Women, Wombs, & Water:
Bringing Menstrual Cups & Clean Water Filters to the Families of Rural Guatemala
In many rural parts of Guatemala, menstruation is a taboo topic of discussion and people often struggle to find access to menstrual care products and proper menstrual education. This can keep women, girls, and any menstruating person from attending school and excelling in their everyday lives.
Additionally, menstrual care products that are available are often expensive, detrimental to health overtime, and terrible for the environment. Most traditional tampons and pads contain bleach, herbicides, and dangerous carcinogens. They are bad for vaginal health and are rapidly filling up our landfills, or being disposed of improperly.
Many people in Guatemala lack access to: menstrual education, proper menstrual care products, disposal mechanisms, or clean water & sanitation facilities (hand washing capabilities). Women's health educators in Guatemala are working hard to break the taboos around menstruation and create greater access to proper menstrual hygiene management.
In late 2018 our team launched a campaign to bring menstrual cups to families in rural parts of Guatemala, focused on Lago Atitlan. We partnered with Mahina Cup, a US based menstrual cup distributor.
Initially bringing the menstrual cups down, we did so with an open mind, very well knowing that this technology may not be right for these communities. Our intention was not to insert our belief into this culture, but rather to offer this technology as a gift without attachments.
In the initial launch of our project, we distributed 180 menstrual cups to communities on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Some of the cups were distributed through one-on-one relationships, most were donated to a school in the small village of Xesampual, Santa Lucía. Everyone who receives a cup also receives education and guidance around how to use the cup safely, menstruation, fertility, and hygiene.
Many of the people we worked with had amazing success introducing the menstrual cup into their routines. We witnessed first-hand the very real and positive implications of introducing this menstrual technology into rural Guatemalan communities.
The school visit and distribution was lead, organized, and facilitated by Ixquik Lopez Zavala and her family. They are an amazing family of birthworkers, women's health educators, and Mayan wisdom keepers. This relationship is central to the success of this project, and we are deeply grateful for their support and collaboration. Ixquik remains in her community to answer questions about the menstrual cups, offer guidance, and support with any necessary troubleshooting.
We returned to Guatemala again in December of 2019, preparing to launch our second menstrual cup distribution in early 2020. This year in addition to our cup partnership with Mahina Cup, we partnered with Water 4 Life Global, a Global Nonprofit Organization that brings water filters to families in rural Guatemala.
There is a major water crisis in Guatemala, and some estimates say that 98% of the water in Guatemala is contaminated. The unavailability of clean drinking water is intrinsically connected with poor menstrual hygiene management. A menstrual cup won't be efficient without access to clean water and hand washing facilities. Ample drinking water is needed for bleeding people to remain healthy and hydrated. Menstruating people also require access to clean hand washing stations to sanitize their hands and reusable menstrual care products properly. Additionally, diseases and parasites frequently found in the water can lead to severe stomach issues & malnutrition, which affects children the greatest.
We returned to the same school in Xesampaul for another community distribution, this time with both menstrual cups and water filters. Each person that receives a cup, also receives a water filter that will give their family 500,000 gallons of clean drinking water. Learn more about this amazing clean water technology: CLICK HERE
Ixquik led educational talks for the women and families, explaining how to use the cups and filters and why hygienic menstrual care and clean water is so important. The lectures were shared in K’iche', the native language of the area.