Shivangi of Trucup wants women to talk about their periods

I recently spoke with Shivangi Bagri, co-founder of The Tru Company, a menstrual health and hygiene organisation that makes menstrual cups under the brand TruCup, to chat on the positive social impact TruCup is creating.

Ranchi, the capital of Jarkhand, has changed a lot in the 21st century. It is still in India, and as such, the people there continue to grapple with taboos and myths about menstruation.

At the workshops, the team asked the young girls in the audience to blow up a balloon and on it, to write a myth about menstrual health. At the end, TruCup debunked each myth and burst its respective balloon, one by one.

Initiating conversations around period care is Shivangi’s driving force, especially in her home country, India. Periods have long been considered impure, and discrimination against menstruating women is widespread in India; they are excluded from social and religious events, denied from temples and shrines.

Even in second tier cities of India, such has Ranchi, women are still uneducated about their menstrual, sexual and reproductive health, such as Ranchi, women are uneducated about their menstrual health. Some suffer quietly from toxic shock syndromes from tampon usage, or go through abortion because of misinformation, or endure years of dilapidating pain from undiagnosed endometriosis.

Since launching in October 2018, TruCup has helped women all over India; Shivangi and her co-founder Alakshi Tomar, have taught girls in war-stricken areas of Kashmir how to use menstrual cups, conducted educational workshops in different states, sometimes with very religious communities, and taught women about their bodies, sexual, menstrual and reproductive health.

TruCup is the number one cup in Singapore and India, but the company’s team is almost more focused on conducting workshops and working with state governments in India to educate and advocate change than on the product itself.

With the support of international organisations like the United Nations Development Programme or philanthropists from across the globe. They also run donation programs all year round to support smaller communities and organisations with no access or means to provide a sustainable alternative to the young girls or women they work with.

Shivangi says, “Even in a little district in India, we can work with at least  10,000 women.” The change that a four-hour workshop can make to a woman’s life, when they learn that they’re not dirty or inferior, is monumental.

Design should create value

Shivangi left her hometown of Jaipur at 17 to study design at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore, working in the wasteful industry of fashion production after graduation. On her trips back to India, she felt disconnected to her home country; a wrenching feeling in her gut that she could do more with her education.

She wanted her work to mean something. Design, she says, should create value, not clutter.

In the Christmas of 2017, on the balcony of a friend’s place in Dubai, Shivangi got to chatting with her friends, about the benefits of menstrual cups. She had already been a long-time user of menstrual cups and loved the deeper sense of connection it gave her with her body. As they were talking, Shivangi saw that it could be a business. That Christmas, Shivangi found the work she had been searching for.

Shivangi joined forces with Alakshi, a friend she had gone to school with in Jaipur. Alakshi is a former social worker, and passionate about inspiring change through grassroots efforts and was the perfect finishing piece to a brand that Shivangi hoped would inspire women through design and leave a positive impact on all it crossed paths with.

They decided it was the right time to enter the Indian market, and in 2018, work on TruCup began.

The pair sampled menstrual cups from all over the world, took notes, and arrived to a conclusion that they had to develop a design that would suit an active person; periods should not hinder women from leading their lives.

In polling her girlfriends, Shivangi realised that they knew very little about menstrual cups as an alternative to pads and tampons. Hence, Trucup is designed for beginners too.

We are loud, to provoke conversation

Unlike the branding for most menstrual cups, TruCup’s design agenda is to be colourful, and provocative. “Just because it’s clean, it doesn’t need to be minimalist,” says Shivangi. “We want to provoke conversation,” she adds.

Shivangi tells me that Asian women are used to hiding their menstrual products. I have to agree. I used to hide my tampon in my fist on the way to the bathroom, afraid that someone might see. Looking back now, it was senseless. An irrational fear that someone might know I’m bleeding had been cultivated by stigma cast on women generations before me.

The box that TruCup comes in is loud and vibrant, almost screaming for you to look at it and be curious. It would not look out of place on your bedside table.

Because, “until you start talking about it openly, people are not going to communicate about it openly”. 

I’m starting today.

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