Pixie Cup founder Amber English recently traveled to Tanzania, where she was able to distribute 400 menstrual cups to female leaders and teachers in rural areas. I sat down with her to talk about her experience there and what menstrual hygiene means for women in Tanzania.
Karen: First of all, how were you able to travel overseas during COVID?
Amber: Tanzania actually has no travel restrictions right now. They recommend that people avoid nonessential travel, but I was able to join a group with WorldServe, who were traveling there to help build wells. We had to fill out a form and have a health screening, but travel was actually pretty easy. I was originally supposed to go to Tanzania in April, but that trip was obviously cancelled, so I was super excited when this opportunity came up!
Karen: Tell me more about WorldServe.
Amber: WorldServe is a really great organization, and they’re also based here in Springfield. They work to eliminate water scarcity in Africa by building deep, solar-powered wells in areas where access to water is scarce. In Tanzania alone, 25 million people still don’t have access to clean water. People often have to walk miles for water, and even then it’s not clean.
We went to one village where a well was being drilled, and we got to see their current water source. Some of them walked an hour to get there, and many women came to the hole four times a day to get water for their families and cattle. It was so exciting to be there when the new solar-powered well was installed and to see how happy they were that they wouldn’t have to walk so far for water anymore!
Karen: How do water scarcity and menstrual hygiene issues affect women in Tanzania?
Amber: Water scarcity everywhere disproportionately affects women and girls. When adequate restroom facilities, clean water, and menstrual products aren’t available, it can make it difficult or impossible for girls to attend school when they have their period. In Tanzania, most girls stop attending school after they start their periods. We met only one girl on our trip who was still attending school after starting her period. She was 15. Even if girls do stay in school, they may have to miss 3-4 days every month while they have their period, and they can fall way behind on their lessons.
The task of collecting water for the family also falls on women and girls, so if they have to walk miles to a water source, that’s another factor that can prevent them from attending school.
Karen: What was the response like to the menstrual cups you distributed?
Amber: They were so excited! The response has been outstanding and they’re already asking for more. We started by educating the female leaders and teachers, so they can get comfortable using a cup themselves, and then they can educate the girls in their community on cup use and menstrual hygiene. They are saying that it’s truly life-changing.
Karen: What do women in Tanzania usually use for menstrual hygiene?
Amber: Schools will sometimes have a small budget for sanitary pads, but it doesn’t go very far. Many women and girls can’t afford menstrual supplies, so they have to use pieces of cloth. Because of cultural taboos, these have to be kept out of sight. And if there’s no clean water, they can’t be properly sanitized. Some women may not even have underwear, so they can’t use pads or cloth. But since menstrual cups are worn inside, lack of underwear isn’t a problem. As long as they have clean water to clean their cup with, they can use a menstrual cup. It was great to be a part of a project that is helping to alleviate both those problems.
Karen: That’s incredible. What’s next for Pixie Cup?
Amber: Next month we’ll pass 100,000 cups donated to women in need around the world. So far we have donated over 91,000 cups. For every cup we sell, we donate one to a woman in need. Many of them go to women in developing countries like Tanzania, and we also partner with organizations that are working to address menstrual equity issues in the U.S. We’re always looking for new donation opportunities!
Karen: How can people get involved?
Amber: If you buy a Pixie Cup, you’re automatically giving a cup to a woman in need! And if you buy a Combo Pack, which contains two cups, we donate two. You can also sign up to help fundraise for WorldServe on their website, or even travel to Africa with them. They’re planning a Mt. Kilimanjaro climb for summer 2021!
Your Pixie Cup purchase helps a woman in need
We’re on a mission to empower every woman in the world with a life-changing period by putting a Pixie Cup in their hands through our Buy One, Give One program. It’s a big mission, but with your help, we can do it. As of today, we’ve given over 90,000 cups to those in period poverty — and we won’t stop until every single woman or girl in need has the resources to manage her period with dignity. Visit our online store.