Often women ask why agencies aren’t providing menstrual cups to women instead of cloth pads or disposable products. Menstrual cups are small, so won’t take up as much space in donation shipments. They don’t require underpants, and can be worn for longer lengths of time. They don’t produce waste, can be more easily cleaned than cloth pads.
On the surface it does seem like a much better idea. But there are some other points to consider. They will break the hymen, and this would not be appropriate for many cultures. They can more easily introduce bacteria and infection into the vagina if they are not properly cleaned (remembering that clean drinking water is not as easy to come by in the types of areas these products need to go).
They can take time to get the hang of, and these women will not have access to internet support groups. Some women find a particular brand of cup does not work well for them, so need to try other cups – this would not be possible in a donation situation. Cups come in 2 sizes, even if only one particular age group was targeted, they may only be able to use that size for a few years.
While we don’t like to think about it, there is also the other (though hopefully less likely) reason cup use would not be possible, and that is infibulation (female genital operation where the labia is sewn closed to cover the vaginal opening).
Also when cloth pad donations are sent to countries as part of aid packages, these are often donated by women sewing cloth pads specifically for this purpose. And purchasing menstrual cups would not be an affordable option for them.
In situations where it is possible to donate menstrual cups, and their safe use could be appropriate, this could however be a very useful alternative to pads or tampons. Some cup brands such as RubyCup and Juju do send donated cups to women in developing countries.