4 Mins Read
For many of us, feminine hygiene and women’s care products seem like a basic necessity. However, in many countries all over the world – including in our own city – millions of women are still unable to gain access to the products, healthcare and education they need. In the Philippines, for instance, plantation workers miss a week of income from work due to being unable to afford sanitation products. According to the World Bank, over 113 million teenage girls in India are vulnerable to dropping out of school due to menstrual health stigmas. Conventional feminine care products also come with a hefty environmental footprint, with the average woman disposing over 11,000 menstrual products amounting to 200,000 tonnes of waste in landfills every single year.
Here are 5 startups based in Asia-Pacific who are driving social and environmental change through woman care products.
1. LUÜNA Naturals
LUÜNA Naturals is a Hong Kong and Shanghai based startup offering monthly subscription boxes for toxin-free, organic and natural cotton sanitary pads and tampons, and a reusable menstrual cup product. It was founded by Olivia Cotes-James, who initially started the company out of a frustration of the lack of non-toxic menstrual products on the market.
Coming across the fact that 90% of women in Asia use non-biodegradable synthetic feminine care products that are produced with toxic pesticides and fertilisers, which are damaging to our own health and the planet’s, the startup was launched to offer women in Asia better and more eco-friendly period care. They have partnered up with Free Periods HK, the only charity in Hong Kong providing low-income women free sustainable menstrual products through a “Buy a cup, give a cup” initiative, and Bright & Beautiful, a menstrual education campaign in rural China supporting young girls through workshops.
Available online through LUÜNA’s website.
Founded in 2018, Reemi is a New Zealand based registered charity started by Emily Au-Young and Ashleigh Howan, who are on a mission to provide menstrual health education and sustainable, culturally sensitive menstrual products to women in Bangladesh without access. Throughout their research trips across India, Bangladesh and Nepal, the duo were shocked at the crucial need for a solution to the lack of hygienic, socially appropriate and environmentally friendly feminine care.
Since setting Reemi up, they have developed the world’s first self-disinfecting reusable period underwear using innovative fabric solution CottonX, alongside a wash and dry bag solution that is key to making the product appropriate for use in different cultural contexts. At the moment, their groundbreaking product is available through their Kickstarter page, with 100% of profits going towards local projects that help women access menstrual care and education.
Available through Reemi’s Kickstarter page.
EcoFemme is a women-led social enterprise founded in 2010 in Tamil Nadu in India. EcoFemme’s goal is to instigate environmental and social change by providing reusable cloth pads and menstrual health education. The production of the pads take place in five different locations, where women are ensured a fair wage and safe working environment. They also support non-profit outreach work across different Indian states, including sponsoring products through feminine care educational charities Pad for Pad and Pad for Sisters.
4. Freedom Cups
Created by three sisters in Singapore, Freedom Cups is a eco-minded social startup that distributes menstrual cups to women in need while they sell their menstrual cups to others. For every single Freedom Cup purchased, the company provides one to a woman from an underprivileged community. The overall goal is to achieve a “win-win” situation, where those who can afford it can decrease their use of non-biodegradable single-use sanitary products, while others can gain access to sanitation every month.
To date, they have provided menstrual cups throughout Uganda, Kenya, the Philippines, Nigeria, Nepal and Cambodia through local partnerships. Manufactured in the United States, their menstrual cups are FDA-registered, made out of 100% medical grade silicone, and can be reused for as long as 15 years.
Available online through Freedom Cup’s website.
5. Milki Train
Milki Train is a Hong Kong based startup on a mission to empower breastfeeding mothers with their sustainably manufactured 100% organic cotton breastfeeding t-shirts. Their t-shirts, which look like regular t-shirts, have a discreet opening so that mothers can breastfeed however, wherever they want.
In addition to being made out of pesticide-free cotton, the company is committed to sustainable packaging, opting to use reusable EcoEnclose mailer bags that are made from 100% recycled materials. They have also pledged to donate 2% of their profits to their partner charity Kiva, an organisation dedicated to supporting new mother entrepreneurs around the world through grants and loans.
Available through their Kickstarter page.
Lead image courtesy of Treehugger.