Adelaide uni students Eloise Hall and Isobel Marshall are on a mission to eradicate the taboo surrounding menstrual hygiene around the world. The pair has just launched sanitary-product brand Taboo to break down the stigma of menstruation in developing countries and ensure that women in those nations have access to sustainable sanitary care and education.
After a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2018 – through which the pair raised the $56,000 required to pay for their first batch of Taboo-branded pads and tampons – the product is now available online. They’re made from organic cotton, manufactured in a factory outside of Barcelona, and packed in recycled cardboard.
The duo is donating 100 per cent of their net profits to Melbourne charity One Girl, which partners with organisations in Sierra Leone and Uganda that provide high-school scholarships and education programs to young women to help boost their employment chances.
Part of the funds raised will also go towards educating men and women in developing countries about menstrual hygiene “so that women and girls are no longer made to feel degraded and dehumanised during this time”, says Marshall.
According to One Girl, most women and girls in Sierra Leone don’t have a hygienic way of managing their periods. Sanitary pads are expensive and hard to get, so girls use strips of cloth or other makeshift solutions, which are unreliable and often unsanitary.
“We were shocked to learn that 30 per cent of girls in developing countries will drop out of school as soon as they get their first period and that many reproductive complications stem from the lack of appropriate menstrual health care and education,” says Hall.
To further their understanding of period poverty, the pair travelled to India and Kenya to see the effects themselves and talk to local women and girls. “The two major contributing factors leading to period poverty are that sanitary pads are inaccessible or else unaffordable,” says Marshall,
Many Kenyan women have to “sell sex in exchange for pads or else in order to raise the money they need to buy them,” she adds.
Taboo’s products are available with one-off payments or through a subscription service, which allows customers to subscribe (either for themselves, as a gift, or for women living in the APY lands or who require emergency care) and choose how many pads and/or tampons they want delivered, and how often (up to six months).
The pair is also spreading their message through school visits, educating students about the importance of their cause to more than 35 schools across Australia.
While managing and directing Taboo, both women are also studying full-time; Eloise is into her second year of a Business and International Relations double degree at Flinders University, and Isobel is also a second-year student, studying Medicine at the University of Adelaide.