The most common choice of period-management for women nowadays are disposable pads or tampons – which are wrapped in plastic and contain chemicals. Luckily for us, there are more sustainable options, such as; menstrual cups, period underwear and cloth pads. All women need access to some sort of sanitary product but did you know nearly 90% of Indian women do not use sanitary pads of any kind? Instead, they use rags, ashes, sand and newspaper, which as you could imagine is highly dangerous. Even though it is of some women’s preference to use cloth or other materials over pads, many other women do not use pads simply because they either do not know about them or have never had access to them. Freeda Thong is changing this.
In 2015, Thong first found out about cloth pads from her sister and started sewing them as a hobby. Her curiosity about the pads grew and prompted her to conduct further research, which then led her to the discovery of the critical world issues revolving women and their menstrual cycles. Issues such as:
- women having no awareness about their periods
- that some women have no access to sanitary products, and
- that women are subject to period shaming.
So with these concerns in the back of her mind, Thong decided to launch Ecopads Australia.
Solving the Worldwide Menstruation Problem
Thong founded Ecopads Australia as a Brisbane based social enterprise that designs, sews and sells reusable menstrual cloth pads. The design was developed by Freeda herself and her commitment to producing the highest quality is evident in the meticulous way they are created.
The cloth pads come in many styles to suit all women and three sizes: liners, regular pads, and overnight pads. The pad’s design consists of four main components; the topper, core, backer and snaps. The snaps secure the pad and a textured backing keeps the pad in place. Within the pad there is a waterproof and absorbent layer. The fabrics used are selected for their environmental impact and the pads ensure the same, if not more, absorbency than regular disposable pads.
A crowdfunding campaign was created in order to grow the business. A one month long goal to achieve a total of $15,000 was set and achieved with the help of 250 pledgers. The pledges are what made it possible for 2,976 reusable sanitary cloth pads to be distributed to women in Australia and India by the end of September. Check out the crowdfunding video below:
Ecopads advocate for women’s health, choice and pride.
The company’s core values are protecting the environment, providing education and empowering women. The social enterprise also incorporates the one-for-one concept developed by TOMS shoes. For each Ecopad purchase made, another is sent to a women or girl in need. Thong says that raising awareness about the environmental impact and the lack of proper sanitation access for women in developing countries remains a priority for her organisation. Here are the 4E’s that Ecopads address:
Most disposable sanitary products can take anywhere from 500 years to 800 years to decompose. Compare that with the fact that on average, one woman can use up to 11,000 disposable pads or tampons within her lifetime. Disposables actually make up the third largest contributor to landfill after food and plastics. Ecopads offers a sustainable solution, helping to minimise the amount of disposable sanitary products sent to landfill.
In some Indian communities, 8 of 10 girls are oblivious to menstruation and 1 of 5 girls leave school when first beginning their periods. Even more girls miss days or weeks of school during their periods each month. When girls are taught and educated about menstruation, they are encouraged to stay in school. Which is important as education is a tool that can better one’s future.
Encouragement and Empowerment
The important issue of period shaming is another aspect that gives Ecopads a strong passion to make a change. Ecopads strives to provide education programs to women and girls that challenge cultural shaming of menstruation. These education programs aim to teach women that periods are a natural part of life and nothing to be embarrassed about. Access to cloth pads allows girls and women to be able to manage their cycles more safely, discreetly and sustainably. The brand also partnered with Eco Femme for their successful crowdfunding campaign. Eco Femme is a women-led social enterprise based in India who share the same passions as Thong. Eco Femme will manufacture high quality pads whilst providing jobs to women which empower them to build better futures for their families and for themselves.
Ecopads also works to provide access to clean water and sanitation along with educational workshops surrounding sex, health and hygiene to girls in India. All of these things are provided to women to embolden and strengthen them. Let’s hope that Thong achieves her dream of being able to one day provide employment to women in developing countries by teaching them to create the pads.
Given all that she has achieved in a relatively short amount of time, it won’t be too long before she can tick this off her to do list too.
To shop sustainable cloth pads, visit www.ecopadsaustralia.com