UFULU runs workshops where we distribute cups and provide information on how to use them. The workshops are for groups of 10-20 women at a time. We introduce them to cups, explaining what they are made of, how they work and how easy they are to use. We work with small groups, to ensure that the women feel comfortable and relaxed. Most groups consist of friends from the same village, church or extended family. Each workshop lasts between 1 & 2 hours and there is plenty of time for discussion and to ask questions.
We know how important it is for the women and girls to understand the need for strict hygiene when using their cups. We provide each of them with a starter pack to ensure that they have everything that they need. Each pack consists of a Ruby Cup (in an organic, cotton bag) a bar of antibacterial soap for washing her hands when using her cup, a set of instructions in Chichewa, and a recycled food tin for boiling her cup clean.
Antibacterial soap is relatively expensive in Malawi. We provide a starter bar of soap, and explain that this is to wash their hands with, when inserting or removing their cups. If kept just for this purpose, the soap lasts nearly a year, and in that time they are able to save up enough to buy their next one, especially if they don’t have to buy soap powder to wash their rags.
We provide the soap in a beeswax wrap to make sure the bar stays clean and dry. It also means they can take their soap with them wherever they go. Many women work outside during the day - collecting water, tending crops or grinding maize. If the soap is easy to carry around (they can tuck it into their bra straps) it means that they can always ensure that their hands are clean if they need to empty their cup - plus the wraps are pretty and they smell great!
We provide a detailed instruction sheet, in Chichewa, complete with diagrams. The instructions show to fold and insert the cup, how to remove it, and how to clean & look after it. We go through all of this in the workshops, but giving them the instructions to take home means that they can double check if they have forgotten anything we have told them.
And finally, we also give each woman or girl a recycled food tin, so they are able to clean their cups. Cleaning a menstrual cup is easy - you just have to boil it for 5 minutes at the start and end of your period. However, we knew that women would not want to use a cooking pot to do this. Young girls would not want to ask their mothers for a pot and most would also not be able to afford a new pot, just for boiling their cups in – if they can’t afford to buy sanitary products, how would they be able to afford a new pot? Our solution to this was simple – use a recycled food tin. These are collected from local businesses and hotels, are cleaned and their labels removed - and the problem of how to boil their cups was solved. Plus it helps with recycling and acts as a useful storage container for the rest of their starter pack!
Nandi and Widge put the starter pack together, after many discussions, to establish what would best work for the women and girls of Malawi. Ultimately, we just wanted to ensure that each woman had everything she needed so that using a cup would be simple and easy.
UFULU maintains contact with all women and girls who receive a cup. We want to know that they are happy using them. If they have any problems, we are on hand to answer questions and help them. We go out and chat to each recipient on a 1-2-1 basis to chat about their cups and how they are finding using them. We try to encourage open discussion of periods amongst the women and girls – a taboo subject in Malawi, like so many other countries.
UFULU works with local schools in each area we are working in, providing Ruby Cups to any pupils that would like one. The workshops are run through the schools, with the consent of the Head Teacher and staff. We have training videos and manuals, provided by Ruby Cup to make the workshops as fun and enjoyable as possible. Each workshop takes about 2 hours and a female teacher is always present to ensure continuity and assurance for the girls going forward.
We also give cups to all female members of staff at the school - they deserve them too! They are then able to talk to the girls, share their experiences and guide them through using their cups if they are at all unsure, especially for those just starting their periods.