Another one recalls a memory of the uncomfortable situation. She had to use the same pad for much longer than hygienically safe and intended, so she said:
“Whenever someone mentioned a strange smell, you hoped it wasn’t you!”.
Safe Periods Are A Human Right
Managing your period in healthy and safe conditions should be a human right granted to all women.
That’s why the Ruby Women group decided to design and produce reusable cloth pads and sell them at affordable prices to their fellow women. This reusable sanitary towel business not only provides these women with a source of income, economic independence and entrepreneurial skills, it also empowers other women to manage their periods safely and with dignity.
Learn more about the project in this video made by Global One: