‘Cup of life’: Kerala MP to distribute one lakh menstrual cups for free

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From abdominal cramps to blood stains, period pangs are many. Menstrual cups help ease the woes somewhat, by not causing rashes and eliminating the need for changing and disposing of sanitary pads frequently. What is more, menstrual cups are eco-friendly, as improperly disposed sanitary napkins contribute significantly to toxic waste on the planet.

In a bid to promote the usage of menstrual cups, Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden has launched a campaign called ‘Cup of Life’, which aims to distribute menstrual cups to more than one lakh beneficiaries in his constituency for free within 24 hours.

The campaign

In collaboration with the district administration, menstrual cups will be distributed through 100 centers in the district on August 30. The logo of ‘Cup of Life’ was launched on Tuesday at Indian Medical Association (IMA) Cochin by actor Jayasurya. The Kerala MP’s initiative is being organised in association with IMA Cochin and Ernakulam District Administration, supported by Muthoot Finance.

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Hibi Eden told indianexpress.com that the campaign aims to promote menstrual hygiene among women and bust the taboos surrounding menstruation. “Earlier, under the project ‘Breaking Barriers’, sanitary napkins and incinerators were introduced in schools. However, the pads posed a problem of clogged toilets. Menstrual cups turned out to be an alternative. Before the ‘cup of life’ campaign, menstrual cups were distributed in ward 17. After two months of the campaign, 4,000 women in Kumbalangi benefitted from the cups,” he said.

A volunteer for the campaign said they are receiving an “overwhelming response” and many colleges have registered for the programme.

Dr Maria Varghese, IMA president, said through the first-of-its-kind initiative, they “want to revolutionise and make people talk openly about periods.”

Dr Akhil Manuel, Project Coordinator, elaborated on the environmental benefits of using menstrual cups. “The waste generated from sanitary pads and diapers is huge. The key issue is that there is no system in place to discard them. In India, about 12 billion pads are disposed of every year.”

Impact on environment

According to a study conducted in 2021, India’s landfills receive 12.3 billion sanitary napkins, amounting to 113,000 tonnes of waste, every year. Improperly disposed and non-segregated menstrual waste also creates health risks for waste workers, the report from Toxics Link, an environment group, said.

“We often hear news about marine pollution, fishes dying due to plastic waste. Lots of sanitary pads get dumped in the ocean. The menstrual cup is the product of the future,” Dr Haneesh Meerasa, an IMA member, said.

Prakriti Varshney, a 26-year-old woman who scaled Mount Ama Dablam (6,812 m) in Nepal during her period in December last year, had told indianexpress.com that using a menstrual cup meant she did not have to dispose of anything which can harm the environment on the mountain.

Other benefits

Dr Maria Varghese endorsed the financial benefits of the cup. “A woman needs to spend at least Rs 60 to 80 for 10 pads or more every month. The amount comes to approximately Rs 34,000 for the years she menstruates. Meanwhile, the cost of a cup, which endures for about seven to 10 years, ranges from Rs 100 to 300.”

A menstrual cup user shared how it has set her free from constant thoughts of changing pads. “Switching to a menstrual cup has helped me in many ways. I love the fact that I don’t have to think about changing pads all the time — cups make it easier to go through the day without looking for clean public restrooms. Plus, it is great to not be spending money every month on a plastic product that is not good for my body, contributes to waste, and can cause pollution when it has to be burned for disposal,” Fathima Abdul Khader, 27, said.

Taboos and concerns

“The social construct of virginity deters the usage of menstrual cups. Men need to be compassionate towards women and understand the pain they undergo,” Dr Manuel said.

Varsha Vinod, 25, said many older women are not comfortable with products that need to be inserted. “I have several reasons for not using menstrual cups. Concerns can range from overall hygiene and maintenance to issues pertaining to the use of insertable products, such as tampons or menstrual cups, especially among older women,” she said.

Manuel emphasised the need for proper awareness. “One should explore the options and use the right-sized cup. One may not be comfortable during the first usage, it can take more than two cycles,” he said.

Making men ‘feel the pain’

Dealing with menstrual cramps is an excruciating experience for many women. While men are clueless about the intensity of the pain, coordinators of ‘Cup of Life’ helped them experience it.

Dr Meerasa said period pain was simulated in men with an electric device at Utopian Dystopia, an art, design and tech festival held in Kochi recently. “Many men came forward to try it. The responses were interesting, some ran off right at the beginning.”

MP Eden also experimented with menstrual pain and said it was “really, really weird”.

Read the full article at: indianexpress.com

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