Singaporean sisters Vanessa, Joanne, and Rebecca Paranjothy began a start-up company/social enterprise that helps women in third world countries deal with the special problems of being female, specifically concerning menstruation.
They’ve begun to distribute products to women in different countries around the globe—products that are designed to be reusable, unlike most feminine products. These “Freedom Cups” are inserted under the cervix, where they catch menstrual blood. They need no changing for up to twelve hours, and can be washed and then used again.
The cups are constructed from medical grade silicone and can last for as long as 10 years. This is equal to around 5,000 regular sanitary napkins or tampons.
And, since they can last for up to 12 hours without changing, women who live with little access to running water find them much more convenient than traditional feminine products.
According to oldest sister Vanessa Paranjothy, 29, the cups are good for the environment, since using them reduces waste. And, since they are reusable, they are extremely helpful to women in developing countries who are hard-pressed to afford feminine products.
Women all over Asia encounter problems because of their monthly periods, most especially women who come from low-income households. Girls stay home from school, and women lose a part of their income due to absenteeism at work when they can’t afford to buy sanitary napkins during their periods.
In countries such as Nepal, tradition dictates that women be isolated in faraway places during their menstruation, putting them at risk of danger from the elements, wild animals and people of ill-intent.
In India, according to one study by the World Bank, the stigma surrounding menstruation is still so strong that millions of girls are at risk of dropping out.
And in the Philippines, women who work on plantations miss as much as one week of work, because of a lack of funds for buying sanitary pads.
Enter the Paranjothy sisters, who desire to end period problems for all women once and for all. The sisters have won acclaim for their product, making the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2017. Vanessa Paranjothy also received the Commonwealth Youth Award for Asia two months ago, an award recognizing a youth’s important contribution to his or her community.
Vanessa, who graduated with a degree in social sciences from Singapore Management University, first heard of the menstrual cup from a friend who had volunteered in Guatemala. Intrigued, she and her sisters tweaked the cup’s design to make it smaller, to fit first-time users better.
The company works as an advocacy for menstrual health by giving away one Freedom Cup for every one that is bought. They are selling for S$35 each.
The Paranjothy have given approximately 3,000 Freedom Cups to women in seven countries around the globe: Nepal, India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Malaysia, Cambodia, and of course in Singapore. They endeavor to help change women’s lives in the years to come.
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