Editor’s note: Lippi Doshi, senior digital policy communications associate and Laura East, communications associate at PATH, share the story of #SheChandelier, designed to shed light on the need for more high-quality menstrual health care options for women and girls.
Laura: A few months ago, Lippi and I were planning our PATH presence at the Women Deliver 2016 conference, brainstorming about how we could get more people engaged with PATH’s work directly benefitting women and girls.
Lippi: PATH’s Devices and Tools Program had just landscaped all the different menstrual cups available to girls and women around the world. These cups have a lot of perks: They last for 10 years, hold enough fluid for up to 12 hours, are reusable and discreet, and prevent leaking. In hard-to-reach and rural areas, cups are a great option because menstrual pads and tampons can be costly and difficult to access. They also do not require underwear.
Laura: Having menstrual hygiene options are especially important for girls entering reproductive age. We’ve learned that when girls get the information, support, and access to the menstrual care products they need, they’re more apt to stay in school, grow up confident and strong, and contribute to their communities and the world.
Lippi: We both agreed that periods should be something celebrated, a sign of womanhood and life, strength, even pride. We also agreed that menstrual cups are awesome. Our menstrual health team often joked about “illuminating” the need for more menstrual health options, and we had the idea to design a menstrual cup chandelier.
Laura: Naturally, we asked Mike Eisenstein in our PATH product development shop if he would make us a chandelier out of menstrual cups. After all, he’s been known to say, “There’s not much we can’t make in the PATH shop.”
Laura: That’s when #SheChandelier was born. We tried to channel the judges on Project Runway, who say, “Know when to stop.” However, our boss said that when it comes to menstrual cup chandeliers, “More is more.” In the end, seven different manufacturers from around the world donated cups to this project.*
Lippi: And honestly, a chandelier of 100 brightly colored menstrual cups with strands of lights hanging from the ceiling is really awesome!
The talk of the town
Laura: Our chandelier ended up being a huge success at the Women Deliver conference. It was featured in the official Women Deliver Snap Chat story, in the conference’s Daily Delivery email, and on the plenary screen. It posed with global health leaders and musicians, political representatives, and hundreds of other conference attendees. But most of all, #SheChandelier facilitated a dialogue about menstruation, a topic rarely discussed.
Lippi: My favorite thing about the #SheChandelier was the genuine delight and intrigue it inspired. Advocates loved the chandelier. Leaders wanted to pose with her. Women who had not seen a menstrual cup came up just to touch and squeeze the silicone. Several mothers and fathers came by and took selfies with the chandelier for their daughters. And a natural exchange of knowledge happened before our eyes. As girls and women gathered at our booth to ask how to use the menstrual cup, experienced menstrual cup users and health practitioners stuck around to answer questions.
Menstruation Matters: the stories we heard
Laura: It was interesting to learn that many women from different countries do not yet have access to menstrual cups, or they do, but because of menstrual taboos, they are afraid to purchase them openly.
Lippi: One women literally said “the menstrual cup changed my life.” Many even claimed that the cups stopped their menstrual cramps and made their periods shorter!
Laura: Two young Nepalese women who were involved in disaster relief efforts after the earthquake, wished they had been able to bring menstrual cups to the affected rural communities. They had distributed a limited supply of maxipads there, knowing they would not be able to be back for several weeks to resupply. Menstrual cups would have been a perfect solution for the women they were helping.
And here are the photos to prove it
Women weren’t the only ones who took selfies with #SheChandelier. We had quite a few men stop by the booth to show their support for increased menstrual health options for women and girls around the world.
Looking to the future
Lippi: We want to bring more menstrual care options to women and girls around the world. Part of that is understanding from girls and young women what types of products, information, and services they need and want.
Laura: Nancy Muller and Laura Wedeen, who head up PATH’s work in menstrual health, and Emilie Peeters of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition spent time talking with young women at the conference, and brought them over to meet the #SheChandelier. It turned into an opportunity for a group photo and for individuals to share their own period stories.
Laura and Lippi: One way you can join the conversation about menstrual health is by helping us find affordable, sustainable solutions for girls and women around the world. Together, let’s bust the taboos around periods for all girls and women around the world.
*Maggacup, Cíclica SRL; Femmycycle, FemCap, Inc.; Diamond Cup, Dongguan GF; China Electronic Material Co., Ltd.; Ruby Cup, Ruby Life Ltd.; Luv Ur Body, Luv Ur Body Ltd.; Mcup, Mpower Cup Ltd.; and Shecup, MediAceso Healthcare Pvt. Ltd.