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Strategic Philanthropy Empowering Women and Girls

Cristina Ljungberg | Giving Wings Foundation | 25 November 2016

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Women all over the world share one thing. Their periods. With women’s health improving globally we have never menstruated more than we do today but still millions of women don’t know why they menstruate, live restricted lives during their period, and can’t afford products to manage it. In order to improve women’s lives and create an inclusive world where girls can thrive, TPW member Cristina Ljungberg (TPW 2012 – 2013), of the Giving Wings Foundation, has developed a Menstrual Health portfolio as a strategic way to support young women and girls.

So far the portfolio has invested in seven programs, including The Cup Foundation. The Cup started as a pilot two years ago in Kenya, working with girls in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, providing them with sexual and reproductive health education and giving them training and access to menstrual cups. Having reached and trained over 5000 girls The Cup has provided not only a way to manage periods but also increased the girl's chances of staying in school and living a healthier, safer life.

It’s easy to take the sanitary products for granted but access to pads or tampons is rare in large parts of the world. More commonly women use an old cloth, fabric from a dress, leaves, a piece of mattress, or whatever they may find to manage their bleeding. Use of unhygienic materials and the lack of access to clean water both disempowers women and girls and puts them at health risk. Some girls resort to prostituting themselves to raise the money they need to buy pads, putting themselves at additional risk for HIV and STDs.

During the four-week training with The Cup, the girls in the program learn about several topics such as human rights, reproductive health, sex education, team building and empowerment. The actual cup is introduced in the third session when the girls have gotten to know each other better and feel comfortable in the space.

A menstrual cup is a bell shaped cup made of medical grade silicone that is worn inside the vagina and collects the blood. You then empty the cup every 8 to 12 hours and insert it again, in the end of your period you boil the cup to sterilize it. It can be used when swimming or doing sports and can be reused up to 10 years. The invention has been around since the 1930’s however it has taken until today for many people to realize it’s great potential. It needs less water to clean than a reusable pad and is less harmful to the environment than disposables.

The Cup Foundation aims to reach and train an additional 15,000 girls in 2017, thus providing these girls with dignity and empowerment and also increasing their chances of participating in society on more equal terms.

TPW member Cristina Ljungberg and her organization Giving Wings are working within the field of Women’s Health and supports several menstrual health projects around the world to inspire and enable young girls to thrive.

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