Every emoji has its time to shine – and right now, it’s the turn of the drop of blood. As of Monday, State schools and colleges in England can now order free period products for students as part of a government scheme to tackle period poverty – and it’s about bloody time.
Periods are responsible for a loss of productivity in the workplace (one of the reasons why you’ll find free tampons in every Huckletree bathroom). However, the issue starts far earlier on in the classroom. Period poverty has a tangible, detrimental impact on young people, with 49% girls reporting having missed a day of school due to periods – and one in 10 women aged 14 to 21 not able to afford period products. As we start a new decade, it seems wild that so far, we haven’t seriously considered menstruation’s impact on equal education.
RAISING A RED FLAG
Frustrated fist-shaking aside, the news syncs up with the wider FemTech wave of innovation in healthcare. Take Huckletree West member Yoppie (short for Your Happy Period). A social impact startup, they’re creating synthetic-free, biodegradable, cruelty-free and 100% organic cotton period products. As the ‘free period products’ news broke and my Slack started popping off (Team Huckletree knows I’m a sucker for a feminist win), I immediately turned to Co-Founder Daniella Peri for her expert take:
“The Free Periods campaign is an incredible initiative, and their recent win is an exciting and huge step towards achieving genuine equality, and of course, tackling period poverty. We are in awe of Amika George and The Red Box Project who have led the fight.”
EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION
Hold off on cracking out the tampon shaped pinata just yet, though. Making free sanitary products readily available for pupils who menstruate is a huge step forward – but it’s not ‘problem solved’. Daniella highlighted the importance of context. We need a wider culture shift surrounding periods in the educational system, outside of 1990s textbooks or dodgy hand-me-down knowledge:
“We believe the next step that we need to take in order to end the cycle of shame that surrounds such a normal bodily process is in the direction of innovative menstrual health education.
All women deserve access to a wide range of tools and resources that will allow them to truly understand their own menstrual cycle, so that they can feel empowered to take control of their health routines and not have to rely on outdated school curriculum or the one-size-fits-all healthcare system. Because let’s face it, there is not just one way to learn or one way to be healthy.”
REINVENTING AN INDUSTRY
That same desire for transparency drove the creation of Yoppie. In its early days, Daniella and the team’s intense research revealed a less-than-sanitary picture of current practices in the feminine care industry. Bleached cotton, hidden toxins and who-even-knew-that-was-in-there plastics were either accepted or just not common knowledge. They knew there had to be an alternative, so they set out to create it themselves… but it hasn’t been easy. Daniella breaks it down:
“Creating a brand that is committed to providing sustainable, organic and ethical menstrual products can create difficulties when it comes to costs. Although we work towards being radically transparent about our supply chain and are raising product standards, an obstacle that we encounter is that we can be more expensive than most mainstream brands, making it harder for customers to jump on board the Yoppie train.”
We’re all consumers with a wifi connection and a hyper-sensitivity for being taken for a ride by brands. In 2020, it’s simply not enough to pitch up with a service and expect your customers to immediately buy into its wider value – and price point. Yoppie prides itself in offering something more than a physical product:
“If you’re a subscriber, a once-off customer or have never purchased from us, Yoppie still offers access to community-minded and educational services, whether that’s through our Fem Life Facebook group, our blog, at events or on our social channels.”
THE FUTURE OF FEMININE CARE
One of the fastest-growing sectors in tech, the FemTech market is predicted to be worth $5bn in 2025. So, what’s next? Over to Daniella for her view on the revolution to come:
“Expect the feminine health category to expand its dialogue and product innovation beyond just the realms of menstrual hygiene, which has long been the focus. Other female bodily transitions that have been overlooked, such as menopause and post-natal, are beginning to be destigmatised and openly embraced milestones of womanhood.
More conversations and resources that cater for all women, no matter what life stage will be a focus for many. Beyond just topics surrounding bodily changes, sexual health is also beginning to cement its place as an important element of women’s health, fueling a need for more education, content and products that are made with women in mind.”
HUCKLETREE SUGGESTS MEETUPS WITH:
- HANX, Huckletree Shoreditch
- Marilyn, Huckletree Shoreditch
- Rabin Yaghoubi, Former CCO at Babylon Health, Huckletree Ambassador
Working in a state school or college in England? Order feminine care products for free here.