Periods, Poverty & Shame: Breaking The Vicious Circle

Mercy faces shame in school because of her period. She can't afford sanitary pads so she stained her school uniform.


This is Mercy. When she gets her period, she doesn’t go to school. Mercy lives in one of the slums in Kenya, where money is very tight for many families.

On average a pack of pads cost 1-1.50$, but with her family earning only around 1$ per day, Mercy can’t afford to buy any. Instead, Mercy is forced to use old rags or toilet paper. But for long school days, where she has to sit down and concentrate, these are not very reliable or comfy menstrual products.

Sometimes, she leaks and stains her clothes. This is the worst, as the boys laugh at her and the shame is almost unbearable. Mercy once had a friend, who got a bloodstain on her clothes. After this incident, she never returned to school – the shame and embarrassment were too much for her to bear.

Mercy wants to go to school. She has heard other girls talking about a way of making some money. There are men, who would give her money if she had sex with them. It would be enough for her to buy sanitary pads. As a matter of fact, in some parts of Kenya, 50% of sexually active girls between 10-16 years old have transactional sex. The money the girls get is often used to buy sanitary pads. Mercy’s desperate for pads, so she engages with those men she heard about.

Sex for Sanitation Illustration. Periods Povery Shame. Girls who can't afford pads engage in transactional sex to earn money.

But instead of being a solution to the problem, this causes more harm than good. Not all men keep their promise and have money, but there is nothing she can do. After a while, Mercy ends up pregnant, which gets her expelled from school. Many girls, who also face Mercy’s situation, are stigmatized in the community. Her family does not support her. Mercy is now alone, pregnant too young, afraid of also being HIV infected and no access to safe abortion. A dark future to face for a young girl who simply needed sanitary pads. 

Let’s pause and rewind right here. What if Mercy had access to a safe and reliable product to use for her menstruation?

She would not have to use improvised menstrual products, she would not have to sell her body for money to buy sanitary pads and she could stay in school every day of the month.

And what if the solution is as easy as it sounds?Ruby Cup provides girls in Africa with a menstrual cup so they can stay in school even when they have their period. ruby cup breaks the vicious circle of periods, poverty and shame.


Ruby Cup menstrual cup fulfils these promises and breaks the vicious circle of periods, poverty and shame. A couple of days ago, Mercy was provided with a Ruby Cup and a workshop about menstrual health management. Since it’s reusable, Mercy can stay in school during her menstruation and doesn’t have to worry about how to get hold of sanitary products for the next 10 years. She can concentrate in class and doesn’t have to worry about stains on her school uniform anymore when she goes to the blackboard.

78% of girls that have received a Ruby Cup show an improvement in their school performance. With Ruby Cup, Mercy can finish her education, she can feel confident and safe.

Finishing secondary education would mean that 60% fewer girls under the age of 17 years would become pregnant, so a study performed in Sub-Saharan Africa and West Asia shows.

And it’s not just Mercy and the other girls in her class that benefit from Ruby Cup. Each additional year of schooling raises the average annual gross domestic product growth by 0.37%.

Empowering girls means empowering the community.

Safe Menstrual Hygiene empowers girls

Ruby Cup breaks the vicious circle of poverty, periods and shame and enables girls like Mercy to have opportunities in life and unfold their full potential.

Try Ruby Cup with no strings attached

Every Ruby Cup comes with a life-changing Buy One, Give One cup donation and a 100% Money Back Guarantee. Switch size or get a full refund within 120 days, no questions asked. It’s time to make a change!

Leanka Sayer

Leanka’s job is to talk about periods. She is currently the Content and Community Manager at Ruby Cup, an award-winning social business that sells menstrual cups, where for every Ruby Cup you buy, you automatically donate another one to a girl in need.She advocates for period positivity and having a healthy relationship with your menstrual cycle. Leanka studied Communication Science in Vienna and has been working for Ruby Cup since February 2014 - first in Berlin, now in Barcelona.