Not the prettiest subject but a reality traveling women face is access to their preferred feminine hygiene products.
Much like hair products, traveling for short bursts can allow you to bring along your favorites but when you live abroad access to 15 types of tampons can quickly become the availability of one or two absorbencies of the same non-applicator brand. I have even lived in places where the only options are pads. So attached was I to the brands, styles, and quality products introduced to me by girlfriends and the women in my family I would literally buy four Costco boxes of silk applicator tampons every time I landed in the States. I would ask whichever friend who was planning a visit if I could ship them to their house. A moderate environmentalist, I did feel guilty about the carbon footprint of my addiction but, I cared more about accidents and my clothes.
Last year, shortly after I moved to Kenya, I was introduced to a social entrepreneur whose latest project was revolved around quite the taboo subject. He wanted to supply low-income women around the world with menstrual cups. A few years prior, a friend had suggested I try the cup and I’ll admit the semi-disposable brand I purchased from CVS was a nightmare. I couldn’t understand how she was such a hyper advocate of the contraption. Enter the WonderCup, the product of Volker Bassen, a German-Swedish man who has called Kenya home for over twenty years. Volker is known around Diani Beach as Mr. Cup. He heard about the menstrual cups and invested his own money in making a cup which he is selling at fair-market rate in the developing world—less than quarter of the price of the leading cup brands.
Volker told me how this old product, getting new attention from social media ambassadors, had the power to change lives. Skeptical at first, I had to try it for myself and to get feedback from the communities in which he was working. As I did my research, I was shocked by the stories of what young women were doing when they didn’t have enough money for pads. Two months later, his product became my newest travel buddy. I was the latest believer in the little silicone miracle. Now I’m flying around with a little pouch, not gallon Ziplock bags full tampons and pads of varying absorbencies.
Talk about hooked.
I can sleep on the plane.
I can do Muay Thai anytime of the month.
I can even wear a white dress without fear.
Having turned me into a true believer, I wanted to do more. My professional life typically orbits around projects that increase opportunities for girls and women in the developing world. Volker told me he wasn’t concerned about profits on this project but on creating a new dialogue about “that time of the month” and getting his WonderCups to the women who needed them the most. With the help of some friends, WonderCup is now operating pilot programs in Colombia, Ghana, and Kenya with plans to expand into Brazil, Peru, Uganda, Tanzania, Guatemala, and Ecuador, the programs revolve around workshops which offer a safe space where women young and old can learn about reproductive health, usage of the WonderCup and speak comfortably about other issues such as sexual assault. The other part of the program is about creating economic empowerment opportunities for low-income women. The reusable bags are made in each local area and the WonderCup sales force is comprised of women who earn about USD 1 for each cup they sell.
I am excited, as it could mean more travel for me as I oversee the startup projects. The best part is I no longer have to plan my flights around my period. If you want to know more about what is going on or would like to buy a cup which allows him to donate ten to one of the programs, please take a moment to visit their website.