Menstrual cups make a difference for refugee women

Menstrual cups make a difference for refugee women

Publication info

Posted
3/27/18
By
Kerstin Blidi

Harriet, 25, lives in Impevi, a settlement for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. She arrived at Impevi in March 2017 with her husband, parents, and two small daughters, the youngest barely 3 months old at the time. The family had fled their home in South Sudan, walking for days to reach safety in Uganda.   

“It was very hot. We started walking in the morning but had to rest often during the day as the children were very small,” she says. “I had to carry the little one the whole way.”  

Since the spike in violence in South Sudan in July 2016, there has been a major influx of hundreds of thousands South Sudanese refugees in northwestern Uganda, making it the lead refugee-hosting country in Africa. There are more than 1 million refugees from South Sudan and DRC in Uganda. Women and children make up more than 80 percent of the refugee population. Due to the impact of the conflict on communities and households, women often take on the arduous displacement journey to seek refuge in Uganda without male relatives, carrying and caring for many children on the way. 

Before the war Harriet worked as a nursery school teacher, but since her qualifications aren’t recognized in Uganda, she had to look for other work. Motivated to do something for the camp community, she took a position with CARE.  

Harriet works on a pilot project with CARE to distribute menstrual cups to 100 of the settlement’s female residents. Menstrual cups are an alternative to sanitary pads and are reusable for up to 10 years. The silicone cups produce no waste and cleaning them requires little water.  ECHO is financing this pilot project and supporting CARE’s tests of menstrual cups’ feasibility in terms of cultural acceptance and access to water, carefully assessing if use is safe in contexts where limited water is accessible.    

“The menstrual cup changed my life,” Harriet says. “At first, my husband was not convinced. He wanted to be sure that it is not harmful for me. But then I explained to him how it worked and he was grateful that I had received one. Now, when I get my period, I feel completely free and clean. I can go about my business and I am no longer stuck at home.”  

Harriet is part of a small group of women trained by CARE and local partner WOMENA in the benefits and use of menstrual cups. The price of sanitary pads alone makes them unaffordable to many of the refugees.  

“Buying the pads on a monthly basis is a huge task for most women and girls in the camps,” explains Harriet. “Most families have little money to spend on numerous needs and buying the sanitary towels is least important. It forces many girls to miss school at the times when they are having their cycles.” 

Kerstin Blidi is Fundraising Coordinator of CARE International. 

Harriet, 25, lives in Impevi, a settlement for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. She works on a pilot project with CARE to distribute menstrual cups to 100 of the settlement’s female residents. Photo credit: Edward Ahonobadha/CARE

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