“Copas para Cuba”, a menstrual health initiative that faces taboos and ignorance

“Copas para Cuba”, a menstrual health initiative that faces taboos and ignorance

HAVANA, Apr. 8 The girls of the Cuban national soccer team recently paused training for two hours at the Pedro Marrero stadium to participate in a workshop on the use of menstrual cups, the benefits of which are little known in the Caribbean country.

One of the workshop managers, Cuban Marbelis González, explained in detail to a reluctant—but curious—audience the advantages of these small medical silicone containers that accumulate blood for up to 10 hours in each menstrual period.

The meeting, attended by an EFE team, is part of the “Cups for Cuba” initiative that emerged in 2021 from the local enterprise La Mina and Tercer Paraíso Cuba, an international project that promotes sustainable development initiatives.

One of the purposes of “Cups for Cuba” is “to discuss the benefits, advantages and use of the cup, to debate issues associated with the emotional, physical and reproductive well-being of menstruating people from an inclusive approach,” González explained to EFE.

This “cup ambassador”, as the women who teach these workshops are known, developed the conversation in a very natural way and stripped it of conventions and taboos when explaining to the young athletes how to insert the cups, how often. time they should be changed or how to know which size corresponds to each one, among other questions.

At the meeting, in which menstrual cups donated to the activists were also given, González commented that the American actress Leona Chalmers created the first cup in 1937, an accessory that has been modernized over the years despite misunderstandings.

“In the workshops, we also talk about hygiene and the physical and emotional well-being that cups can offer compared to other more conventional products such as sanitary pads,” she said.

Each workshop represents, according to this coordinator, “an opportunity to promote female empowerment and for us to know our bodies better.”

These workshops take the place of Cuban public health institutions that do not talk about the subject, nor do they offer protocols on how to use these products.

“Copas para Cuba”, a menstrual health initiative that faces taboos and ignorance

Conference on the menstrual cup to the girls of the Cuban national soccer team, developed as part of the “Cups for Cuba” project, in Havana. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE


something unusual

In Cuba, the use of cups is quite unusual among women of childbearing age, who prefer to use sanitary pads (known as intimate) or tampons, despite how difficult it has become to obtain them due to low national production and high prices. those imported into the informal market.

This transition also collides with the prevailing ignorance, the high costs of a drink — it can reach 20 dollars or euros (almost a minimum wage in Cuba) or more depending on the brand — and that they can only get them through people who bring them. from other countries and sell them.

Not all Cuban women can buy one of these accessories, although they are a more comfortable and hygienic option. On the other hand, those who can do so avoid using them due to ignorance.

“Many Cuban women do not understand that they can lead a normal life with drinks and also not have the stress of watching out for blood stains. You can do exercises, go to the beach and other activities without the menstrual period being a problem,” said González.

That, she added, “not to mention that it allows us to save the money we spend buying sanitary pads – also expensive in Cuba – and the environmental benefits compared to the waste generated by other hygienic products.”

“Cups for Cuba” faces the enormous challenge of breaking taboos and reaching more communities in the country. In this endeavor, they are grateful for the support of Embassies such as that of the Netherlands, which has allowed them to give workshops in some locations in western Cuba, although it is still insufficient, as González explains.

Its purpose is to bring information to other regions of the country, especially vulnerable communities in the center and east, and to get more women to join and support this interesting initiative.