“There are lots of reasons kids miss school. Being a girl shouldn’t be one of them.” In a 2007 ad campaign, Procter & Gamble put a light on the issue with girls missing school or work in some countries. They have no means to manage their menstruation and it helped reduce anxiety and ridicule among peers. What were social entrepreneurs doing about it? They were innovating. They were creating eco-friendly pads at low cost, distributing them to rural villages, and for two social entrepreneurs in Canada, they were challenging the status quo with reusable menstrual products.
Lunapads was founded in 2000 by Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens. Shaw was a fashion designer who needed to find a solution to her own health concerns when using disposable pads and tampons. Despite initial discomfort towards the idea of reusable menstrual products, customer reactions have been positive and the notion that reusable pads are difficult to wash dispelled quickly.
The company’s main operations lie in selling menstrual products through their online store. They have a mission to deliver pads to girls with no access to such products and have been making donations to countries in South America and Africa through their charity Pads4Girls for over 10 years.
Their other initiative is with AFRIpads, a social enterprise operating in Uganda that employs 50 women to make and distribute a target of 100,000 reusable feminine hygiene kits this year. It adopts a sliding scale pricing model to ensure everyone can afford the products.
“We’re really proud of that, and really excited,” said Shaw. “You can send something from Canada to Africa but it’s so much better if it’s made there.”
With regards to a new model of development, Siemens believes that it is important to donate money and products, but it is just as important that those in the developing world participate as consumers rather than passive recipients of charity.
The success of the company encourages others wanting to make positive change to act on problems no matter where they live. For the founders, they realized there is an opportunity to create an impact locally.
“You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to make an impact; you can have an impact locally,” said Siemens.
“You just have to think about what you are doing and how it can have an impact.”
Photo from Lunapads.
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