Not all parents living in poverty have the strength and the possibility to provide their children with the love, care, guidance and financial support they need. This is especially true for girls when they become adolescent and need to have a menstrual solution during their periods. Many resort to whatever material they can find, such as old cloth, pieces of mattress, feathers, newspapers or mud, which may lead to infections. Some girls stay at home and miss school. It happens that girls feel forced to sell their bodies in order to buy pads, a life threatening solution as well as temporary as they will find themselves in the same desperate situation in the following month. As important as providing a long-term sustainable menstrual solution (a menstrual cup can be reused for up to 10 years) is providing important life skills training. The CUP Program aim is to give tools for the girls to be able to grow up in safety, dignity and to become change makers in society.
THE CUP PILOT IN KIBERA
The Swedish foundation Giving Wings agreed to fund the CUP Pilot in the beginning of January 2015. The target was to reach 2000 girls aged 9-16 in schools during 2015 in Kibera Nairobi, one of Africa’s largest slums. The main objectives of the pilot were to demonstrate the CUP programs scale-ability, investigate the exact cost of the program per girl, measure the user acceptance of the cup, evaluate and redefine the Cup program and develop manuals for the educational program and for the trainers making program ready for a role out on larger scale.
THE CUP TRAININGS
The CUP Trainings took place over two weeks and were divided into four sessions. The first session focused on bonding and the girls were interviewed. The second session covered different topics in relation to sex like STDs, pregnancies, illegal abortion, prostitution, love etc. In the third session, the girls were taught reproductive health and those who had their period were given a cup together with training in how to use. Last sessions aim was to empower them by trying to build self-confidence with the hope that the girls will be able to set life goals and start to dream of a better future. Training included training in human and civil rights and team building. This training also opened the door for girls to a world of possibilities and stresses the importance of studying.
THE CUP QUESTION BOX
An important tool to help the girls was the Question box. The girls were asked to write any kind of question they wondered about anonymously and put in the box. The questions were answered during the sessions.
During the fours sessions the girls asked a lot of questions and many showed that they severely lacked important knowledge. Some girls were less shy and asked questions openly. One girl said her boyfriend tells her that if she drinks Coca Cola after sex she won’t be pregnant. Another girl said her boyfriend has told her that as long as he doesn’t come inside her she cant catch any diseases. In one class of 80 girls 50 % of the girls aged 11-14 admitted to be sexually active. Below examples of some of the questions:
Why do people have sex?
Where does the period come from?
Can a vagina be rotten?
What is prostitution?
What is abortion?
What is a penis?
Why do people use a condom?
Is it true I can get pregnant if I sit naked on my fathers bed?
What is AIDS?
Why doesn’t a girl who is 5 years old and raped get pregnant?
What happens if you have sex without a condom?
If I don’t have a sanitary towel, can I use tissue or shit?
What happens if the period doesn’t come on the normal date?
Is menstruation a one in a lifetime occurrence?
THE CUP FOLLOW UP SESSIONS AND MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
The CUP trainers did frequent follow up´s in the schools interviewing the girls, giving support, talking and asking questionnaires anonymously. The objectives were to support the girls in being able to use the cup, measure user acceptance and help out with any problems the girls faced. The team was also available at any time if contacted by the girls.
The user acceptance of the menstrual cup is high. Younger girls are more afraid to start using a cup since inserting something may feel awkward. But these challenges are overcome by the support from the team. During the follow ups and the mentorship program several girls who received their period were given the cup. The girls who approached the team who had infections or had been abused were referred to MSF who gave them medical care and counseling.
The CUP program worked as planned and all girls who have participated were happy to receive the cup and appreciated the education they were given. The anonymous questions showed that the girls were in great danger due to lack of basic knowledge. This proved the importance of the programs dual function; to provide a menstrual solution and life skills trainings.
All parents have given their approval of their daughter’s participation in the CUP program. The parents liked the program for different reasons; some were happy their daughters were given training about sex and related subjects since they themselves did not know how to speak about such matters. Others who suspected their daughters to sell themselves were happy that their daughters have a menstrual solution and therefore are safer. And of course parents were in general happy to save money since they will not need to buy pads any more.
Many parents were requesting the cup for themselves or for their wife’s.