Womxn* around the world will understand the stress of getting their period, and not having a sanitary product handy, but what if that was a problem that you faced every time you menstruated?
Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities or waste management.
The United Nations estimates that one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their period, which can add up to as much as 20 per cent of the school year, with an estimated 500 million girls impacted globally, each year.
Often womxn will find alternatives such as pillow stuffing, cloths, newspapers and other items that they can access.
All of this poses a personal health hazard, leaving these womxn open to infections, and can lead to health conditions such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or infertility.
With inflation rising across the globe, this pushes the prices of period products higher and could result in even more womxn across the globe facing period poverty.
The Cova Project is providing safe sanitary care to girls and womxn of reproductive age in Africa who are experiencing poverty, suffering, distress and disadvantage due to a lack of financial resources and access to basic necessities.
The Cova Project purchase and supplies menstrual cups to local community partners for distribution, along with providing a menstrual health education program tailored to the cultural norms and language of the areas they are working in.
Since starting in 2018, The Cova Project has distributed over 19,000 menstrual cups in Malawi, Liberia, Uganda and Ghana.
For just $7, less than 2 cups of coffee, a menstrual cup can be provided, ensuring access to education and work opportunities.
But, why menstrual cups?
They are reusable, making them both cost-effective and good for the environment. The menstrual cups being supplied, the Flowcup, is made from 100 per cent medical-grade silicone and can last up to 10 years.
Alongside providing menstrual cups, the education sessions are providing basic sexual and reproductive health.
The Cova Project’s Chief Executive Officer Geena “G.D” Anderson said: “For many, it’s the first time anyone has spoken to them about puberty, so empowering them with the knowledge of what changes their bodies are going through, is very helpful.
“We then get into menstrual health and have candid dialogues about the impact of their periods and menstrual hygiene management and how the menstrual cup can be a sustainable tool to help with some of these challenges.
“An in-depth conversation about menstrual cup use and care then takes place,” Ms Anderson continued.
“Depending on the community and always with respect, we like to lightly touch on contraception, consent and family planning.
“Without fail discussions around virginity and anatomy continue into our Q&A section which can sometimes go for hours,” Ms Anderson added.
The Cova Project is often receiving requests for support to provide menstrual cups in other areas around the world.
It shows the need for menstrual cup projects is increasing yet as a small Australian NGO, there aren’t the financial resources available to accommodate the growing needs.
As with all charities, funding and strong community ties are vital to being able to implement a project, and the Cova team are using innovation to support others in being able to implement a menstrual cup project through the introduction of the Cova Affiliate program.
The Cova Affiliate program, which will be launched in early 2023, will be open-sourcing all of their training materials and providing them free to organisations who are interested in providing menstrual cups.
The Cova Project will provide resources to understand the responsibilities of undertaking a menstrual cup project, including resources such as a profit and loss sheet.
This will support more organisations to implement local projects, alongside the work they are already doing in a community such as education or gender-based equality services.
The Cova Affiliate program is an initiative that is aimed at growing the abilities of community-based organisations to support a decrease in period poverty.
Alongside the resources being provided, there will be the ability to access a consulting service for larger organisations.
“Period poverty, in my opinion, is the number one barrier to equality, as it keeps girls out of the spaces that can help them grow and learn and it’s infuriating that these things are not spoken about, they should be yelled about, Ms Anderson continued.
“It’s not just about having girls show up to school, but to have them show up and be engaged because they are no longer worried about having their periods.
“This is a cost-effective solution that is going to have economical ripple effects for the future, it gets more girls into education and the workforce and that’s a game changer.”
For more information on how to get involved, donate or about the Affiliate program, please see the website at https://www.thecovaproject.com/ or visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thecovaproject.
*The Cova Project uses the term ‘womxn’ to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary people
Sarah Sampana has built a 15-year career in the not-for-profit sector, working in areas such as social housing, homelessness, early interventions and family services. Sarah is a passionate writer who is dedicated to working with and highlighting the efforts of charity work in areas such as poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, education, gender equality, mental well-being and child welfare.