One of Ruby Cup’s biggest tasks and visions is to provide a sustainable and healthy menstrual product to as many menstruators as possible. But we can’t do that alone. In order to move things on a bigger scale, we work with wonderful, dedicated partners that help us provide Ruby Cups and reproductive health education to the members of their communities, who need them the most.
Our partners’ efforts, as well as ours, also contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Together we strive to improve sustainable menstrual management and to create awareness about the problems menstruators are facing all over the world.
We are also very thankful for having a thriving, strong, and inspiring Ruby Community (Hi there!), that also plays an important role in reaching these goals. Without you buying a Ruby Cup or supporting us, we could not provide our partners with Ruby Cups and the support they need. Your individual action has a big impact and we’re proud to have all of you in our Ruby Community (check out just how much waste all of us saved last year!)
But it doesn’t stop there. Sometimes, we get to be amazed by young and proactive members of our society, who want to inspire people with their strong spirit and beliefs about a future we all want to live in, with dignity, peace and without harming our environment.
One of these persons is Miriam. She contacted us recently and surprised us with her passion and drive to make things better. Miriam presented Ruby Cup at the 6th Ministerial WHO Conference on Environment and Health as a part of her agenda to raise the awareness of menstrual health in Europe. How cool is that?
Meet Miriam and understand why we need more people like her. So first things first, tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m enrolled in the Master’s Program of Politics, Administration and International Relations at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany. I’m also part of the Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) Youth Group, co-founder of the student initiative for Social Entrepreneurship Social Minders and co-founder of the task force for Gender Equality at the United Nations Association of Germany. Having a German-Ugandan background, I’m highly interested in a global perspective on women’s rights.
So Miriam, how come you took part in the WHO conference in Ostrava?
The WHO Conference took place from 13 to 15 of June 2017 in Ostrava, Czech Republic and was dedicated to pressing issues regarding health and environment in Europe, reaching from chemicals, climate change and air pollution to water and sanitation.
I saw the call for application in February ‘17 on WHO’s website and that they especially invited young women to join the WHO conference. Since I am convinced social entrepreneurship offers solutions for climate change and social justice, the WHO Conference was a perfect opportunity for me to promote social entrepreneurship. But during the 5 months of preparation and during the conference itself, I realized that only a small amount of people came from a marginalized group and their interests weren’t really addressed.
Interesting! Good to hear you feel confident in addressing those interests via social entrepreneurship – we do too! So as a youth delegate for WECF, tell us a bit more about what WECF does and stands for:
WECF is especially interested in gender-related topics because it focuses on gender equality in health and environment.
Moreover, operating internationally, WECF intends to empower people with diverse backgrounds regarding religion, ethnicity, educational background, age, gender, etc. That’s why as a panelist, I decided to talk particularly about young female social entrepreneurs.
This year the WECF Youth Group started a project to raise awareness of the amount of waste that people produce in their daily lives. Youths from across Europe (rural/urban and east/west) came together to produce a short film where they had to store all the waste they produced during 5 days. You could also join the initiative and share your 5-day waste to raise awareness via #NotWastingOurFuture
We focused on what our main sources of personal waste are and asked ourselves if the organic alternatives are better. Moreover, can everyone in Europe access sustainable no-waste alternatives?
One of the sources for regular waste production is sanitary products used for menstrual management.
Good point. You also mention zero waste periods in your infographics from WECF.
Yes, and I think social entrepreneurs play an important role in finding new solutions. In terms of waste and health management, social entrepreneurs offer a wide range of innovative opportunities. That is why I’m so interested in the work of Ruby Cup.
I love linking social entrepreneurship, waste management, and health. This is why Ruby Cup caught my attention. First, Ruby Cup is social. For each purchase, another cup is donated to a girl in need. Second, menstrual cups are eco-friendly. In comparison to tampons or pads, cups produce less waste simply by the fact of reusing. Third, Ruby Cups are free of hazardous chemicals, which not only harm the environment but also the human body.
And especially since menstruation is still a taboo in society, I think it is a topic that has not been addressed enough in politics.
We agree. So obviously we love that you brought up menstruation and Ruby Cup at the conference. Why do you think Menstrual Health Management is a political issue?
Menstruation is a key indicator of health and vitality for menstruators. On the one hand, good sanitation and hygiene impact health: menstruators depend on adequate menstrual products to avoid infections and to prevent potential diseases. On the other hand, good sanitation and hygiene impact well-being in physiological terms.
Suffering from stomach pain is one thing, but being excluded from society while menstruating is worse. This exclusion reaches from lessons at school to your participation in daily life. That’s why the UN Sustainable Development Goal number three, entailing universal access to reproductive health care by 2030, is so important. By then, female participation at schools, universities, and work can be assured. However, this goal can only be achieved, if social entrepreneurs working towards this goal are supported and women and girls are empowered.
The key is access to clean water because it is one of the crucial sources of menstrual health management. So, dear politicians, let’s talk about menstrual health because it concerns all of us.
Exactly. Menstruation isn’t just a women’s issue – and that’s why we all have to work together.
We’re still far from being able to take a rest in fighting to accomplish SDG Nr. 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and SDG Nr. 5 to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls.
We even think that menstrual health management (MHM) should have its very own category and deserves way more research as menstruation isn’t just a ‘women’s issue’, it’s a global issue.
As the Newsweek article stated: “Menstruation – the discharge of blood from the uterus’ inner lining through the vagina – is a natural biological process, and you, me and everyone we know wouldn’t be here without it. No menstruation; no people. That means periods are tied to everything from public health and education to the environment and basic human dignity.”
What is the conclusion of the WHO Conference? What goals have to be achieved/tackled in the near future?
The conference was a good entry to the world of political engagement and to meet other feminist activists. Especially, the spirit of social entrepreneurship in waste and health management was present among the activists, but also among the political representatives. The future challenge is to build a sustainable impact on policy-making and to reach young people outside of the feminist bubble. For instance, we will be promoting gender equality and address climate change at the COY13 and COP23 in November.
Sounds like a good plan! Together with Miriam we gathered some tips that each of us can do to actively design the future we want to live in:
Changes in attitude is a long process. It touches upon culture, politics and religion. But as an individual, you can also make a difference. Here are a few tips on small changes you can do in your daily life that can create a big impact if many start doing them:
- Never flush pads or tampons in the toilet (a recent study showed that in Austria 80% of menstruators flush their tampons down the toilet!)
- Use reusable menstrual products like menstrual cups, cloth pads and menstrual sponges.
- Try to reduce plastic in all situations in life, be it menstrual health, shopping bags, packaging of food, etc.
- Reproduce, recycle, reuse food packages.
- If possible, drink tap water instead of buying bottled water. If needed, look into water filter options for your home or tapp.co water filters.
- Always keep a tote bag in the bag you use every day. You’ll always be equipped with a bag in case you do a spontaneous shopping trip on your way.
- Buy quality! High-quality products will last you longer and will be a relief for your environment.
- Get involved in sharing-economy like car-sharing or food-sharing.
- Don’t forget: the resources we never used are the most sustainable and efficient ones :-)
Let’s start a future we all want to live in!
A change in attitudes is a long process and normally takes generations – so let’s start with our generation. Let’s rethink how we use our resources and how we talk about menstruation.
Thank you, Miriam for taking Ruby Cup to the 6th Ministerial WHO Conference on Environment and Health and for being such a wonderful person, igniting and inspiring others to take (little) actions to make the world a better place.
Add your little tips and habits that make a big difference in the comments – we’d love to hear them!