Irise Institute East Africa is a Non-Governmental Organisation which delivers sustainable solutions to girls’ menstrual health and hygiene in East Africa. The organisation has been running a project in Uganda called the Cova project since 2020. The project’s purpose is about raising awareness about the use of menstrual flowcups and also distributing them to young women who cannot afford them in Uganda. This project has been targeting secondary schools mainly in rural areas. Schools such as Kakira High School in Lugazi, St. Stephen Secondary School and Labani Secondary School in Jinja have all been part of this project. Most of the girls in these schools cannot afford to buy pads for their periods but with the use of a menstrual flowcup, they’re able to save costs in the long run.

Irise Institute East Africa has been able to supply more than 1000 menstrual flowcups to girls in the various secondary schools in Uganda. Since the organisation wanted to spread awareness about the project on the various digital channels, it teamed up with Faraja Digital-storytelling which has been documenting the project since 2020 as well as taking photographs and conducting interviews of various participants.

What’s a menstrual flowcup?

A menstrual flowcup is a menstrual hygiene device that is shaped in the size of a small flexible funnel cup and it’s made of either silicone or latex rubber. The cup is inserted inside the vagina during menstruation and instead of absorbing the menstrual fluid like a pad, it catches and collects it. Depending on someone’s flow, a person can wear the cup for upto 12 hours.

How to use it

When using a menstrual flowcup for the first time, it might feel uncomfortable but you can lubricate its walls with water or any other lubricant. After lubricating the flowcup, gently fold it in half, holding it in one hand with the rim facing up. Then gently insert the flowcup with the rim up into your vagina. The flowcup should sit a few inches below the cervix. After inserting the flowcup, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. When inserted correctly, you can do every day activities like jumping, sitting, running, and standing among others. If the flowcup becomes full before the 12 hours elapse, you will have to remove it to avoid leaks.

In case you want to pee, you can still leave the flowcup inside because it’s placed inside the vagina where you bleed from during your period and yet urine is passed through the urethra (the tube connected to your bladder). So you can still pee with a flowcup inside your body.

Taking out & cleaning the flowcup

 When taking out the menstrual flowcup, you need to first wash your hands thoroughly with soap. Then you need to place your index finger and thumb into your vagina and pull the stem of the cup gently until you can reach its base. Then pinch the base to release the seal and pull down to remove the flowcup. Once it’s out, empty the cup into the sink or toilet.

When cleaning the flowcup, use mild-soap with warm water and if warm water is not available, you can simply use cold water. Avoid strong cleaners that could irritate your skin or leave behind a residue. You can also place the flowcup in boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes. After cleaning the flowcup, get a clean cloth and wipe it over it so that it can dry completely before storing it in breathable fabric bag. Never use a plastic bag or an airtight container for storage. The flowcups are durable and can last for 6 months to 5 years with proper care.

The use of menstrual flowcups in Uganda will be a cost-effective method for women since the flowcups can be reusable unlike pads.