By Arubiyyah Qadir Balouch
DivaCup is a great idea and concept, but there is a lot to do internationally about it! How did you come up with the concept of the DivaCup and how many countries has this product been distributed to?
As a teen growing up in the 60s, my mother Francine, who co-founded Diva with me, was frustrated with the clumsy menstrual products available. In her day, bulky pads were so uncomfortable to wear, especially if you liked to play sports, which my mother did. So she felt traumatized when she first got her period. And even as a teenager, she believed that there must be a better solution to handling a period than the disposable options, so she could continue with her active lifestyle—swimming, hiking, climbing trees.
A fateful moment occurred years later when my mom, who always opted for eco-friendly natural products and holistic approaches, accidentally discovered the reusable menstrual cup. Almost nobody knew about it. But it was a great alternative to disposables, collecting the flow rather than absorbing it. In a flash, my mom became its great supporter! And started selling an old version of it before we both created a new one of our own, which took us a year to refine. We started our business on our dining room table and did everything ourselves—promotion, sales, education, you name it. We both felt so passionately about creating a better solution to the uncomfortable and wasteful period care options that had existed for centuries, without much substantial innovation. Our product would be more comfortable and less harmful to the environment, no longer polluting our landfills and oceans.
In 2018 there was an article in one of Pakistan’s leading newspaper with a reference to the Diva Cup, and the comments that followed after that article on social media were mixed. People did not like the fact that girls had to insert something into themselves, as virginity is something that is still considered very important! What are your comments on subjects like virginity that are still considered embarrassing if spoken about in public?
This is a complicated subject and I can understand how people might misunderstand the functioning of a menstrual cup. Yes, it does require insertion, but the cup is very small, soft, and comfortable to use. And the insertion of the cup does NOT mean a person loses their virginity, no matter how you define it. For example, in many cultures around the world, virginity is defined by whether the hymen remains “intact.” In other societies, a person is perceived as losing their virginity only through the act of sex, which is the definition we subscribe to. The hymen may also be stretched or broken by participating in vigorous activities like horseback riding, biking, or gymnastics. So, to put it simply, using a DivaCup has nothing to do with the state of a person’s virginity.
Ultimately, we recommend talking to your doctor if you have any questions about the hymen and use of an internal menstrual product.
For more information about the hymen and using the DivaCup, please check out our blog post.
Menstruation is an embarrassing topic in South Asian countries, and when women go to buy pads or tampons, then these products are hidden or wrapped in black bags and given to them. DivaCup is a very modern approach towards menstruation relief! Any thoughts on how you can educate women about being more relaxed about this?
You’re right. For centuries, societies around the world have seen periods as a source of shame and embarrassment. This has created a culture of silence, a stigma related to a natural bodily function that affects half the world’s population! But menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of. Still, we realize that there remains a great deal of misinformation, discrimination and secrecy around the subject. So part of our mission at DivaCup is to empower people to feel comfortable with their periods and the choices they make to manage them. Our Inner Revolution ad campaign encourages everyone (including our DivaCup fans) to challenge this period status quo.
By avoiding euphemisms and talking plainly about periods on our social media channels, on our website and in our advertising, our hope is that people will feel more confident and brave about discussing their periods, normalizing the conversation. In the end, menstruation is a fact of life, and should not be life-limiting!
Our corporate social responsibility program, DivaCares, is focused on menstrual health education, access to period products, and supporting legislation that achieves equitable menstrual outcomes. The more information people have about how their periods work, and how to take care of their menstrual health, the less likely they are to feel embarrassment about a completely natural process.
There are over 600 million women in Pakistan and India, how are you planning on marketing the DivaCup to that part of the world?
Whenever we enter a new foreign market, we do our due diligence to confirm that we have the consumer research needed to understand the market we’re entering, the complexities of the culture and its traditions. We alsosearch for the best distribution partners. Being on the ground in each region, these partners provide us vital information about the marketplace and population of our new DivaCup fans.
We are currently assessing the viability of selling and promoting the DivaCup in Pakistan and India, and we’re also considering a number of other markets too. No doubt, DivaCup will significantly expand its reach over the next 5 years.
In countries like Pakistan where feminists are working hard to break barriers, using the DivaCup has become more of a recommended product as only housewives or married women consider using it and that too mostly in the rich class, as the cost of the DivaCup is expensive for the middle class! Is there a way to somehow make the product available to the middle-class women through reducing the price or through other means?
At Diva, the quality of our product and the health and safety of our consumers is most important to us, which is why we are ISO-certified. This certification ensures that all of our processes, from manufacturing and packaging to promotion and administrative processes, are operated in accordance with the highest-quality standards. We undergo regular audits to ensure the continued quality of our product. For this reason, we set a price for our product that reflects our investment in quality standards, and in helping to develop the menstrual cup category to make the product more widely available.
Through our DivaCares program, we also work regularly with non-profit organizations and NGOs to create menstrual equity by donating menstrual cups to organizations that service vulnerable populations. We hope to eliminate the barriers that so many people face when it comes to accessing menstrual products. Bottom line: Every menstruating person deserves access the products they need without hardship.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced generally?
When we founded Diva International in 2003, it was an uphill battle, because there wasn’t a mainstream menstrual cup on the market, nor was there an industry demand for one. So, we had to pave the way to create a brand-new period care category. And it wasn’t easy to do. We started small, in health care markets and slowly expanded our reach, focused on building our distribution in food, drug and mass market.
Through modest advertising, educational outreach, and trade show appearances, we eventually became renowned as industry disruptors, pioneers with a revolutionary product that was easy to use, comfortable, hygienic, and eco-friendly too. But we were selling the product in a male-dominated industry that had always relied upon the disposables. In fact, we were often laughed out of boardrooms and trade shows along the way! Most of the buyers we met were older men who did not understand the needed for a new period care product. In fact, it took us eleven years to get our first national account!
Against all odds, with two steps forward and one step back, we ultimately built an extensive distribution network and gained consumer acceptance. Our mission to commercialize the cup would ultimately change the way millions of women around the world handled their periods. And today, DivaCup is sold in 45,000 retail outlets in the U.S. and Canada (in all major drug store and grocery chains) and in 35 countries, including Latin America, Europe and East Asia.
To the women who are toying with the idea of using the DivaCup, what advice would you give them?
First, please know that you are using the highest quality menstrual cup on the market. Our best advice: Read the User Guide (which comes inside the DivaCup box) carefully, which explains exactly how to use the cup and how to clean it. But even before you use the cup for the first time, do something to help you relax first! Being tense and stressed out about it can make the experience more difficult.
To assist you, we have an extensive set of resources on our website and social media channels, which are a great place to start learning about how the DivaCup works. Our Consumer Care team also loves helping new DivaCup users, and they’re available for consultation over the phone and by email.
What are the future plans for the DivaCup?
One of our biggest priorities right now is expanding our DivaCares program to provide more menstrual health education programming worldwide. Our documentary film Pandora’s Box, premiering in the USA in January 2020, takes a close look at period stigma and menstrual inequality around the world. Filmed in Africa, India, England, the U.S. and Canada, it exposes the plight of millions who are denied access to menstrual products and information about reproductive health. Our film will also be distributed internationally, and our hope is that it will mobilize the world to end Period Poverty once and for all.
We also plan to add new products into our lineup over the next several months, which will offer more solutions for people with periods. Be sure to follow us @TheDivaCup on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to make sure you’re up to date on all DivaCup news!