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Pregnant With The Idea Of A Menstrual Cup

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

Representational image. Photo Credit: Michelle Tribe/Wikimedia Commons.

The objective of this written piece is that you send it to someone who is pregnant, the idea of a menstrual cup,
and that it helps them.

    1. You read about the cup, it sounds like a great product. What does it have to do with you? You are comfortable with the pad.
    2. Come across it again, maybe you could give it a try too. But it’s mostly available abroad and has to be ordered online. Plus, it’s expensive. A one-time investment, but a big investment, and not too sure if it will work for you.
    3. Okay, you really want to give it a try. Do research. All this sizing chart and measuring your cervix confuses you. Very tedious. Close window.
    4. Discover Indian brands that are affordable and come in a single size. But what if gets stuck inside and never comes out? Inter-vaginal, hmm. All videos show white women using it. “I don’t know anyone who uses it. Let me ask the gynaecologist.”
    5. Damn, a friend of a friend legit uses the cup. And she is Indian. And lives in India. Okay, let me order the cup and see.
    6. It arrives. And the classic self-doubt acts up. “This is not for me. I’ll keep it aside for a few months and then figure” (or, you are the other category where you want to try it on the moment you hold it even if you aren’t on your period and find it difficult to insert as there is no lubrication that the blood mucosa usually is and it is difficult to break the suction as there is no blood inside the cup to ease it). However, you try the cup once for token trial and hold it at the bottom or don’t do a firm fold and convince yourself that you aren’t ready for the cup yet.
    7. Few weeks pass. After meeting/ reading from someone how much they love the cup, you retry. And this time, you actively watch videos, read blogs, talk to cup users and get the insertion right. Then you do that thing where you lock the door but come back again to check if it’s locked or not. You use a backup pad on day 1 and run to the loo in two hours to check if it has leaked already (cause you are sure it ain’t gonna work for you). And somehow, miraculously, it hasn’t.
    8. Removal is difficult but you keep at it for the second cycle. In between, you tell everyone now how you don’t completely hate your period, the cup is great but removal is umm, tricky. Though the experience that you don’t feel the cup at all inside and it is almost leak-proof has won your heart and you wear the cup to work, to the gym and wear white trousers/ skirts/ sarees.
    9. Two cycles pass. You are closer to mastering the art of using the cup- insertion, removal, cleaning, everything. You only get better and faster at it with every use. The baby is out (considering you thrust the cervix while pushing out a 3.5kg baby AND when pushing out a 10mg cup)and you are IN LOVE WITH IT. You will recommend the cup to EVERY menstruating person you know.
“Within two months of using the cup in 2015, I started a ‘100 Women Project’ where I ‘cupverted’ 100 women.” Representational image.

Obviously, not everyone takes 9 whole months but ya get what I mean. It’s a process, and it’s fun. To read my favourite (and hilarious!) accounts of using the cup, see Lavanya Mohan’s and Rhea Mukerjee’s blogs.

Within two months of using the cup in 2015, I started a ‘100 Women Project‘ where I ‘cupverted’ 100 women (I spoke to 200+, duh) in 100 days (3.5 months approximately). I was obsessed with the cup, so much so that my then-boyfriend suggested I write a blog about it to save time and not spend time saying the same thing over-and-over, and I did. You can read it here (I published this on a youth blog in India where it garnered close to half a million reads). I also spoke at length about my unfortunate friendship with menstrual health disorders that played a key role in my life that I was constantly fighting.

Some women I spoke to wanted to try the cup but couldn’t afford it. The whole ‘build/think-for-masses and inclusivity‘ got me researching why cups cost as much as they did, what the profit-margin was that the companies making these ‘noble’ products required. This lead to looking to start an enterprise that would bridge the affordability gap.

Image provided by the author.

During the process of looking to source silicone and understanding the manufacturing process, I met an acquaintance (she was couch-surfing with me at my house in Pondicherry) who put me in touch with a lady who had a vision similar to mine.  She was ready with a prototype and had sent me a sample. We connected further and decided to explore working together. That was May of 2016 and fast forward, Boondh today has thousands of users in India and a few hundred spread across the globe in countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mexico, USA, UK, and the Netherlands.

It sells at ₹ 590 (plus tax, ugh) when most cups are sold in the range of ₹ 1000 and above, and Boondh uses zero-waste packaging (comes in a drawstring pouch. That’s all, yes). There’s the Together Cup Program where for every cup bought at ₹ 1180, Boondh donates a cup to an economically less privileged menstruator. The focus is on menstrual literacy and dissolving stigma in communities where cultural beliefs encourage oppressing practices.

It’s a fun challenge every day, convincing people in the government and corporate offices to work with us on long-term social-change projects and dealing with struggles of packaging, sealing, couriers, taxes, regulations in India. At the end of the day, I am a happy person who sees value in how she spent 10 of her 24 hours that the earth took to complete one rotation.

I often challenge my lady friends to do the 100 Women Project too—could be for cups, to break stereotypes or to overcome a socially-constructed oppressive practice! My favourite person who is doing the 100 Women Cupvert Challenge now is this traveller from Sri Lanka that I met in Himachal last year. Watch her story here.

I hope you enjoyed reading this piece of my Cup Chronicles as much I enjoyed living it. I also hope you are not as lazy as I am. I wrote the above thoughts in November of 2018. Connect with me at sonal@boondh.co

Note: The above blog is a personal account of Sonal Jain who works at Boondh and is based on their personal experience of talking to people about menstrual cups. In no way does it summarize or generalize the experience of using menstrual cups. 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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