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We want to support women in a refugee camp near Abuja in Nigeria with much needed sanitary products. Menstrual cups are the perfect solution, as they offer best protection for up to 10 years and are environmentally friendly. Our goal is to raise enough funds to bring at least 100 cups to women in need and educate them in their proper use and necessary hygiene as well as to offer support in questions around menstruation.
We visited the camp several times and interviewed some of the women before getting started to make sure we actually provide help that is needed and wanted. We have found best support in "Luv Ur Body" menstrual cups, a company situated in Nigeria, and being able to get the cups directly "on location" allows us to meet the needs as good as possible.
Every surplus in donations will be put to a good cause in the camp. The people living there have been forced to flee from the terror of Boko Haram in the north and are almost solely dependent on benevolence and donations from outside. In case we reach more than our goal or than we need for providing the cups, we will also provide food, diapers, school materials for the kids and whatever would be needed most, no cent will be wasted.
In recent times “alternative” menstrual hygiene products gain more and more attention, Bloggers and even women’s magazines talk about menstrual cups and washable cloth pads, and although there is practically no classical advertisement for these products, they gain popularity fast, and women everywhere spread the word, on the internet, among friends and family, because let’s be honest: A menstrual cup can be literally life changing! I myself use a cup for many years now and would never give it back. It seems like a kind of sisterhood is building around these fantastic little helpers that make periods so much easier each month. And with this sisterhood a social consciousness is growing too. Even if the access to menstrual hygiene products is something most women in western civilization can take for granted, more and more are aware that this is not the case for everyone. Mostly poor women lack access to tampons, pads and the like, especially homeless women and women in developing countries are affected.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a small, flexible cup-shaped object usually made from silicone or similar materials that is inserted into the vagina where it collects the menstrual blood. They have all the advantages of tampons but none of their downsides: They are more hygienic, they don’t dry out the vagina; they are reusable for up to 10 years, are environmentally friendly and so far have never caused the feared toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a serious bacterial infection that can lead to death. They can be easily cleaned by using water and, if needed, some mild soap, and leaving them in boiling water for some minutes is an easy and accessible way to keep them in hygienic condition. And they offer total freedom while being on your period!
Raise your cups! Our project and the idea behind it:
On my 5-weeks-trip to Nigeria last autumn I noticed that access to menstrual hygiene products is often a problem, and many women, especially in rural areas, don’t even know that these products exist. They use rags, pieces of cloth or paper, but these don’t offer good protection. So very often being on your period means staying at home – many girls miss valuable school days and women can’t go to work or participate freely in everyday activities. Insufficient hygiene through lack of suitable products can lead to infections and health problems – and are uncomfortable to wear.
And I noticed another problem in Nigeria: Waste and garbage disposal. But both sanitary pads and tampons build up a huge pile of waste during a woman’s life, something that could be easily avoided with the use of reusable alternatives like washable pads or menstrual cups. Because of their long life (up to 10 years) menstrual cups are not just environmentally friendly but also offer help for a long time. By donating usual pads and tampons, help would be very temporary and the need could never be fulfilled. With a menstrual cup a woman is offered protection for many years and it helps her to gain back autonomy over her body. As a cup can protect for up to 12 hours, women are not in need to look for latrines during the day – if toilets are available at all. Many women and girls stay at home during their period because they fear leaks and stained clothes due to insufficient protection. They miss valuable school days and work.
Giving a menstrual cup to these women is the simple solution to a whole number of problems faced!
Women can change their cup in their homes in the morning and evening, and can forget about their period for the rest of the day without having to fear stains. No additional garbage is created, as the cup is reusable. Honestly, since I use my cup my life during my period changed a lot, things got so much easier – and for women in developing countries they can sure be life-changing! And without having to spend lots of money on pads each month women can better support themselves and their families.
Where help is needed most: The IDP camp in Abuja
We thought about how we could offer the benefits of the menstrual cups for women in Nigeria and where they would be needed most. Sadly there are many opportunities to help, but the most horrible tragedy is happening in the north of the country, where the militant Islamic group Boko Haram forced around 1.5 to 2 million people to flee since about 2010. When terrorists killed 12 people in the attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, around 2000 people lost their lives to the terror of Boko Haram during the same time. The world was watching when Boko Haram abducted hundreds of school girls, of which only a few could be freed so far. Last year it was said that Boko Haram officially declared their connection to “Islamic State” (IS), and Nigeria’s northern states are facing acts of terror regularly. The terror group even uses girls for their suicide bombings – a girl killed last year in Kano was only 11 years old. Thousands have lost their lives, millions have lost their homes.
One of the refugee camps - IDP means "internally displaced persons"- is situated near Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. We have found out more about the camp and the living conditions on several visits. Currently almost 1000 people live there in often improvised huts and tents. The camp was built in 2013 and is inhabited by mostly indigenous people from the states Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Bauchi. Many of them are farmers, finding a job is difficult. Recently there have been a few improvements, a pump, generator and solar panel to help with the supply of water was donated, so at least access to clean water is offered. There is almost no medical help, although a container was brought to the camp that should house a small clinic, it is not in use yet, sometimes medical staff can offer a bit of help, but the supply with medicine is insufficient, diseases like malaria, typhoid and diarrhea put especially children at risk.
There is a small outdoor school under a canopy that offers a bit of education on nursery and primary level, another organization tries to help with secondary education, and there are some trainings offering business skills for adult inhabitants. But as hardly anyone is able to find work, the camp and its inhabitants are mostly dependent on benevolence and donations from outside. There is so much that can be done, we decided to start from somewhere and provide the women with good hygiene products. But every surplus in donations will be used to get things people in the camp need, like food, diapers or education materials for the kids.
What we want to do
With our project we want to help women in the refugee camp and offer them menstrual cups to provide them with a good product that makes women’s lives a lot easier. In interviews women stated that there is need for good hygiene products, and the women we talked to are open to try the cups, many of them didn’t even know before that these kinds of products exist, and used rags and pieces of cloth.
We will personally bring the cups to the camp and teach the women in their proper use, working in small groups and taking our time for personal conversation. Local people can help us with that, this will also help in overcoming cultural and language barriers that might occur. All donations go to 100% into this project! We work hard to offer help that is truly needed and wanted, and are willing to adjust our efforts to the needs at all time.
The funds we raise will be used to buy the cups (our goal being at least 100 packs), and cover costs of transportation, education material, necessary administration, fees and allowance for our additional local helpers. We will keep you updated about our efforts and goals we reach and document our mission with photos and video, so you can see how your donations are put to good use.
We also have contacts to a local Health Department that is very interested in this project and is willing to help to expand it if we are successful. Other similar projects show good results. Some companies donate pads and tampons to homeless women. The project “The Cup” helps schoolgirls in Kenya with menstrual cups, and this initiative inspired us to help women in need in Nigeria.
These already successful projects show that there is a need for menstrual products around the world – and that women’s health and women’s rights are strongly related. Both are topics that are very important to me personally. In the past I supported various projects and women’s rights organizations, but I want to do more. I want to actively offer help where it is most needed. My partner in Nigeria and I work closely together and he already found support among other locals, helping us overcome barriers and language difficulties. We think that what might be taken for granted in some parts of the world should be available everywhere.
We are very excited that we found help from “Luv Ur Body” menstrual cups, a company in Nigeria offering high quality cups made from medicinal grade silicone. The owner of the company offered us generous help, and being able to get the cups directly in Nigeria allows us to work even more effectively, saving us some costs in shipping, transportation and customs, so more money can be used to help directly in the camp.
(picture used with permission)
Menstrual cups can empower us. And the period should be something natural and shame-free for women all over the world.
With your donation you directly help women in need. We appreciate all your efforts!
Best wishes and thank you so much,
Nadine & Ifeanyi