Silicone Cup: A Sustainable Solution for Menstrual Health Management
To accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, several international organizations are steadfastly working to increase the opportunity for women to access basic menstrual health and hygiene products worldwide. The “Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Human Capital Development Project,” run by the World Bank organization in Bangladesh, provides women with access to microfinance loans and sanitation grants for investment in household WASH infrastructure. The project also organizes behavior modification sessions and instructions on the value of menstrual hygiene and properly run WASH facilities. 
UNFPA, WFP, BRAC, and Concerned Women for Family Development (CWFD) are working together to increase disadvantaged women and girls’ access to menstruation products, information, and education in the Duaripara and Bhashantek slums of Dhaka with support from SIDA and USAID. The program supports 2,756 women and adolescent girls and each month they get a text message telling them where to go to get two packets of sanitary pads for free. The WFP encourages the women and girls to use the cash family entitlements they get to buy wholesome foods. 
But still, sanitary napkins are rarely used in Bangladesh, despite their critical role in protecting women’s and adolescent girls’ menstrual hygiene. The biggest obstacle to adopting the product is its high cost of production. As many as 80% of menstruation females in Bangladesh do not use sanitary napkins, leaving them vulnerable to a variety of health issues. The primary causes for this are the high cost, continuous purchase, hardness to dispose of, and lack of awareness. Industry insiders have claimed that exorbitant import taxes on the raw ingredients used to make sanitary napkins—high-absorbent air-laid paper, silicone release paper, and adhesive tape—are to blame the high cost of sanitary napkins.
Since the fiscal 2019–20 year, the government has maintained to provide VAT exemption facilities on domestically produced sanitary napkins to encourage menstrual hygiene. Ordinary ladies cannot buy sanitary pads because they are still expensive on the local market even then. One of Bangladesh’s top manufacturers of sanitary products and menstrual hygiene products, Square Toiletries, claims that 97 percent of women who do not use sanitary napkins experience cervical infections, which can result in infertility and even life-threatening conditions like cancer.  Teenage girls who lack appropriate menstruation protection miss at least three days of school each month.
According to Mamunur Rahman, the founder of the incredibly cheap sanitary napkin brand Ella Pad, “Our first-generation ladies are still instructing their successors to use cloth instead of sanitary napkins.” He urged widespread awareness campaigns to encourage women to use sanitary napkins, but he also noted that women are still reluctant to purchase pads from stores because they are virtually always managed by men. He also urged the government to embrace policies that would encourage the development of inexpensive pads. It can be difficult to find the textile scraps that Ella Pad uses to manufacture its inexpensive sanitary napkins, according to Rahman. The market penetration will be significantly higher if the government provides subsidies for locally made sanitary napkins. 
Bangladesh has made great progress in recent years in enabling younger women and girls in Bangladesh to practice hygienic menstruation management. However, too many people have lost their economic sources as a result of the pandemic. As a result, many women and girls have been forced to return to wearing unsanitary rag clothing because the cost of buying period products has increased their monthly expenses. Purchasing clean period products at a time when families are trying to put food on the table has become more than a luxury, especially for low-income persons trapped in the budget constraint.
According to a study that WaterAid Bangladesh carried out in 2020 titled “Hygiene Messaging and Practice during Covid-19 Rapid Assessment on Effectiveness and Sustainability”; a decline in income for various types of workers was one of the main repercussions of lockdown. Additionally, the impact of the economic downturn followed by the war in Russia and Ukraine has pushed menstrual health and hygiene products way down the list of priorities for low-income women. During these troubled times, Menstrual Cups can be a viable answer to the MHH issue as it only requires a one-time expense.
Since these cups can be used for up to ten years without needing to be replaced, they can aid in the fight against period poverty. Menstrual cups made of medical-grade silicone are a type of period wear that is economical, reusable, strong, and simple to clean. Menstrual cups are a much safer, more cost-effective, and more sustainable option for managing menstruation health, according to a study that was published in the Lancet Journal of Public Health under the title “Menstrual cup use, leakage, acceptability, safety, and availability: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” 
Ms. Nahid Dipa, a menstrual hygiene advocate and co-founder of the social innovation lab “Mumble”, has launched an online business platform for selling menstrual cups. While outlining the efficiency of the menstrual cup, she stated, “Women need to use sanitary napkins around five days a month, they can incur annual expenses ranging from 3,000 to 7,200 taka.” She added, “On the other hand, the lifespan of a period cup, which costs between Tk. 1,500 to Tk. 2,000, can last up to ten years.” She also views it as an investment because women who use silicon cups don’t need to purchase any other disposable menstrual products.
Women will be able to save money by making this minor investment, which will also preserve their reproductive health. As an added benefit, this cup is environmentally beneficial because it won’t need to be thrown away in a few years. Since period cups are made of medical-grade silicone, according to public health professional Shamima Parveen, who is currently serving as Pathfinder Bangladesh’s gender manager, they genuinely have no adverse effects on women’s reproductive organs.
Women in this region of the world have been managing their periods for years by using old garments, cotton pads, and sanitary napkins; while many of them have never even seen tampons in their whole lives. Therefore, breaking the cultural taboo against putting menstruation products in one’s vagina will be the true hurdle in spreading awareness of menstrual cups. If the government takes the effort to give these cups away and educate the public about this environmentally friendly period cup, it could result in a significant improvement for the women who struggle each month to manage their periods.
 Sanitary napkins still unaffordable for a majority. The Daily Star. Date: March 8, 2020
 How the pandemic pushed women to period poverty? The Dhaka Tribune. Date: May 27th, 2021
 Can a tiny cup lift women out of period poverty? The Dhaka Tribune. Date: January 20th, 2021
 Menstrual Health and Hygiene; a Brief by the World Bank. Date: May 12, 2022
 UNFPA’s new “Building Blocks” initiative seeks to improve menstrual health in Dhaka slums. Date: May 28, 2022 Link: https://bangladesh.unfpa.org/en/news/unfpas-new-%E2%80%9Cbuilding-blocks%E2%80%9D-initiative-seeks-improve-menstrual-health-dhaka-slums
 Menstrual hygiene: Affordability biggest barrier to using sanitary napkins. The Business Standard. Date: May 28, 2022. Link: https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/health/menstrual-hygiene-affordability-biggest-barrier-using-sanitary-napkins-428406