WE'RE HERE TO MAKE PERIODS POSITIVE
For something that happens to approximately half the population for a significant portion of their lives, we’re pretty bad at talking about this thing our bodies do. Finding products that work, that we can afford, and that meet our standards of sustainability isn’t easy. We still sometimes feel like our periods are holding us back from fully participating in all that life offers. We wanted better for ourselves, but we also wanted better for everybody.
For some people around the world, our period woes pale in comparison. Approximately 80-95%* of Bangladeshi women don’t use sanitary products because they are unaffordable or inaccessible. Instead, many women use cloth or torn sari known as ‘nekra’.
One study showed that, due to social stigma, women resort to drying menstrual cloth in secret - often in damp, mouldy and unhygienic places,1 like under their bed! And as you can imagine, using unclean cloth has contributed to high rates of vaginal and urinary infections reported across Bangladesh.
Another study reported that 73% of Bangladeshi factory workers missed an average of six days of work per month (resulting in unpaid days) due to infections caused by unhygienic menstrual cloth or rags.2
Taking time off work or skipping school because you have your period isn’t getting anyone ahead, and we’re here to change that. We’re making sustainable, culturally appropriate period solutions accessible to all people everywhere, as well as educating around menstrual health and deconstructing tired taboos.
All across the world, women have been taught to hide their periods, to make sure no one else knows what is happening to us. But this ‘impurity’ is simply a sign of life. Our bodies just doing their thing.
We want to be part of the conversation around what it means to be both loving and inclusive of menstruating bodies. We want to celebrate the fact that when we are healthy and well, we have our period.
We are approaching a solution in three ways:
We are using design-thinking to create awesome, culturally appropriate products. Our crew has included working with Deane Apparel (NZ) to create period underwear, as well as iDE (Bangladesh) to create bags that enable discreet and hygienic cleaning and drying methods. We are soon to begin a trial in 2020 in a garment factory to understand which women prefer and what is most effective and affordable.
What about the menstrual cup?
In 2017, we wondered this too and did some research with local organisations across India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Unfortunately, we found that the cup is not culturally appropriate in many many cultures as it requires insertion. We believe we need to find respectful and appropriate solutions.
Products don’t solve all problems! We want to scream this from the roof. We could advertise a one-for-one model but this doesn’t encompass the idea that we also need to provide education. We are seeing that education is a really powerful tool to help break taboos and we know that a base-level of education is necessary for all health-related problems. We work alongside Change Associates in Bangladesh, who are doing phenomenal work in this area.
We cannot do this alone. It’s a very big problem and we know that we need to partner across sectors, from manufacturers to apparel brands. We need to partner with other businesses and other NGOs. We believe it’s our job to work ourselves out of a job: we do this in community. We let local organisations guide us, teach us and tell us what to do. We then tap into the resources and expertise we are privileged to have access to. It’s beautiful and we are so grateful for this passionate and smart crew.
Some of our partners can be found here.
* Variable between studies
1. Ahmed, R., and K. Yasmin. Menstrual hygiene: breaking the silence. Beyond construction: Use by all. A collection of case studies from sanitation and hygiene promotion practitioners in South Asia. London: WaterAid, 2008, 283-287.
2. George, Rose. Celebrating Womanhood: How better menstrual hygiene management is the path to better health, dignity and business. Geneva: Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, 2013, 10.