Diary of a Diva: UnTabooed, Then and Now

How it all Started

My name is Diandra Kalish. I am the founder of Untabooed. This is my story of how The DivaCup inspired me to fight for access to menstrual products for all.

On April 6th, 2013 I bought a one-way ticket to Quito Ecuador. My dad passed along a travel blog written by a solo female traveler, crediting it for the excellent hiking boot, travel backpack and water purifying straw recommendations. He had assembled these items in the perfect college graduation gift. When I checked out the blog, I noticed another packing essential: The DivaCup.

I had never heard of a menstrual cup, but after some research, I decided it would be wise to get one for my trip. I purchased a cup knowing that I would get to test it at home first. If it didn’t work out, I could pack a separate suitcase full of tampons.

My immediate discovery: I loved it!

Fast Forward to January 2015

In early 2015, I had moved back to the United States and was living in Brooklyn working for an education nonprofit. By this point, I had convinced some of my friends to try out a menstrual cup too. One evening, an article online caught my eye. It described the struggles that many homeless women face each month trying to get access to menstrual products.

I was shocked and enraged by this. As someone who consistently donates food and clothing, I had never thought to donate menstrual products. I started to do research and found that organizations around the world provide menstrual health education and reusable menstrual products to girls and women who can’t afford them. A big issue in many places is that access to products and health education is limited, holding girls and women back from opportunities.

As I did more research over the next few weeks, I started considering that the root of the problem could be the taboo surrounding the topic of periods. I was finding that many shelters don’t ask for the products directly. This means that people do not even think to donate to the need. When shelters do have the products, women typically have to ask a manager for one.

It should be a basic human right to have access to all of the products that you might need in the bathroom. I was also thinking about how convenient The DivaCup has been for me, and how much money I had saved by using it. I started to think more and more about how great a solution like a menstrual cup would be for women who might not have access to anything else.

Enter UnTabooed

In May 2015, putting all of my research, curiosity and frustration together, I founded UnTabooed.

The mission of UnTabooed is to break the taboo surrounding menstruation by providing menstrual health education and sustainable menstrual products to those in need.

UnTabooed is unique from other similar organizations in two key ways. First, we work only with reusable menstrual products, specifically cloth pads and menstrual cups. This helps us provide a long-term solution to the problem of access. In doing so, we make sure no one has to worry about menstrual care for an entire year. Second, UnTabooed focuses on education. Our programming consists of a one-hour educational workshop that covers the basics of the menstrual cycle and menstrual hygiene. The workshop also includes an introduction to reusable menstrual products. After the workshop, participants receive products of their choice.

With the help of Diva International and other producers of reusable products, UnTabooed has educated over 600 menstruators, set up seven community and four college partners, and distributed over 1,000 reusable menstrual products for free to menstruators in the Northeast United States. We have also reached over 100 more through events and workshops at colleges and universities. In total, we have helped our workshop participants save over $250,000 and reduce menstrual product waste by 5,000 lbs.

UnTabooed organization

What’s Happening Now 

After two years, UnTabooed has been acquired by PERIOD. The Menstrual Movement.

PERIOD is a global youth-run non-profit that strives to provide and celebrate menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and service. In the last two years, they have addressed over 78,000 periods through 43 nonprofit partners in 27 states and 14 countries. Additionally, they have 65 campus chapter at universities and high schools around the United States. PERIOD has the passion and youth driven leadership to bring revitalized energy to the menstrual equity movement. PERIOD will enable UnTabooed’s curriculum to grow nationally through their Campus Chapter Network. UnTabooed will help grow PERIOD’s support of sustainability in period product usage.

Diary of a Diva: Princeton Menstruation Celebration!

Hi there!

My name is Jamie, and I’m one of the co-presidents of Princeton Students for Gender Equality (PSGE). We teamed up with The DivaCup to hold a Menstruation Celebration, an event to break the menstrual taboo, educate students about menstruation, collect product donations, and most of all, celebrate periods!

Why Hold a Menstruation Celebration?

It all started last summer when I was texting with a guy friend who is studying to be a doctor and the topic of menstruation came up. It soon became clear that he knew the science behind it and the technical terms, but had no idea what periods are actually like for those who have them. He thought we changed a tampon two or three times per period! I was shocked! I texted a dozen other non-menstruating friends and found that many also had no idea what people who menstruate experience on a monthly basis. Something had to be done! So, PSGE decided to partner with Princeton Students for Reproductive Justice (PSRJ) to plan the Menstruation Celebration event!

We Spread the Word!

To advertise the event, we hung up posters and put the word “menstruation” all over campus!
We also interviewed Princeton students who don’t menstruate about what they know about periods for a hilarious and surprising video.
I definitely recommend you watch it!

The Day of the Event!

We held the event on November 18th in our central campus center, and it was a huge hit! Hundreds of people stopped by to talk about and celebrate menstruation.
There was so much to do and see, including:

  • Homemade period-themed snacks: vulva cupcakes, pretzel tampons dipped in white and red chocolate, uterus cookies, and chocolate-chip ovary bread.
  • Fun games and activities: pin the ovaries on the uterus, a uterus piñata full of red candy, a photo station with a giant uterus and period trivia with The DivaCup notebooks as a prize!
  • Informational posters about what a period is, period myths, periods and politics and how to use trans-inclusive language when talking about periods.
  • Alternative products station featuring a demonstration of The DivaCup!
  • Access station featuring stories from people who struggle to access period products.
  • Collected donations for Distributing Dignity, an organization that provides pads, tampons, and bras to those who need them.
  • A raffle for The DivaCup and Diva Wash, as well as some other great products.

Amazing Results!

We collected some amazing menstrual product donations and we raised over $700 for Distributing Dignity! The event had a huge impact on campus, people were talking about menstruation in dining halls and dorms across campus. Thank you so, so much to The DivaCup team for the support and the incredibly generous donation. Tons of people came into the event confused or unsure about The DivaCup and left with far more information and excitement. (And a personal thank you to Diva Cup for getting me through hiking trips, my gap year in Senegal, and life at Princeton!)
Much menstruation love,

 

Jamie O’Leary.
Jamie O’Leary is a sophomore at Princeton University from Rutland, VT. She is an Anthropology major with a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, and she is especially interested in studying and breaking taboos around women’s bodies and sexuality. She is one of the founders and co-presidents of Princeton Students for Gender Equality (PSGE), an activist group and an inclusive, intersectional forum for discussions of feminism, gender, sex, and sexuality. (Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/princetonstudentsforgenderequality/).

 

Diary of a Diva: Living the Green Life

Hi there!

I am 30 years old and like many other women I started out with pads early on. I remember in middle school, pads with wings were not a common product to come by. As one could imagine, it was always an accident waiting to happen. Later, I “graduated” to wings and thought “WHERE HAVE THESE BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!” Then came the challenge of summer and as young ladies know the combination of PE, summer, and being on your period are the perfect storm for paranoia. Asking your friends to check your pants for leaks became the norm or even tying a sweater around your waist (it’s interesting that it’s become a throwback fashion trend). Fast forward to the college years, I finally decided I was grown up enough to move on to tampons. Growing up in a Latin family there were always talk about how only women that are no longer virgins could use tampons. I went ahead with it nervously. I recalled my first attempt at trying a tampon when I was 13 years old, I tried it because one of my best friends at the time used them and I wanted to be cool and try to as well. To save you the trouble, I had no idea what I was doing and I gave up.

At age 21, there I was reading the pamphlet and determined to make this work for me and then SUCCESS! This felt like a godsend. I could finally work out and go about my day without worry. Well, as time went on I realized that having to change one out every 3-4 hours started to became a hassle. Sometimes I wasn’t around a restroom and what if I had to pee?! I had friends tell me they could pee with one on and I thought, “Well there must be something wrong with my anatomical structure because that has never been the case for me.” I accepted it for years and just went on as usual.

A few years later, I remember a friend bringing up the idea of menstrual cups and I immaturely replied, “EW!” I later saw the error of my response and apologized. To be honest the idea of a menstrual cup just gave me the “willies” so I put it behind me. Then, in 2015, I discovered there was a huge cyst on my ovary that led to the removal of the entire ovary. After that my cycle continued on schedule but I then decided to switch to organic cotton tampons since I became hyper aware of the products I was using. I still didn’t feel right even though it was organic. I remembered that previous conversation about the menstrual cup and decided “What the hell, why not?” I purchased The DivaCup and immediately went home and watched the company’s YouTube videos about how to use it, and then I cracked my knuckles and said, “Let’s do this.”

I found the push-down fold to be the easiest and much to my surprise it was easy. Now the question was would it hold up? I tried it on a relaxed weekend and left it in for a normal work day length of time (8 hours) and YES!!! The DivaCup WORKED! No spill, no accidents, no discomfort. I could use the restroom like normal, it had no harmful ingredients, was easy-to-care-for, eco-friendly, AND I could do my fitness routine and not have to worry about it at all!

I became a DivaCup convert for LIFE!!!

diary-of-a-diva-living-the-green-lifeCindy L.

Cindy was born and raised in Southern California and has been happily married for two years. She is a professional Spanish translator and interpreter by day and a green beauty enthusiast and blogger by night. Cindy loves researching healthier natural alternatives and educating herself and others about living an intentionally greener lifestyle.

Diary of a Diva: From Peace Corps to Conservation

When I committed to joining Peace Corps Morocco in June of 2014, I received a packing list that included, among other things, The DivaCup. I had used similar products in the past but was never very pleased with the results often I had trouble with leaking or had to empty and clean the item several times a day. I knew that tampons would be difficult to come by in Morocco, so before I left, I purchased The DivaCup and hoped for the best.
Peace-Corps

Since that time, I’ve traveled the world and am so happy to have The DivaCup.

During my time in Morocco, I worked at a women’s center teaching aerobics, English, world culture and cooking classes. More than 30 women attended these daily classes, learning things like how to prepare healthy meals, the English lyrics to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” or how to salsa dance. Over the course of my 30 months of service in Morocco, my students and I developed wonderful relationship and shared our cultures, recipes, and music with each other.

Frequently, however, my students would bow out of attending aerobics or dance classes because they were on their periods. In Morocco, this means a week or more of using pads because tampons are completely unavailable. Many of the rural women I worked with would rip the absorptive pads out of diapers and use those, because they were far cheaper than the name-brand pads available at stores.

While my students had to creatively negotiate running, playing basketball or doing fitness classes while menstruating, I was able to keep teaching week after week, thanks to The DivaCup.

The DivaCup also made travel incredibly easy. I vacationed in Europe during my time of service, spending two weeks in Greece, Spain and Italy, and The DivaCup made those journeys so much easier (and cheaper!) than if I’d had to rely on tampons. Even traveling throughout Morocco – when I often had to spend 12+ hours on a bus to get from my home town to the south for work – I was able to rely on The DivaCup.

Divacup-Diary-Peace-Corps-Sea-TurtleAfter my position ended in Morocco, I immediately came to volunteer with a project protecting loggerhead sea turtles in Cabo Verde, a small island nation in west Africa.

Conservation is the name of the game here: we flush the toilets with sea water, as the only fresh water on the island is desalinated and very expensive. We reuse everything, from rope found on the shore (we use it to separate nests in the hatchery) to peanut butter jars (used to hold clothes pins, flipper tags, and so much more).

The DivaCup is especially important to me here, because not only are tampons very expensive, but the small island of Sal has limited landfill facilities, and I would hate to be filling it up with bleached cotton and cardboard applicators.

Thanks to The DivaCup, I am able to live an eco-conscious lifestyle while helping to protect an incredible, endangered species.

Victoria A.

 

Diary of a Diva: Birthday Diva

birthday

My name is Francine and here is my The DivaCup story.

On Sunday July 31st, 2016 it wasn’t any ordinary day…it was my 48th birthday, and for me, birthdays are very special and need to be celebrated.

On that morning, at Parlee Beach, Shediac, NB, it was going to be a very hot and sticky day but I took comfort in knowing that we had been invited to join our friends for a beautiful day of boating.  It was going to be a glorious b-day and I was really looking forward to the fresh air blowing through my hair and to feeling the salt water on my skin.

On the morning of the 31st, I woke up to my very own personal “birthday gift”: my period! On one hand I was thrilled to go out boating, but on the other, I was worried about having to wear a tampon and about having to change it every few hours without access to a washroom!!

My day had just gone from being TERRIFIC to being DREADFUL. I wanted to cancel our plans at that point, but my husband convinced me it was going to be great day.

My husband and I got ready for our day out on the water! We packed food, drinks and snacks galore, and I decided to run out and get some sanitary supplies for the day! So we rushed out to the drugstore to get my usual stock of tampons and pads. When I was going through the array of choices in feminine hygiene products, I came across The DivaCup. I had heard about The DivaCup before and had even watched a few of the instructional videos. Standing that day in the feminine hygiene section, I decided that this was the day!! I was desperate and I needed something that I could trust and that would last all day even while wearing a bathing suit.

We rushed home and I read The DivaCup instructions carefully and with confidence. I took a long deep breath and inserted the cup… and… to my surprise, it felt very comfortable and I felt very secure. I was so confident in The DivaCup that I even wore a white bathing suit for our excursion.

Once out on the water on the Shediac Bay, our captain decided he would park his boat on the shoreline of Shediac Island alongside a few dozen other boats. Little did I know, my friends had a huge surprise instore for me. My awesome husband and our close friends had organized gigantic beach party on a small Island with 45 of my closest friends there to wish me a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

I was so shocked….I had NO IDEA that they had planned this day for me!! Tears of joy were running down my cheeks while everyone was rushing to greet me on the island. As I approached in-land, there were some beach chairs in a huge circle and a very special chair with my name on it and a Hawaiian lay. Lots of love was felt and I was so touched that all my friends would go through so much trouble for me. I am truly blessed in so many ways.

I had the GREATEST birthday EVER! I even went swimming a few times without being worried about my period whatsoever. When I got home that evening, and it was time to empty the contents of the cup, I have to admit that I was a little worried and concerned about removing The DivaCup but it was easy and I had no problems whatsoever. I was totally impressed with this product.

Thank you to The DivaCup for making my birthday the best one it could be! I consider The DivaCup to be my birthday gift from me to me! I will never go back to pads and tampons. You made my day that much more special knowing I didn’t have to worry and stress out about my period.

I’m a believer in The DivaCup!!  Happy birthday to me!!

Francine

 

Francine L.

Mother to a 17 year old son, happily married and beach enthusiast who loves to spend time with her family and close friends. Enjoys life to the fullest and always looking to make people smile.