Te Ipukarea Society Director Alanna Smith delivering a presentation on Maine Mura at Apii Mauke. 23112406
Here in the Cook Islands, and more specifically in the Pa Enua, young girls experiencing the menstrual cycle for the first time can find it quite overwhelming.
It is not a topic that is often spoken
Our Te Ipukarea Society team with the
support of the Cook Islands Family Welfare Association has made it our duty to
spread awareness so that our young girls and teenagers feel comfortable and
safe discussing their experiences.
The menstrual cycle is a regulatory system
of the female body. Thus, it is of great importance that our young girls
understand that it is a normal occurrence to allow our bodies to keep
functioning at the optimum.
In Rarotonga, it is common for our year 9
and 10 students to be provided with information around sex education and the
menstrual cycle as it is near the age of sexual maturity. The discussion around
the menstrual cycle is normalised and young girls have an opportunity to
express any concerns and share experiences with one another.
Unlike Rarotonga, education in the Pa Enua
around the subject is discrete and brief, possibly leading to an unclear and
awkward environment for the girls. Some girls may even miss important days at
school because of their period.’
Dating back to the beginning of 2021, the
Maine Mura project came into action with the mission of creating a safe
environment for young girls to learn about what the menstrual cycle is, and how
to stay hygienic during a cycle. It had the added benefit for our fragile
environment of reducing the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills, helping
to fulfil one of Te Ipukarea Society’s core objectives.
project took off with the launch of our reusable pads. These are colourful
cloth pads from the New Zealand Days for Girls programme. They are washing
machine friendly as a step into the green direction with an economical benefit
on the side. They were introduced to all three high schools in Rarotonga.
Taking full advantage of the “Taua e Moana”
ocean health voyage on our traditional vaka Marumaru Atua later that same year,
the Maine Mura programme was extended to the Pa Enua high schools. Prior to
departure we expanded our range of feminine hygiene products to also include
reusable menstrual (moon) cups.
The average price of disposable pads in
Rarotonga is between $5 and $11 per pack depending on brand and flow (heavy or
light). In the Pa Enua the prices rise to compensate for the extra shipping and
smaller markets, and considerable amounts of money are spent each month on
The various aspects of personal health,
environment benefits and costs are included in the presentations we give to the
students during our Pa Enua visits.
Since the inception of the Maine Mura
programme in 2020, with our original successful project proposal to UN Women,
we have had a number of other sponsors such as the Days for Girls New Zealand
programme and the Social Impact Fund from the Cook Islands Ministry of Internal
We have progressed to also providing
menstrual underwear (period undies). This called for a second offer of
presentations around the high schools in Rarotonga as well as our intermediate
students who would soon be leaving primary level for high school, so that they
are made aware of the options that are available for them.
We have now conducted Maine Mura
presentations in all of the islands of the Cook Islands, with the exception of
Nassau, where the weather conditions did not allow us to get ashore.
Overall, there have been over 600 students
and a handful of adults that have tried out reusable feminine hygiene products
through our programme. With the number of positive responses received, it is
clear that Maine Mura has had an impact, and can be considered a success.
Though our funding is exhausted, we hope to continue to roll out the programme
in Rarotonga and the Pa Enua with follow-up visits when the opportunities for
outer island travel arise for our other projects.
You can learn more about our work in caring
for our environment on our website: tiscookislands.org and our Facebook: @tiscookislands.