The time is long overdue to REFRAME and disrupt the white privilege narrative that is most often represented in the plastic free period space. To be an inclusive, intersectional plastic-free periods movement, we need to stop disproportionally uplifting white voices. Most importantly, we need to centre and celebrate the Black and Peoples of Colour in this space who are owning the narrative on sustainable periods.
Why is this so important? An increase in the awareness of plastic-free period products has to represent and reflect all communities – so people can see themselves included in this movement. Seeing diverse faces in this space, that look like you, is paramount to this becoming a reality!
For starters we are recognising the amazing Women and People of Colour in the Environmenstrual Coalition who are contributing to the #plasticfreeperiods conversation. Read on to find out more:
susan allen & tara chandra, co-founders, flo
First up we put the spotlight on Susan Allen and Tara Chandra, Co-Founders of the ever so fab FLO.
As any fempire worth its salt, the idea for FLO came to Susan and Tara in the university bathrooms, where they would always catch up between classes and often let themselves dream of their futures.
A few years later and you can find their beautiful sweets-inspired products (period cravings, anyone?) in Boots, Holland & Barrett, Morrisons, Ocado and loads of other fabulous UK-and-beyond-retailers.
But they didn’t stop there – recognising the need to bring healthier, eco-friendlier, ‘adorabler’ period care closer to the people who need them, they also created an online subscription service that brings your favourite organic products straight through your letterbox!
5% of profits go to @OrchidProject, and they make monthly product donations to charities tackling period poverty – trying their best to give back and empower womxn through everything they do!
FLO is a proud black-owned and women of colour-owned period care business. We’re honoured that FLO is part of the Environmenstrual Coalition and salute them for being leaders and role models in the #plasticfreeperiods space. Find out more about Flo
RUBY RAUT, CEO & CO-FOUNDER OF WUKA PERIOD PANTS
Next in the #PlasticFreePeriodsReframed series is Ruby Raut, the CEO and Co-Founder of WUKA Period Pants. WUKA stands for Wake Up Kick Ass and that’s exactly what Ruby has done for the world of sustainable periods. Ruby says:
“My passion and energy to develop WUKA stemmed from growing up in Nepal, where shame about periods was widespread. After moving a thousand miles away, the problem of taboo was still the same, but the biggest concern was the single-use disposable waste. With WUKA, I was responding to the lack of innovation in menstrual products in 50 years with the current generation of products failing women, who report their most significant concerns as leaks/messiness. I also realised there was a massive gap in the market for a sustainable solution. That led to creating WUKA for sustainable and comfortable periods.”
WUKA period pants have hit the shelves at supermarket giant Sainsbury’s. Fun fact: we are so proud that Ruby is a former @wen_uk volunteer and someone we admire dearly!
MANDU REID, FOUNDER OF THE CUP EFFECT
The Cup Effect is a charitable NGO, not-for-profit social enterprise, and advocacy organisation that exists to #MakePeriodPovertyHistory. The Cup Effect aims to empower women and girls in low-income communities around the world by raising awareness about menstrual cups and making them more widely available.
Because cups last for up to 10 years they offer a long-term, environmentally and economically sound alternative to pads and tampons that enables women and girls to take control of their bodies, realise their rights, fulfil their potential and lead dignified lives free from the limitations and exclusion caused by period poverty.
How did the idea for The Cup Effect come about? Not long after discovering and using a cup for the first time, Mandu reflected on conversations she had with her mother about her perilous and frankly humiliating experiences of dealing with her “menses” as a teenager in a rural community in Malawi in the early 70s.
It occurred to Mandu that if a cup made a discernible difference to her living a relatively pampered and privileged life in London, it could potentially be a game-changer in parts of the world where women and girls (and whole communities) face profound challenges and difficulties.
Did you know that Mandu is also the leader of the Women’s Equality Party – and the first person of colour to lead a political party in UK history? We are hugely inspired by Mandu’s leadership and intersectional feminist activism. To find out more about The Cup Effect, visit the website here. To follow Mandu’s work with the Women’s Equality Party, click here.
MALEBOGO LETSATLE, FOUNDER OF THE CHOSEN PADS FOUNDATION
Next in #PlasticFreePeriodsReframed is the inspiring Malebogo Letsatle, Founder of The Chosen Pads Foundation.
The Chosen Pads Foundation is a non-profitable foundation based in Botswana that has taken upon itself the responsibility to raise funds to produce high quality, washable reusable, affordable, comfortable and eco-friendly pads.
The foundation donates these pads to young school girls who are facing period poverty, and also run a road show that is aimed at sensitising menstrual health education.
The road show primarily educates young girls about these new revolutionary pads; how to love and care for them by keeping them clean, also to emphasise that they should love their period and not treat it like something abnormal.
The Chosen Pads Foundation operates under the slogans #KeepTheGirlChildInSchool, #EndPeriodPoverty, #EcoHealthy, #EcoFriendly. The pads help save costs for families that cannot afford buying pads monthly. The pads are also not harmful to their reproductive health and are a solution to move away from disposable pads that have been linked to reproductive health complications such as rashes, yeast infections, cervical cancer and more.
Our landfills are filled with plastic that take thousands of years to decompose and in most instances end up being consumed by livestock or marine life, making them both unhealthy to human consumption and the ecosystem itself. It’s time we shift from quick fixes and resort to healthy and natural ways of menstrual health, by doing so we will not only preserve our bodies but we will also preserve the very Earth we live in.
To find out more about Malebogo’s work with The Chosen Pads Foundation, visit the website here.
SINEAD ROSE ALSO KNOWN AS SIR (SINEAD ILLUSTRIOUS ROSE), THE FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF WE ARE WE
Next in the #PlasticFreePeriodsReframed is Sinead Rose also known as SiR (Sinead Illustrious Rose), the Founder and Director of We Are We, an organisation dedicated to the empowerment of women in the UK. We Are We focuses on two things:
- Empowering women to be better than her yesterday
- Bringing about lasting change towards female equality
A key focus for We Are We is eradicating Period Poverty as sustainably as possible in the UK through:
Preparation: Preparing the next generation and encouraging co-education of unbiased teaching around periods, disposable and reusable menstrual products in schools and local communities.
Provision: Providing a consistent supply of menstrual products to places in the UK where women can’t afford them.
Policy: Working around the clock with other organisations to ensure that Period Poverty has a seat at the table when legislations are reviewed and passed.
In addition to this, We Are We enable women to connect, develop and explore their true authentic selves in a safe and inclusive environment, with the focus on promoting good mental and physical health as well as the advancement of self esteem and personal development.
We are so honoured to welcome Sinead and We Are We to the Environmenstrual Coalition. To find out more about We Are We, visit the website here.
MANJIT GILL, CEO AND FOUNDER OF BINTI INTERNATIONAL
Manjit is the CEO and founder of the phenomenal charity, Binti International which is registered in the UK, India and the US. Binti has a vision to create a world where all women have menstrual dignity.
Manjit has amassed over 20 years of international business expertise and has been involved in 7 startups prior to Binti. It was her role as a volunteer mentor for a young lady in Kenya with the Cherie Blair Foundation that led her to start Binti when she found out that some women do not have access to menstrual products.
Her mission is to create a huge social impact, whilst generating a sustainable organisation. Binti does this by providing basic menstrual products and education for girls and women across the world whilst dispelling stigmas, taboos and making it a mission to #smashshame with periods.
Manjit has been nominated and won several awards for her work at Binti and has been profiled in many notable media outlets. Binti has also been selected by the GEO in the UK Government to run the Period Task Force managing stigma, taboo and menstrual education.
Manjit says her Sikh faith has led her to believe she can accomplish anything that she puts her mind to, and that belief has led her to follow her passion and drive to keep going. When she found out some women do not have access to menstrual products it fuelled her fire to create change, because she knows that without a pad she would not have been able to have done anything in her life. Manjit says:
“’Menstrual dignity for everyone means having choices that work for you. Reusable products are cost effective, comfortable, sustainable and give us greener periods. It’s time to #SmashShame and get in touch with our period blood so that we take control of them and our bodies to manage our lives better.”
ISHU SHIVA, FOUNDING MEMBER & MANAGING DIRECTOR, SANITREE (INDIA)
Ishu Shiva is an Indian Yoga Teacher & Social Entrepreneur. Her interest in ancient yogic practices pushed her towards a focus on the environment and health. She is one of the Founding members & Managing Director of Sanitree (India), a student led social enterprise that produces reusable pads.
What is Sanitree?
Jaipur is the home of Sanitree’s co-operative, where 22 local women are employed to produce reusable cloth pads. The workshop space was founded by Ishu, and is more than just a workspace: the Her Shakti Centre holds self-defence, yoga and English language classes run by locals.
People can empower themselves in a space totally dedicated to their ventures. This is the nucleus of Sanitree and it’s their hope to inspire the breakdown of the menstruation taboo through education and raising awareness.
In 2017, Ishu worked with various disadvantaged communities and government schools in Rajasthan as a Menstrual Health Counsellor. She distributed biodegradable disposable pads to those who couldn’t afford menstrual products. Ishu took part in and spoke with these communities around the impact of plastic single-use period products on the environment, and the potential health risks.
Ishu continued to meet with hundreds of women who suffered because of the menstrual taboo. Lack of access to knowledge about periods led to a high school dropout and poor menstrual practices. The stigma and lack of open dialogue about menstruation led many to only seek advice from a gynecologist when they had reached the unbearable last stage of an infectious disease. This moved Ishu to seek a solution for her community that addressed these issues.
Sanitree has combined new ideas with ancient technology and wisdom to offer a meaningful approach to menstrual health. Sanitree as a business addresses a broad range of issues aiming to target socio- economic, environmental and health problems simultaneously through their education programmes and products.
You can now buy Sanitree pads at BornEco online and for more information about their work please check them out via their website here.