BY: Mpofu Sthandile.

Changing lives could be as simple as providing young women with the tools to ease the challenges they face every month, during their menstrual cycle.

Cuplings Foundation managing director and co-founder Farah Abdulla has made it part of her life’s purpose to effect positive change.

This year the foundation aims to raise more than R 7 million to fund the distribution of 25 000 reusable soft silicone menstrual cups that collect, rather than absorb, periods. And Abdulla wants to achieve this target by Christmas. She said: “Each cup has a lifespan of ten years and eliminates the dependency that younger women and girls have on feminine hygiene products.”

This, she added, was of particular benefit to less fortunate individuals who are dependent on various ‘pad programmes’ that distribute disposable products to communities, sometimes inconsistently. Abdulla added: “It’s washable, easily wearable and saves thousands of Rand for users who presently purchase tampons or pads every month. The value to people who cannot afford to buy hygiene products, is immense.”

Abdulla said that it is estimated that more than 2.5 million South African girls miss a week of school every month due to their period. She said: “This could add up to two years of education lost, when adding up time lost over an average scholastic career.” And lack off access to sanitary products is becoming a greater challenge as socio-economic conditions continue to add pressure.

She noted: “Most Women who live in villages, impoverished areas and shelters cannot afford to buy sanitary products even when they are made available in their local stores. Instead they are forced to use clothes, tissues, leaves and other unsanitary methods to deal with their monthly period.”

While lack of access to feminine hygiene products remains a major problem in developing nations, the impact of disposable sanitary products also holds significant environmental consequence.

Individuals use between five to ten thousand pads or tampons during their lifetimes and worldwide around seventeen billion pads and tampons are sold annually. Once used, they fill up waste sites around the world and according to studies by Global Citizen, non-compostable period products can take up to 800 years to decompose.

Abdulla said: “Cognisance of the damage that these products can do to the environment and, concomitant to that, and the negative impact that not having access to feminine hygiene products can have on various life stages of a women, particularly young women, should make women’s period wellness at the top of socio-environmental agendas worldwide.” Silicone menstrual kits are biodegradable.

 The Cuplings Foundation Christmas Challenge is raising funds to provide young women in South Africa and Botswana with reusable cups this year.

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