While some of us were chatting after the panel discussion on women’s empowerment, Kamayani asked me, “Why don’t we have a small group talk with women to tell them about the menstrual cup? I wouldn’t have known if you had not told me about it.”
I remembered the day in 2005 when Kamayani Swami spoke in College Park about her plans to work in Bihar and the brief moment I caught to tell her about the cup. I had since written, “Greeting Aunt Flo” but clearly it was time to bring the cup to the notice of a new set of AID women. And so though volunteers were busy in jam packed sessions that ran late and had a bus to catch back to the hostel for the night, we found ten minutes after dinner to gather in a circle and share our experiences with the cup. Most had never heard of such an option before and none had ever seen one. It is difficult to find in stores, though now it has become easier to order online from large retailers and is also sold in India from a Bangalore-based company.
The main advantages Kamayani and I mentioned were: convenience, comfort, and zero-waste. Over the long term it is also more cost-effective than using disposables and requires much less water for washing than cloth. At a subtler level, it improves our awareness of our own flow and confidence in our bodies.
Cloth pads have also proved beneficial in rural as well as urban areas, both for those seeking to reduce waste from disposables as well as those who cannot afford to use them. Instead of using old cloth, women in Srikakulam district have been using a simple pattern to sew pads that fit comfortably and are made of soft cotton fabric. Some companies such as EcoFemme are marketing similar cloth pads in shops throughout India and abroad. Common to our local and their national enterprise is the goal of bringing dignity and freedom to women’s monthly cycle.
In light of the persistent myths regarding menstruation, hygiene, humanity and feminism, Kamayani and I agreed that we would miss no chance to talk about menstruation and simple things that make it easier.