Reusable Menstrual Cups for Women’s Health – EHF Fellows Vanessa & Rebecca Paranjothy, Freedom Cups

(music) (audience applauding) – Hi everyone, let’s talk
about something everybody loves to talk about, periods. (audience laughing) So this is Ganita. She’s from a nomadic hill tribe in India, so for her period she uses old cloth, but due to stigma, she can’t
dry it out in the open, so she hides it under her other clothes. This causes it to be
always be dark and dim, causing her to have recurring infections. This is Anne-Marie, she works
on a sugar cane plantation in the Philippines, there
are no toilets on the field, and she does not have ample supplies to get her through a day of work, so she ends up missing a
week of work every month. For most of us, missing a week of work, we would still have income. We would still have food on the table, but for her, it means
no income for that week, and no food on the table for her family. This is Prathina, she goes to
a boarding school in Nepal. She uses pads, so, in the
boarding school compound, there’re boys, so she’s shy
to dry out her old cloth. So her parents who are farmers
have an additional expense, which is pads for her,
she has it good though. Her mother and grandmother were
banished to menstrual huts, at the fringes of their village
during their monthly cycles. This is Annabel, she has
extremely heavy flows, and in order to go about
her daily activities and be productive, go to
work, feed her children, send them to school, she
needs to buy pads as well, but the problem here is the disposal. So what she does is she
puts it in a plastic bag, and burns it in her backyard. Her backyard is relatively small, so she ends up burning
it right by her well. She can’t bury it because the
dogs in the village dig it up, and they carry it around,
which is very embarrassing. So this is Sarah, she’s from Singapore, and she enjoys doing
marathons and triathlons, but having her period during
these events are a real hassle, so she ends up popping pills, which messes up her menstrual cycle and causes her to have hormonal imbalance. Apart from the mere hassle is the fact that she uses 12,000 pads and
tampons over her fertile life. So the problem that
we’re addressing here is that 70% of women across
the globe have no access to any form of sanitation. They use things like leaves,
bark, old cloth, and mud. And the women who do have access to sanitation will experience
leaks, stains, discomfort, high expenses, and reproduce a ton of non-biodegradable waste. So our solution is the Freedom Cup. A Freedom Cup can be likened
to a reusable tampon. It is folded and inserted into the body. It opens up, forms a vacuum
seal, and is leak-free. It sits at the base of the cervix and collects menstrual
fluid for 10 to 12 hours. One cup lasts 10 years on average. This makes it the best option for the earth, the wallet, and the body. For the earth, we would save
12,000 pads and tampons. For the wallet, we
wouldn’t have to buy pads and tampons any more, and for the body, as our cups are made of
medical-grade silicon, and do not contain artificial fragrances and synthetic absorbents. – So, we work on a buy
one, give one model, so for every cup that we
sell to a woman like us who can afford it, we give
one for free to a woman who can’t afford it in an
under-privileged community. We have done about 17 projects to date, in about 7 countries
across Asia and Africa. So we work in Singapore,
Malaysia, Cambodia, Philippines, India,
Nepal, and most recently, we just came back from
Nigeria, and I think some of the findings that we found
is super interesting. So we find that we’re
keeping girls in school. So, 23% of all girls drop out of school the moment their first periods hit, which I think is one of the big reasons for gender inequality across the globe. And apart from keeping girls in school, I mean, the problem with
periods in the Third World, is the fact that most rural
schools don’t have toilets, as well as the stigma that surrounds it. On top of that, we find our
women are earning more money, so they earn more money, ’cause they can work the full month, and by earning more money, they have a larger say in
the running of the household. They also report lower incidences of urinary tract and fungal infections, and we find that there’s lower levels of soil and water contamination. On top of that, I mean, overall, women have reported a much
higher standard of living. Beyond that, we’re also working
with hotels in Singapore to give us their old soaps,
refurbish them into new soaps, and then we give them out to these women alongside on our projects. I would like to appeal
to everyone, like here, all of the communities that we work with, what we do when we first hit the ground is that we go and give back to the community. So we find underprivileged groups, so whether it’s homeless women
or people living in slums or refugee camps, and we go
and we distribute the cups and we study them, we
consult them, and we find out how best to enter the market that way. So that’s the team, Joanne’s
not here ’cause she’s helping at home with my Mom,
but that’s Becky and I, and yeah, we’re done, thank you. (audience applauding)

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