TABOO uses sanitary products to tackle the silence around menstrual health

Image via Unsplash
Words by Esther Reynolds-Verco

Combatting period poverty.

Fourth-wave feminism and the inclusion of intersectionality in contemporary feminist theory has resulted in an emphasis on female health, and the inequality to come from it.

It could be perceived that developing countries are the only nations facing taboos around menstrual cycles, but silence around female reproductive health is persistent throughout the world. In 2015, Instagram received backlash after it removed a picture uploaded by Rupi Kaur of her overnight menstrual bleeding, claiming it went against community guidelines.

Just a few months ago, Libra’s #bloodnormal campaign was the most complained about ad of 2019.

Activists in the space coined the term ‘period poverty’ in a bid to highlight the health discrepancy women in lower socio-economic brackets around the world face in accessing sanitation products. The issue has been broadcast particularly effectively on social media in an attempt to shift the conversation from a ‘women’s issue’ into a political dialogue.

However, few have found ways to convert this online conversation into active change. Eloise Hall and Isobel Marshall are giving it a red hot crack by creating a social enterprise, TABOO Sanitary Products.

“Period poverty refers to the inability to access or purchase appropriate sanitary items,” co-founder Eloise Hall explains.

“Through our research in Kenya and India, we found that when a woman is experiencing period poverty, they often resort to alternative methods such as using old kitchen sponges, banana leaves, and pieces of ripped cloth.”

TABOO sells organic cotton pads and tampons through an online subscription program and donates 100% of the net profits to Melbourne charity One Girl, who partners with organisations in Sierra Leone and Uganda to equip young women with professional skills and education programs.

“One Girl supports girls and young women with business skills, affordable sanitary products, education in menstrual hygiene, water and sanitation and high-school scholarships,” Eloise says.

“All of One Girl’s programs are sustainable and support the local economy to holistically address the barriers that girls face to education.”

Eloise and Isobel knew that period poverty wasn’t just a health and social issue overseas. In Australia, gender rights activists fought for nearly two decades before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was removed from feminine sanitary products.

To take more action on the home front, TABOO has partnered with Vinnies to offer the option to subscribe to a regular delivery of pads and tampons on behalf of a woman in emergency care in South Australia.

Though TABOO is contributing to the shift in conversation around menstrual cycles, its founders acknowledge there is still a long way to go before global change can be achieved.

“I think the lack of education about what menstruation is, has contributed to the stigma significantly,” Eloise says.

“If people (men and women included) were aware that periods are directly linked to reproduction, and if that was taught and spoken about in a positive way then I think the stigma may be different.”

The products can now be purchased individually or as part of a subscription service here.


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