Reports from Cuba: In Ciego de Avila, women haven’t received a single ‘intimate’ item this year

14yMedio reports from Havana via Translating Cuba:

In Ciego De Avila, Cuban Women Have Not Received a Single “Intimate” Item So Far This Year

Mathisa continues to violate the State’s order, says the official newspaper ’Invasor’

A special report on the lack of sanitary pads in Ciego de Ávila, published this Saturday in Invasor, harshly criticizes the slow production of the industry on the Island, which asks for “calm,” while menstruation does not wait. Of the 100,000 women – according to 2022 data – who receive the product monthly in the province, not a single one obtained it this year, says the official newspaper, the only one that is allowed, within limits, to be critical of state management.

“At the end of April, the so-called ‘intimates’ still have not appeared in the pharmacies in at least half the country. Meanwhile, the recommended ‘calm’ means finding expensive alternatives – imported and national products – or very unpleasant ones: making pads out of recycled fabric, as in the 90s,” Invasor says sharply.

Other alternatives, such as the use of menstrual cups, are not too popular on the Island. “The menstrual cup is very comfortable and, although it is more expensive than other feminine hygiene products, the investment is quickly recovered when you stop buying pads all year round,” explains Marta, a woman from Avila who, however, knows that the product must not only overcome prejudices but also face practical situations of life in Cuba.

“The problem comes when you have to manipulate it in a public bathroom, where there is almost never water, soap or toilet paper. Not to mention the lack of hygiene in some places,” she emphasizes.

“Using tampons,” she adds, “is not very popular because they are hard to find. For a while they were sold in MLC (freely convertible currency) stores and could be bought in buying and selling groups, but women prefer the pads, which they know better and are usually more affordable.”

Invasor also gives the price of pads in the informal market: for the low-quality Mariposa brand, a single package costs between 250 and 300 pesos, a “module” price with which a home delivery can even be requested, says the report. The rest of the national brands that are distributed in the central region of the Island cost 400 pesos and, if they are imported, up to 450 for no more than 12 pads, according to 14ymedio.

Invasor tried to communicate with Arthis, a company that, according to official reports, is funded by Cuban and Italian capital and has a production capacity of 20,000 daily packages of pads, diapers and dressings. They didn’t answer their phone.

Although the Arthis pads, sold under the Angélica brand, should, in theory, be marketed in pesos and in MLC – as the company said after its remodeling last December – “the offers consulted were all on e-commerce pages with payments from abroad,” says Invasor. The prices, in addition, “range between 900 and 1,000 pesos per pack of 36 pads.”

But, beyond the prices, it is the low availability that hits the women of the Island the hardest. In a “short chronology” of the ups and downs of the industry, Invasor makes it clear that the situation has been going on for years. In 2016, the Sancti Spíritus Mathisa factory – in charge of supplying women from Matanzas to Camagüey – closed with a debt of three million units due to logistics problems. By 2021, the Avila authorities had produced only 60% of the expected pads, and the debt of the company that year, which was never settled, was four million units.

From then on, the logistical obstacles were joined by the lack of fuel and the shortage of raw materials in recent years, so Mathisa’s production has been intermittent. The company was barely able to resume its production two weeks ago – after stopping it in February – when it received the imported filler for the pads, and now they are trying to produce what they owe from the first quarter of 2024.

For the moment, the women of Avila will continue to wait for Mathisa, which “violates the State order again and again,” but it will be increasingly difficult for them to comply with the call to order of the regime. Invasor makes it clear that “the subsidized price of the humble pads in national currency should not be the only explanation” given by the officials.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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