Standards for menstrual cups (Menstrual Health Standards Webinar Series)

A critical component of Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) is informed choice in materials used for absorbing or collecting menstrual blood. Informed choice is enabled by having accurate information on the safety and effectiveness of menstrual hygiene materials in performing this function for all those who menstruate across different contexts. Technical benchmarks and standards on the quality and safety of materials for use and effectiveness in performing desired functions are therefore critical. In many contexts, even availability through markets and public sector channels is contingent on whether standards exist. While standards for disposable sanitary pads, tampons and reusable cloth products have been introduced in both developed and developing country settings, there is a need for harmonization of these standards and adoption across geographies. The first two webinars in the series explored the status, challenges and opportunities for standards for disposable pads and reusable pads. While menstrual cups are growing in popularity in developed countries and have been introduced in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), standards for these insertion products exist only in developed countries (e.g. US, Australia). However, there have been efforts by manufacturers, CSOs and advocacy groups on creation of technical benchmarks in LMICs along with evidence generation on safety of menstrual cups in these settings. This webinar focuses on this emerging product category and explore pathways for creation of relevant standards based on these recent efforts.

List of speakers:

Penelope Phillips-Howard

Professor Penelope Phillips-Howard is a public health epidemiologist at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. She leads a team researching menstrual, and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), with collaborations in Kenya and India. She is PI on a UK-funded trial evaluating menstrual cups or cash transfer to protect girls SRH, following successful completion of a pilot study exploring acceptability, use, effect and safety of menstrual cups and sanitary pads among schoolgirls.  She is co-investigator of a R01 NIH/NICHD grant (Mehta PI) examining the effect of cups on the vaginal microbiome. She group have published widely on menstrual products, including a Lancet systematic review on the use and safety of menstrual cups globally (van Eijk et al 2019, Lancet Public Health, 4(8), e376-393).

Shamirah Nakalema

For the past five years, Shamirah Nakalema has gained experience in delivering comprehensive Menstrual Health Management information to adolescent girls and women. She is currently working with WoMena Uganda as a Senior Project Manager and Training Coordinator. She is also a former o-chair of the Menstrual health work stream under the RHSC and the Co-founder of Menstrual Care Uganda.

Alethea Osborne

Alethea is currently a Gender and Social Development Specialist at MannionDaniels. As part of this role she provides analytical and technical support to the large menstrual health portfolio within the AmplifyChange and oversees the support MannionDaniels gives to the Menstrual Cup Coalition. Previously, Alethea has worked in East Africa and the Middle East as a  grants manager and researcher, focused on creating meaningful grants and support to civil society organisations, particularly those working with youth around sexual and reproductive health and rights. Alethea has an MPhil degree from Oxford University in Modern Middle East Studies and wrote her masters thesis on menstrual taboos in Jordan.

Leisa Hirtz

Leisa is a social and product innovator who, for over 30 combined years, has worked in healthcare, public health, product research, design, development, prototyping and manufacturing. She founded Women’s Global Health Innovations, a social enterprise, in 2013 with the goal to develop, in partnership with local NGOs, Government, multinational and other stakeholder support, dignified innovative menstrual, sexual and reproductive health products and programs to help end the menstrual stigmas, taboos and shame that greatly hinder the lives of the most marginalized adolescent girls and young women experiencing period poverty. In collaboration with microbiologists and material science engineers, Leisa developed the first physically antibacterial menstrual cup, the Bfree Cup. The Bfree Cup is being used by menstruators globally and impacting the lives of many who face social, economic and cultural barriers to manage their periods easily, safely, affordably, and with dignity. As a consummate innovator, other Bfree branded products are in development, including a multi-purpose assistive and preventive menstrual cup and contraceptive technology, the Bfree Duo.

Nancy Muller

Nancy is currently a consultant in global health, with 30+ years’ experience, most recently as a senior program office with PATH. She has collaborated with country partners to evaluate, introduce, and manage projects in immunization and maternal and child health technologies and systems. For the past twelve years, she led PATH’s menstrual health team aimed at improving women and girls’ health and well-being by increasing awareness, access, and use of affordable products and solutions at scale through user-centered product design and evaluation, market access, and advocacy. Nancy has designed and conducted mixed methods field evaluations on technologies and approaches for menstrual health, immunization systems (cold chain, health care waste management and injection safety), and cookstoves. Prior to joining PATH, she worked in Britain and in Seattle on community and economic development projects for refugees. Nancy holds a master’s degree in International Management

The webinar is part of a series co-hosted by the Menstrual Health Alliance of India, the African Coalition for Menstrual Health Management, MH Day and the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition.

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