We were the first menstrual cup company to offer a built in Buy One, Give One promise on every single cup that we sell.
When we were founded in 2012, we were focused on donating cups to schoolgirls in East Africa. Now, we’re donating Ruby Cups in 13 countries across 3 continents.
This impact report explains a little more about where your cup donations are being used and what’s happening as a result of the donations.
Ruby Cup is growing. As we expand into new markets, recruit new talent, and face new challenges, these are the values that guide our team in the decisions and actions we take every day.
Over 800 million people around the world are having a period on any given day, yet talking about periods is still considered taboo in most countries. It’s that taboo that has kept the issue of period poverty hidden for decades.
But period poverty exists. Period.
Around 1 in 10 women globally have been unable to afford protection for their period at some stage in their lives.
The consequences of that are enormous. When people with periods are unable to access safe, dignified period solutions, not only do they suffer by missing out on school, education and other activities, but they’re also held back from contributing to the wider community.
That’s why Ruby Cup’s mission is to enable all people to live their periods safely and with dignity, regardless of income.
We use the power of business to tackle social and environmental challenges worldwide. We’re not a charity, and we’re not a not-for profit. We are a social enterprise that funds our social mission through product sales. We’ve created a great product that people want to buy, and when they buy one, they’ll not only reduce their own plastic waste and reduce their environmental impact, but they’ll also ensure that an identical cup is sent to a person experiencing period poverty.
It doesn’t matter whether you buy online, offline, with us or with a Ruby Cup stockist, the Buy One, Give One promise will always be honoured.
Our partnership model is at the core of our work. We believe that the best way to donate cups is through locally based organisations because they understand the specific social and political context in the areas where they work better than we do.
They also have contacts and buy-in with the local community. By working with them to distribute our donated Ruby Cups, we can ensure that we’re being respectful in our approach and working with already established local networks.
Giving donated products can be complicated. If you’re not careful, you can create a reliance on donations, or undermine local supply chains. Before setting up Ruby Cup in 2012, our founders spent a long time studying social impact and donation programmes. They found that in order to have a positive long term impact, it’s essential to donate products as part of a wider education programme, and to address the reasons behind the lack of access at the same time. That’s why we only work with partners that donate Ruby Cups as part of a menstrual health education programme, and who work hard to address local taboos and stigmas around periods too.
We work with a wide range of partner organisations, from high profile international organisations like CARE.org and Global Communities, to grassroots community organisations like teacher-led Ditch The Rag in the UK and locally run
The Golden Girls Foundation in Kenya. You can find out more about our latest partnerships and hear more about how our partnership model works on
the Ruby Cup blog.
“Every Ruby Cup project is so similar, yet so different due to the fact that we work with our partners to curate something that meets the local context of each community’s specific needs.” Alfred Muli, Ruby Cup’s Regional programme Manager in East Africa.
As of end of 2019, around 200k people are now using a Ruby Cup. The average Ruby Cup will last for 10 years, so that’s around 2 million years of periods being looked after by Ruby Cups!
Of those 200k cups, around 90k cups have been given out through our donation scheme. In our original plans, we were aiming to have donated 100k Ruby Cups by 2020, but we found that we couldn’t meet that target whilst sticking to our values and only donating via locally based partners whose work we know and trust.
We always go for quality over quantity. As of the start of 2020, we’re now donating cups in 13 different countries across 3 continents. In 2018 and 2019 we asked 3949 people in the above mentioned countries if they were still using their cup, and 83% said yes. Many of the women we work with have never heard of a menstrual cup before, so to get at least 4 in 5 of our program participants using the cup in the long term feels like a big success.
“The last two years have been really exciting,” says Amaia Arranz, COO & Social Impact Director. “We’ve made huge headway in terms of growing our current partnerships, extending our reach and improving our impact by creating new tools and workshop materials. The incredible rate of uptake for the cups is a testimony to the work of our partners and the success of the partnership model, which puts people and sustainability at the heart of the donation scheme.”
Countries with active partnerships in 2018-2019.
Up to 65% of people with periods struggle to access
adequate menstrual products in Kenya. In the Mathare settlement in Nairobi, Benter Oyugi lives with her mother and siblings. In the region, a pack of pads costs around $0.8, whilst the average daily pay for an unskilled labourer is around $7. Benter’s father died when she was just an infant, leaving her mother as the sole wage earner. Some months there’s enough money to buy pads, but some months there isn’t. In 2012, Benter took part in a menstrual health education programme run by Femme International and Ruby Cup. She was one of the first beneficiaries of a Ruby Cup and menstrual health care kit.
For Benter, the donated Ruby Cup and menstrual kit were a huge relief. Using a menstrual cup enabled Benter to stay in school and continue her education. She was so inspired by her experience that she now works as a menstrual health educator, offering girls like herself a sustainable solution for safe menstrual health management.
In Malawi, around 50% of the population live in poverty. For those who rely on sustenance farming, the heavy rainfall and regular flooding in the region can lead to frequent famines. Ruby Cup began working with PCI Malawi in 2018. Together, we’ve donated 730 Ruby Cups.
16 year old Amina received a Ruby Cup from PCI. “At first, it was painful,” she says, “but when I tried the following month, supported by the training and mentors, I got used to it. Now I put it on with ease.”
Switching to a menstrual cup can be difficult at first. We’ve learnt that it’s important to follow up with recipients after six weeks, six months and one year. This helps to increase the adoption rate dramatically. To address this need, PCI Malawi worked with the young girls like Amina who had already received menstrual cups and trained them to become Menstrual Health Champions.
Amina is now a group mentor and peer educator. She conducts follow up sessions with young women in her community, telling them about her experience with Ruby Cup and supporting them as they learn to use their cup.
Read more about our work in Malawi on our blog.
BeArtsy works in Achham in the remote West of Nepal. In the Hindu tradition, a form of menstrual taboo referred to as Chhaupadi, prohibits women and girls from participating in normal family activities while menstruating, as they are considered "impure." Women are often not allowed to touch the community tap water during their period, so sanitation and hygiene are difficult. BeArtsy are working to normalize menstruation and break down social taboos in the area. Together, we’ve been donating Ruby Cups and holding workshops for teenagers at local schools.
14 year old Maina Khatri used to manage her period using an old rag, but it was uncomfortable, needed frequent changing and left her in fear of stains on her clothes. Since receiving her Ruby Cup, she no longer fears stains and feels more confident. “It makes my life more easy and comfortable.”
Since menstrual cups collect period blood, for some women it has meant they are considered clean in Chhaupadi tradition, meaning the girls are now permitted to take part in activities that were otherwise prohibited, such as sleeping inside the house, eating vegetables, and drinking milk. Most exciting of all, our follow up conversations with BeArtsy revealed that 93.5% of Ruby Cup recipients are still using their cups. Find out more on our blog.
In the informal settlement of Imvepi in the North-West of Uganda, many women suffer violence as a consequence of their menstruation. Some girls at the camp engage in transactional sex to buy period products.
In 2019 Ruby Cup partnered with CARE.org and WoMena to run a pilot programme to train 100 women and girls in how to safely and effectively manage their periods using a Ruby Cup menstrual cup. The programme also educated participants on reproductive and health issues such as female anatomy and the length of a typical menstrual cycle.
For Viola, this training was her first lesson in reproductive health and her bodily cycles. Previously, she had not fully understood the process of menstruation, and had seen no other option but to sell her food ration to buy cloth that she could fashion into a bulky menstrual pad-alternative. Following the training, Viola reported that she feels more self-confident and actively participates in youth meetings, football games, and long walks to obtain her food rations without fear of leaking blood onto her clothes.
“After WoMena's menstrual health management training and distribution of the Ruby Cup, women and girls are less restricted, experience less difficulty, and talk more freely about their menstruation,” says Meggie Dumas from WoMena. “It impacts the social, physical and emotional wellbeing of recipients. We’ve had so much positive feedback about the Ruby Cups.”
The project at Imvepi settlement in Uganda wasn’t just for the women of the community. Aside from 87% of the women who now use a Ruby Cup as their preferred menstrual product, men, too, have learned to better understand menstruation and menstrual management so that they can approach the women and girls in their community with empathy instead of rage.
At Luanda International School in Angola, students were learning about a temporary settlement in the Dundo region. Thousands of refugees had settled there after fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Around 75% of the population in the settlement are women and children.
Thinking of ways to support, the students wondered how women in the settlement managed their periods. They reached out to Juliana Ghazi, UNHCR Coordination Specialist for the area. “She told us there were serious issues around lack of access to menstrual products. Some women were making makeshift pads, others were sharing the same pad. In other cases girls were engaging in transactional sex in exchange for period products.”
The students began researching ways to address the problem, and came across Ruby Cup. We were happy to help. We worked with the students to create a pilot scheme in collaboration with UNHCR. So far, the students from LIS have distributed 400 Ruby Cups with accompanying menstrual health workshops, and they’ve also led assemblies and workshops for students in their own school.
In 2019, we worked with teacher-led Ditch the Rag in the UK. The organization was founded by teacher Amirah Miller. “Our girls come from deprived economic backgrounds and many of them report struggling to afford period products on a regular basis” says Amirah. “Many of them have used items for longer than they were supposed to.”
Amirah began to purchase extra pads and tampons every time she shopped, but she wanted a more sustainable solution. “90% of the girls said they would be interested in trying products like menstrual cups, but the barrier was the initial upfront cost.”
Amirah began fundraising to create menstrual health care kits for some of her most vulnerable students. She reached out to Ruby Cup and we were happy to supply the menstrual cups. Amirah’s kits include information about menstrual health and care, along with a Ruby Cup which allows recipients to sustainably manage their periods for 10 years. Read more about our work with Ditch the Rag on our blog.
In 2019, our Regional programme Manager in East Africa, Alfred Muli collaborated with Danielle Keiser, Executive Director of the Menstrual Health Hub (MH Hub) to lead a Period Empowerment Training in Nairobi, Kenya. The event brought together 22 youth workers from 10 organisations from around the world, including Kenya, Uganda, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Poland and Norway. Their aim was to develop teaching materials and activities to raise the profile of menstrual health and hygiene within their work.
One of the most interesting aspects of the gathering was the fact that with all of the different countries represented, there were very similar knowledge gaps around periods.
“Whereas the focus of menstrual health and hygiene work has been on the global south,” said Alfred, “it became very apparent that education about menstrual health is lacking in the global north as well. We discussed how most of us tend to ignore myths in our own countries or regions and talk of ‘myths in those other places’. In doing so, we forget to end the shame and silence associated with menstruation in our own houses.”
Find out more about the Period Empowerment Project Training on our blog.
As part of our commitment to education, we’ve been working with our partner WoMena on a brand new toolkit that will make running menstrual health and education workshops easier and more effective for educators and facilitators around the world. The toolkit includes session plans and helpful tools and activities. The guide can be downloaded and used by anyone, anywhere in the world. We hope this free resource will make it easier for educators and individuals around the world to access the tools they need to start running workshops in their local community.
The toolkit has been developed for the East African context, with research, evidence and consultations taken from this region, but can be adapted for use around the world. We are currently looking into having the toolkit translated to French and are finalising the translation to Chichewa for trainers in Southern Africa.
Learn more about the new Menstrual Health Toolkit on our blog.
As well as donation partnerships, we also create impactful partnerships to improve our internal processes too. In 2019, an organization called ThoughtWorks reached out to offer support with collecting data in the field so that we can track our impact.
“Ruby Cup's social project aligns with ThoughtWorks' commitment to social impact,” said Guy Samuel, Lead Consultant. “We were drawn to the inclusive and culturally sensitive spirit with which Ruby Cup conducts its work.”
ThoughtWorks worked with Ruby Cup to better understand our way of working and how they can help and came up with a new tool that streamlines the gathering of vital data needed to assess the effectiveness of our donation programme. ThoughtWorks are also helping to create tools to analyse this data and identify important trends, opportunities and obstacles to the successful adoption of Ruby Cups. Find out more on our blog.
90% of the average menstrual pad is made from plastic. And tampons have plastic in them too – not just in their packaging and applicators, but even in the string.
Most people with periods will use around 12,000 disposable period products over the course of a lifetime. That’s around 200kg of waste product per person. Most of these will head straight to the land- fill, where, thanks to their plastic components, they will take hundreds of years to break down. Every tampon and sanitary pad that you or anyone you know has ever used in their lifetime still exists somewhere in the world today.
And that’s not all, disposable period products also contribute to your carbon footprint too. On average, one year’s worth of menstrual products will contribute around 5.3kg of CO2 to the atmosphere. That means that Ruby Cup users have prevented the creation of period products that would have created around 10,706,000kg of CO2. That’s more than flying from London to Los Angeles 6,488 times.
A single Ruby Cup can be used at all stages of a period for up to 10 years, replacing around 2,000 disposable period products with just one cup.
As we grow and donate more cups, we need to ensure that we are never losing sight of the quality of our partnerships and the quality of the training our participants are offered.
This will be our focus for 2020.
To do this, we’re expanding the use of the Me & My Cup training toolkit to ensure that all participants around the world are receiving the same standard of menstrual health education. The toolkit will help to support all of our trainers with new materials and resources, while our updated data gathering systems mean we can gather more insights into how the trainings are going and where more support might be needed.
And we’re also looking to share and expand our expertise in menstrual health. We’re planning to take part in more global menstrual health and period poverty related events and gatherings, and to stay on top of the latest research and findings.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we will focus on participating in online events and webinars until it is safe and responsible to attend larger gatherings. As for our donation programmes, we will redirect the Ruby Cup donations to healthcare workers on the frontline and to partners that are able to do door to door distributions and provide the necessary training and support.
Period poverty exists in almost every country around the world and it has roll on effects for millions of individuals and communities. The good news is, there are lots of things you can do to be part of the solution.
At Ruby Cup, we believe that menstrual cups offer the most sustainable long-term solution to period poverty, providing up to 10 years of period management with a low environmen- tal-impact and no need to keep collecting new products.
So, how can you help get menstrual cups to those who need them most? If you’ve already bought a Ruby Cup then you’ve already started! If you want to get more products donated you could also consider purchasing a donation cup. If you want to help people with periods a little closer to home, you could also consider making a donation of period products to your local shelter or food bank, and if you’re feeling really proactive, you could also write to your local government asking them to urgently address period poverty.
Finally, to help people experiencing period poverty, think about your own menstrual health education. Many of us, male and female, still don’t really understand menstrual health and the menstrual cycle as well as we could, so get clued up. Our blog posts are a great place to start.
Periods shouldn’t be shameful. Let’s get proac- tive in tackling period poverty.