These are the first responses to the YOUR TIME survey that is being completed by women in Malawi when they receive their menstrual cups. They illustrate the need for menstrual hygiene management faced by disadvantaged women throughout the world. Since board member Sandy Beug traveled to Malawi in June with 100 cups, almost all of them have been successfully distributed by the hard-working members of the Your Time team there. This has been a successful pilot project for Your Time which will continue with the shipment of more cups in the near future.
Women are so excited and more are willing to start using the cups. The team in Malawi are very happy and delighted to be part of the team and impacting the lives of these women in this way.
Survey Results from the local women in Malawi:
The current method of menstrual hygiene management: 80% of women use a reusable cloth, and 20% use cotton wool.
80% have difficulty accessing menstrual hygiene supplies.
On a monthly basis, women spend on average 28 to 70 cents per month on menstrual hygiene supplies. The average annual income is $250, less than one dollar per day).
100% of women at some time have chosen not to participate in a sport or social event because they were worried about leakage of menstrual fluid.
Women are concerned about the environmental impact of disposable pads, tampons, applicators, and packaging.
90% at some time have suffered embarrassment or indignity when a pad or tampon became saturated or leaked.
74% are experiencing sleep disturbance.
48% do not have access to a bathroom.
Many are experiencing chafing and bruising from reusable pads.
Husbands complain of smell and poor privacy as reusable pads are hung to dry in bedrooms.
On behalf of the YOUR TIME Women's Empowering Foundation , executive director Damon Weigl of the Life by Life Foundation (lifebylife.ca) conducted a survey among young Indigenas, Mestizas, and Afrodescendientes women in the very underprivileged Medellin Colombia barrio of Niquitao. Keep in mind that we have designated this as one of the target areas .
Following cultural tradition, young Indigenas ( women of the Indigenous communities displaced from El Choco), are kept enclosed in a shelter during their menstrual period (moon-time). However, once in Medellin and living an urban lifestyle, they are no longer sequestered during their monthly moon-time. Of the Indigena at Life for Life, 33% have missed school or a social event due to their menstrual period and lack of menstrual hygiene supplies (disposable pads and tampons). Although they have relatively easy access to pharmacies where they can buy these items, 83% have had to choose between purchasing them or necessities such as food, school supplies, and clothing. This same number report incidents of harassment, intimidation, and embarrassment, when their clothes have been blood-stained as a result of their menstrual period.
Mestizas are mixed-race women who historically have come from poor farms; of these women, 43% have missed school due to their menstrual period and lack of menstrual products. Over seventy percent of Mestiza teenaged girls have been unable to purchase pads or tampons when they needed them; over half report being targeted with unwanted and unwelcome behaviour by others when menstruating.
Unfortunately, there was only a small sample of Afrodescendientes to include in this survey. (Afrodescendientes are members of the African diaspora who displaced from the Pacific region to the interior of Colombia.) Half of these young women have missed school when they have been unable to access menstrual supplies. All of them have been harassed and embarrassed during their period because of the lack of menstrual supplies due to financial constraints.
Although the survey size is small, it is considered to be a representative sample of young impoverished women in urban Medellin, and reflective of the general picture of the poor there. There was a unanimous agreement among the young women that a reusable menstrual cup would improve their lives. In providing these cups, YOUR TIME looks forward to helping these disadvantaged women, as well as those in our own province, by removing one source of monthly indignity and humiliation.
YOUR TIME wishes to thank all of you who have already contributed to our project or have expressed interest in doing so in the future.
President of the YOUR TIME Women's Empowerment Foundation