Vanessa Kivugale: How a Merry-Go-Round brought me to Ruby Cup

- min read


What would you call your role within the Ruby Cup world?

I am a Ruby Cup Ambassador and Trainer.

How did you first get in touch with Ruby Cup?

I heard about Ruby Cup through a women’s group (we call it chama in Kiswahili) at my friend’s place in Kibera where I bought my first Ruby Cup. Later I heard they were hiring salespeople. That’s how I did my interview and later joined the company.

What makes Ruby Cup special to you?

Ruby Cup has really changed my life in terms of how I look at menstrual health. It’s cost-effective because it’s reusable and it can last up to ten years, so it’s also environmentally friendly. Since I have been working with Ruby Cup, I have travelled to different places within Africa to train young girls and women.

Describe Ruby Cup in 3 words, please.

Soft, firm and durable.

A letter from one of the girls she trained in Zambia, 2017:
“Here in Zambia we never thought we can even meet such a person like you in our lives. Who can teach us about how to use Ruby Cups. And we never thought of Ruby Cups in our lives.
What I can just say is that thank you for everything you have taught us. My appreciation goes to you, a woman of integrity and dignity. Who gave a lot of teachings on how to take care of ourselves as girl child, we really thank you.”

Vanessa Kivugale is from Umoja (“Unity” in Kiswahili), a part of Nairobi’s lower-middle-class East Side. Her first contact with Ruby Cup was in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums, where Ruby Cup has been operating since 2012. She was visiting a friend there during a so-called chama (“merry-go-round”) meeting.

A chama is a women’s group, a safe space where women meet regularly at rotating members’ houses. They discuss issues like how to save money, where to invest it, and other topics around women empowerment. “We also encourage each other when one of our members is going through a difficult time and alert each other of job opportunities”, says Vanessa.

The 32-year-old has a certificate in Social Work and Community Development and is planning to pursue her diploma. She has done menstrual cup workshops since she started working for Ruby Cup in 2013. According to Vanessa, she usually gets bombarded with questions by the girls she trains. Just think of all the questions you had when you first got introduced to a menstrual cup. The most common ones are: “Does Ruby Cup break my virginity? Can it disappear inside the body? Is it a family planning method? Can you share your Ruby Cup?”.

These are, of course, delicate questions and Vanessa makes sure that every question is taken seriously. This is the space where girls get answers to regular teen curiosities, there is no room for shame or judgement. The questions they have for Vanessa very often concern information that they just heard for the very first time.

Another common question is when the girls ask if using Ruby Cup will stimulate them sexually. This is the same question that community leaders, teachers and parents – so those who play a crucial part in deciding if they want a Ruby Cup programme to happen or not, have. Of course, Vanessa tells them that it’s a menstrual healthcare product only, and its purpose is to support them to get through their periods worry-free and safe.

Vanessa, who has been using a Ruby Cup for 5 years, finds the tenacity of these questions amusing, but would never show her amusement in front of the girls. After all, she is a professional.

Ruth Asan

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