A pilot study of the use of menstrual cups among young girls in Nairobi slums

A story ran in yesterday’s Daily Nation about the trial of a ‘new’ sanitary product in Nairobi’s Korogocho slums. The product is a menstrual cup – a small, silicone cup that  is inserted into the vagina to catch menstrual blood. Instead of absorbing the blood, like a tampon or sanitary napkin, the cup collects the blood, which is then disposed of in a toilet facility. According to the Diva Cup website (one manufacturer of the menstrual cup) the cup is “emptied, washed and reinserted 2-3 times” every 24 hours.

Diagram of how to insert the Diva cup, from http://www.divacup.com

Is the physical and social environment in slum areas in Kenya conducive to the use of the menstrual cup?

There are a number of challenges to using the menstrual cup in slum areas:

  • access to water & soap (2-3 times a day)
  • access to clean, private, safe toilet facilities (2-3 times a day)
  • acceptability (the young woman must insert her finger into her vagina to position the cup properly)
  • price (1000 shillings is very expensive!)

Will the scale up of the use of the cup solve the issue of school absenteeism for young girls during their menstrual cycle? If they can afford the initial cost of the cup, have access to water & soap and clean, private, safe toilet facilities, and its use is accepted by their female peers – yes. However, I thought the challenge in slum areas was low wages, and lack of clean water and sanitary facilities….

The menstrual cup provides an environmentally friendly and convenient alternative to sanitary pads and tampons – that is if you don’t face barriers to accessing and using the product (see the challenges mentioned above). The pilot study is being carried out by the African Population Health and Research Centre (APHRC) to determine the acceptability and usability of the menstrual cup among young girls and women in informal settlements (slums) in Kenya.

Note: Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate of the menstrual cup. Is it going be a great alternative for young girls and women in slum areas? I hope it can be, but we’ll wait and see.

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