Happy International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day!

It’s the day of the year when my Facebook newsfeed is filled with messages celebrating female role-models and demanding gender equality. There are some great campaigns happening which I wanted to share:

The Wonder Women of Plan International: these are girls who are fighting for their rights, overcoming terrible circumstances and paving the way for their communities.

Marie-Claire’s #ShowYourPlace campaign: turning the sexist saying “know your place” on it’s head, this hashtag is encouraging women to share their place, be it as doctors, politicians, refugees, mothers, chefs and everything else women are!

The Everyday Sexism Project this isn’t a new campaign for today but one which began in 2012 and has been highlighting the subtle sexism facing men and women since then. A quick look through is all the reminder we need that sexism is not a thing of the past, and that we need to speak up about injustices to see change in society.

 

What’s been happening at Tampon Towers?

I’ve decided to give Monthlies HQ a re-brand and call it Tampon Towers. So far, Tampon Towers is a set of book shelves filled with boxes of tampons, pads and liners. However, I have big plans to expand in the future, with thoughts about a library of feminist, business and environment books. Here are some of my top picks:

And remember, Monthlies donates 20% of profits to causes supporting women and girls and we’re smashing taboos about Menstruation. Read our latest blog about Periods all over the World to learn more about the issues surrounding menstruation globally and sign up to Monthlies today!

Have a great International Women’s Day!

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Periods all over the world

Periods all over the world

The title of this post makes me want to sing “Periods all over the world, JOIN HANDS” but alas, we’re looking at more serious things than Love Train today. Although, if that’s what you’re looking for, I’ve been working on the optimum period playlist, think Leona Lewis with Bleeding Love, Taylor Swift with Red, it’s going to be great!

If you’re reading about Monthlies, you probably already know a thing or two about periods and the inequalities which exist around them. It’s unfair enough that our biology makes us bleed once a month but to add to that, we face tax on the products, stigma against talking about periods and to make it even worse, many menstruators globally have no access to affordable, safe, healthy period products. But there are projects and movements happening globally which are dismantling these inequalities.

ACCESS

Internationally, access to period products is heavily linked to affordability and wealth of the population. Taxation plays a part in this, pushing retail prices up, but so does the stigma, which means there’s little education or availability of the more affordable, reusable options.

There have been grassroots improvements in access, such as the women’s cooperatives in rural India who are producing and selling their own sanitary pads, using machines designed by Arunachalam Muruganantham after he discovered his new wife was using unhygienic rags. The same technology has even been imported to refugee camps in Jordan, where it’s able to provide both period protection and low-cost protection for incontinence in children and the elderly.

However it’s not always a question of cost of the products. Others face inadequate toilet facilities in schools, meaning there’s nowhere to change or dispose of menstrual pads when on your period. In Uganda, a study which trialed more affordable papyrus pads, with facilities to dispose of them in the school incinerator, failed due to a locally held belief that to burn menstrual blood could lead to infertility. The study did have success with re-usable cloth pads.

There are other, unexpected cultural barriers to access. In wealthy Saudi Arabia, the use of tampons is very rare and they’re difficult to find in the shops. There are various theories on why this is but most assume that the strict Islamic culture, known for sexual conservatism, views tampons as too intimate, even too sexual (although that’s the last thing most of us are thinking about when shoving some cotton up our vagina!)

 

STIGMA

Stigma and access are intertwined. The same study in Uganda which trialed papyrus pads found that girls saw menstrual pads as the most difficult thing to live without but the first they would give up, from a list including soap, breakfast and school supplies. This is all linked to the stigma surrounding periods and the expectation that they’re not to be spoken about or noticed wherever possible (sound familiar?!)

Source: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/So-What-Statements/Docs/Uganda_study1.pdf

In November 2015 a well known temple in Kerala, India, banned women aged 10 to 50 in order to keep out anyone who could be menstruating. They even said they would lift the ban when a machine had been invented which could accurately tell whether a woman was on her period. A community of Indian women responded with #HappyToBleed, swamping twitter and breaking down taboos in speaking openly about their periods.

TAXES

There’s been loads in the press in the last few months about the “tampon tax” but in reality, this applies to all period products, even those like the mooncup which is super sustainable. Last week, the Stop Taxing our Periods Campaign took a look at how the UK compares to levels of tampon tax globally (the answer: move to Canada).

One major break-through for this campaign came when Obama was quizzed about the tax in most US states, where he responded saying it’s probably because men were making the laws when the tax was introduced but that it makes no sense. He’s right on both counts and we hope this statement will push more governments to remove the tax but it’s still sad that the comments of one man (sure, one incredibly powerful man) can make change happen so much faster than the voices of hundreds of thousands of dissatisfied women.

You might have heard about George Osborne’s pledge in the Autumn Statement to give the £15 million (yes, that much) which is raised by the tax on period products, to charities which support women, such as refuges for victims of domestic violence. Our opinion on this is simple: those services are vital and should have adequate government support. The problem of domestic violence is a societal one (domestic violence affects men, women and children and the problem is in the actions of the perpetrators) and to fund it by a tax harvested almost entirely from women makes a dangerous assumption that it’s a problem for women to solve, not for society as a whole. The tax is sexist and should be removed. Vital services that support victims of violence should receive adequate funding regardless.

 

The further you look into the world of periods, the more things there are to be shocked and saddened by. But there are also more movements to challenge these problems and design new solutions, from the bottom up. Monthlies aim is for all menstruators to have safe, healthy periods free from prejudice. We won’t stop shouting about the issues surrounding menstruation until we get there.

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Monthlies Impact Report 2015

Monthlies Impact Report 2015

Monthlies is a social enterprise with many aims and sometimes it’s difficult to communicate them all succinctly.

So to summarise the achievements of 2015, we’ve put together our first Impact Report in infographic form. It splits out our impact into environmental, social and engagement and also gives a view on our commercial side. It’s thanks to your support that we’ve achieved the impact we have, and it’s only with your support, that we’ll continue to deliver even more impact. Have a read below!

The aim is we can grow our impact every year and by setting these measures from the very beginning, we’ll hold ourselves accountable to these aims from the very start.

In addition to the infographic, the detail below explains how we’ve come to these figures.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:

The total CO2 saving of 48kg is calculated based on the sale of 2000 pads (in reality, we’ve sold slightly more than this). All of the pads we supply are made of plant starches, wood pulp and organic cotton, although they’re recognizable and just as effective as any major brand. They do have a carbon footprint but they do not contain any fossil-fuel based plastics.

Major brands of menstrual pads all contain plastic, whether it’s in the external packaging, the wrapping of each pad, the lining or the absorbent polymer contained within the pad. As these brands don’t announce what the content of their products is, we don’t know exactly how much plastic is in a normal pad. A figure which is often quoted is the equivalent of 4 shopping bags per pack (approximately 10 pads). An average shopping bag weighs about 10g therefore it’s 40g of plastic per pack or 4g per pad. Multiplied by the 2000 pads sold by Monthlies, this is 8kg of plastic.

In producing plastic, there is an average of 6kg of CO2 released per kg of plastic (source) therefore the CO2 from 8kg of plastic is 48kg.

A one way economy class flight from Manchester to Amsterdam releases 0.04 tonnes (40kg) of CO2 (source).

It’s fair to say that the carbon saving from pads alone is only one measure of our environmental impact and we’ve assumed the total saving without accounting for any impact from the pads we sell. This is a very fair point. The calculations are of course imperfect and narrow. However, when you look at the bigger picture, at the tampons and liners we’ve sold as well as the pads, and at the impact once wasted (they’re all biodegradable so won’t be polluting our planet or leaching chemicals out for centuries to come) then the saving will stack up even further. Even more so when you consider that all of the packaging Monthlies use (from the tissue paper to boxes, to stickers and flyers) are made from over 70% recycled material and are fully biodegradable. Now to only account for the CO2 saving of the pads sold really does look like a conservative estimate of our environmental saving. Our aim in the future is to measure more of these variables and have better comparisons of the carbon impact of major brands to compare to.

 

Social Impact:

An easier measure, we have donated 25 boxes of Ultra pads (each containing 12 pads) split between The Marylebone Project, a centre for homeless women in Marylebone, London and donations to Supporting Sisters who distribute collections across the UK to food banks and night shelters.

We also pledge to donate at least 20% of profits to causes supporting women and girls. Don’t worry, this is still firmly in our plans and once we’ve passed the 6 month mark (on the 1st Feb) we will be able to quantify how much our first donation is, as well as which cause it will go to

 

Engagement:

Our measure of 1600 people is made up of loads of events, social media and conversations at the pub. Some of the highlights this year include:

Hosting a Lunch and Learn session about Monthlies for Innocent Drinks, to around 150 colleagues.

Presenting a session on “How to start an ethical business” to over 50 delegates at the Feminism in London conference.

Meeting brilliant like minded start-up social entrepreneurs at the Social Venture Weekend by Social Incubator East.

Running the Lets Talk about Periods event with speakers Kiran Gandhi and Chella Quint.

All of the great engagement on social media when I apprehensively launched the pilot in May and then when Monthlies launched for real in August.

 

Commercial:

We’ve sent out 204 boxes (probably more by the time you’ve read this). If we assume a fairly average menstruator has 12 periods per year, thats 17 un-interrupted years of supply!

Finally, thank you. We couldn’t have got here without the support we’ve had or our wonderful customers who believe in what we’re doing as much as we do. And we’ll get to the places we’re going for exactly the same reason!

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