When you buy a pair of Tom's shoes, they send a pair to a kid in need; when you buy a pair of glasses from Warby Parker or Vision Spring, they do the same with glasses. It's an awesome business model called "Buy One Give One" that's been wildly successful.
Now, one company based out of Denmark is taking that same business model and applying it to (drum-roll, please...) menstrual cups! Every time someone buys a Ruby Cup, the company also donates one to a school girl in Kenya, Uganda, Nepal or Tanzania -- where a lack of menstrual hygeine resources often causes girls to experience health issues and miss school. MTV News caught up with Ruby Cup founder Maxie Matthiessen to learn more about how this one little cup is making a big difference.
"At 14 years old, I first began to consider the real impact that menstruation can have when my neighbors came knocking on our door collecting donations for refugees," Matthiessen said. "They told me that girls and women were without female hygiene products and urgently needed pads and tampons. I was surprised, intrigued, but also puzzled by the fact that I hadn’t considered it before."
Maxie Matthiessen, center, with the rest of the Ruby Cup team
"Menstrual hygiene is not only a problem for girls and women living in refugee camps," she continued, "but a worldwide issue for low income communities. Many women and girls can't afford disposable menstrual hygiene products...In Kenya and other developing countries, menstruation is even linked to school absenteeism because girls are embarrassed about the potential ‘leaking’ of blood when non-protective materials, such as rags, old sock, dried mud or newspapers are used." Which can also lead to health problems.
Ten years later, Matthiessen said she discovered the menstrual cup and realized that it could be a total game-changer for girls in developing nations. She told MTV News that she came up with the name "Ruby Cup" to fight period stigma and to "brand the menstrual cycle as something valuable, something that women should not be ashamed of."
At first, Matthiessen just wanted to provide menstrual cups to women who needed them in the developing world, but she quickly realized that mission was going to pose some financial challenges -- so her and the rest of the team she'd assembled decided to switched to a Buy One, Give One model.
Fast forward to today, and the Ruby Cup has already made a huge difference. "At the end of 2015 we will have provided over 15,000 Ruby Cups to girls and women in Africa," Matthiessen told MTV News. "And we will reach millions of girls by 2025 so that they can stay in school, learn and get back their dignity."
It seems like it's working -- they've received a number of super sweet, touching letters of thanks from many of the girls who've received Ruby Cups.
The team at Ruby Cup is also dedicated to helping to fight period stigma worldwide. Earlier this year they ran an awareness campaign called Stop #Menstruphobia where they busted one menstruation myth a day for 28 days in a row. They also create short, funny videos about things like period stigma in advertising.
"We are so excited that menstrual cups are finally becoming mainstream," Matthiessen said, "because not only do they help girls in Africa stay in school, they also save the environment tons of waste. On average, a woman can save around 12,000 tampons in her life by switching to a Ruby Cup."
Matthiessen encouraged anyone interested in making a difference in the world to take the ideas they have while they're young and run with them. "Ruby Cup is the best example that shows how small things can have a huge impact," she said. "So get out there, open your eyes...I know you'll find something that makes a huge difference, for yourself and for society."