Archive for the ‘Activism & Politics’ Category

Kitty’s 25 Birthday Wishes for Pads4Girls

Friday, February 13th, 2015 by Kitty

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During the summer of 2013, I had a chance to visit Destiny Academy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With the passion of serving the underprivileged, the school provides quality education to some of the poorest kids in the city. Through subsidized tuition (even full sponsorship for the neediest students), Destiny Academy goes above and beyond to support the children’s learning through after-school programs, meal programs, and computer classes. Since establishment, the school has grown rapidly from 25 preschool students to over 500 students!

Speaking with Hareg, one of the co-founders of Destiny Academy, she mentioned that many girls require feminine hygiene products in order to fully participate in their studies. Destiny Academy has been providing students disposable products, but with the high costs, it is hindering further expansion of the school so that more children can receive an education.

For the past two years, I have been doing birthday fundraisers to purchase pad kits for women and girls in Ethiopia. Being that this year I’m reaching my quarter mark, I want to make a bigger splash with bigger goals! I’d like to dedicate my 25th birthday to fundraise for pad kits for the girls of Destiny Academy.

Destiny Academy’s mission is to “help our students develop self-confidence, positive concepts, and the kind of character that will allow them to exercise their unique gifts and talents.” With the donation of pad kits, I wish to break down the barriers girls in Ethiopia face in completing their primary and highschool education.

To support the fundraiser, please direct your contribution to “Kitty’s 25 Birthday Wishes” — thank you!

Make Pads4Girls Donation at Tides Canada

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Periods: Blessing or Curse?

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 by Madeleine

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The recent media attention over professional tennis player Heather Watson’s “girl things” allusion to the relationship between her recent performance at the Australian Open tennis tournament and having her period has opened up a fascinating and overdue public conversation about how periods and menstrual cycles affect us.

While I share many “pro period” advocates’ disappointment that she used a euphemism rather than “calling a spade a spade”, to dwell on this is to miss the larger point and opportunity to open up the conversation, explore new perspectives and dispel shame and misinformation along the way.

If I can tell you one thing after being in the menstrual product business for over two decades, it’s that our customers have wildly divergent experiences of their cycles and periods, which range from euphoric to awkward and even painful. But does this suggest in the latter case that we are somehow less capable when we menstruate? The recognition that periods aren’t always easy can lead to the facile, inaccurate and even dangerous assumption that they are a universal liability: how to acknowledge the former while avoiding the latter?

Here’s one perspective: menstruators and non-menstruators alike all have different types of days all the time: factors like how much sleep we get, our emotional state, common ailments like colds and headaches and so on, are just part of life. Do we prevent a pilot from working because of having a cold, for example? What about a surgeon who has a headache? A teacher who is emotionally distraught (or alternately, deliriously happy)? All of us have experienced these common conditions, and either kept calm and carried on or been transparent about the fact that they were part of our personal “mix” that day, as did Heather Watson when asked to comment on her less-than-hoped for performance.

Another aspect of this conversation that I want to call out is the conflation of periods and menstrual cycles as a whole. All too often, it’s overlooked that periods are just one phase of the menstrual cycle. When I consider the entire context of my cycle from start to finish, I notice that in the days following the end of my period I feel particularly energetic, creative and open to new ideas, toward mid-cycle more sensually aware, and toward the end more thoughtful and introspective. All of these slight variations and sensitivities in my state of being, depending on what else is occurring in my life, can actually bring meaningful benefit.

Given that menstrual cycles are among the most normal, healthy human physical functions, it makes sense to broaden our perspective to see how we feel when menstruating – or during other phases of our cycles – as simply one aspect or iteration of perfectly normal human experience, rather than anomalous. When viewed this way, we might start noticing how a burst of creativity or an introspective mood might be related to where we are in our cycle, possibly even in a positive way.

To summarize: let’s pay more attention to our cycles as a whole, speak frankly about what’s true for us, and not jump to universalization. And finally: Bravo, Heather!

What’s your experience of yourself as you move through your cycle? What impact does it have for you?

FDA Compliance & The Cost of Doing Business

Monday, December 8th, 2014 by Suzanne

There has been a recent flurry of activity on the topic of FDA registration and questions from our customers about whether Lunapads are FDA compliant. The short answer is YES we have been compliant since 2001. Having looked into this subject closely for many years, I have this to add to the conversation:

Medical Device Categorization:

Cloth pads have been considered medical devices and subject to FDA compliance since the 1990’s. This is nothing new. Like many cloth pad manufacturers, we had no idea this was a requirement. Once we did, we went through the intense process of obtaining our 510(k) Premarket Notification and paying the Annual Registration Fee. More recently, we had to refile our submission because someone from the FDA noticed that our  product “classification” needed to be defined as “reusable”, a classification that didn’t even exist when we originally registered!

FDA and Regulation:

We think that it is important that organizations like the FDA exist to regulate products for the safety of the public. But, there is a cost to regulation and we regard the annual FDA registration fee as simply a cost of doing business. We don’t love the fact that this cost is beginning to exceed $4,000/year. It is no different than paying for product liability insurance (which costs us a lot more than the FDA fee!) These are costs of operating our business ethically and responsibly in the industry we have chosen to be a part of.

WAHM makers, we feel your pain.

I can relate to the pain that WAHM (“Work At Home Mom”), Etsy & other cloth pad makers are feeling now that they know about this fee. But, it feels only fair that all of us in this industry are treated equally and bear the same costs. We cringe at the criticism we often receive that Lunapads are expensive and told that one can buy cloth pads from WAHM brands for much cheaper. Well, now you know one reason why. Once all WAHM brands start paying these fees and building it into the price of the pads, it will level the playing field a bit.

And, please don’t forget that Madeleine and I are moms too: we sometimes work from home and sometimes work at the office. We are working hard to raise our families and struggle to pay our bills just like any entrepreneur. For more on this, see Madeleine’s post; Lunapads: big or small business?.

Safety & Compliance:

As feminists, while we don’t buy into the notion of menstruation being a medical condition and products like ours being medical devices, we know that menstruation is not always a simple experience. Many people have harsh reactions to certain kinds of menstrual products (such as rashes from pads) and are still reporting to the FDA the affects of Toxic Shock Syndrome. Institutions like the FDA are there for consumers to report adverse effects and hold to account manufacturers for compliance and safety.

Sign the Petition:

We support the We the People Petition to lower or eliminate cloth pads from the medical device classification. Cloth pads are in essence garments and should be exempt; indeed, it is what Health Canada has already told us. Why should the FDA feel differently? It is interesting to note that the FDA website specifically states “There are no reductions in annual establishment registration fees for small businesses or any other group.” Gee, thanks a lot. 

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While the petition gathers signatures, we will continue to be compliant with the FDA. We are happy that the level of consciousness has been raised on the issue and now hope that customers have a better appreciation for the challenges that businesses like Lunapads, Gladrags and other WAHM manufacturers face in running a small business.

25 years later: what has changed?

Friday, December 5th, 2014 by Madeleine

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I still remember arriving home from my then-job at a local university on December 6th, 1989 to find my parents glued to the television. What was happening, I asked them? “It looks like someone is shooting women students in Montreal: some crazy guy locked them in a classroom, told the men to leave and started shooting.” My knees buckled.

As a recent Women’s Studies graduate, campus anti-violence leader and rape crisis center volunteer, the news struck hard. This was different, though – until this point in my life, when I thought about gender-based violence (in this case against women), date rape and sexual harassment were top of mind: the idea that it could also express itself as mass murder stunned me.

I was among the appalled who witnessed how the Montreal Massacre (as it came to be called) of 14 female engineering students (14 other people were also injured) was subsequently portrayed as the act of a lone madman, extracted from any wider social context or responsibility.

I mean, here you are, faced with one of the most egregious and blatant examples of a massive and widespread social problem, and people were like, “It was just some random crazy dude.” Some random crazy dude who hated women, in particular those who dared to pursue careers in a male-dominated field. He told the male students to leave the room and locked the doors. And it’s not gender-based. Really.

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Stephanie Nolen: a shero among sheros

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 by Madeleine

It’s not every day that you get to meet one of your all-time heroes, but it happened to me just last weekend when journalist Stephanie Nolen was briefly in Vancouver.

2014-11-09-14.01.56-1024x764Thanks to my Mother’s influence I have been a Globe and Mail reader for most of my life. Stephanie’s writing first came to my attention when she donned a hijab and headed to out to cover the invasion of Afghanistan and fall of the Taliban.

Her knack for illustrating a macro-truth based on one person’s story immediately moved me, as well as her particular interest in the situation of girls and women. She was my kind of hero: brave, hugely talented, social justice-minded and up for adventure. As I said to Suzanne at the time, if I wasn’t already lucky enough to get to be me, I’d want to be Stephanie.

Speaking last weekend at a gathering hosted by 60 Million Girls, a Canadian charity that takes its name from the number of girls deprived of education in the developing world, Stephanie chose to focus on the story of some remarkable students and one determined activist at two unique schools in rural Bihar state in Northern India, taking as her starting point how “laughter and dignity”, as much as careers, independence and a wealthier and healthier life, are what girls miss out on when denied access to schooling. (The full story, including multiple feature articles and audi slideshows, are here.)

It was a point that landed well with the audience of seasoned leaders, educators and philanthropists already well aware of the benefits of educating girls. Stephanie first encountered the Prerna School for Mahadalit girls and its intrepid founder Sudha Varghese thanks to a tip from a friend. Following a lengthy search, she finally pushed open an unassuming gate and witnessed a rare sight in rural India: a green schoolyard of laughing, playing girls. The girls greeted her with a polite salutation before carrying on with their games, itself highly unusual for a tall, lone, female foreigner who typically drew curious crowds, not to mention low-caste girls, who would normally have shied away.

2014-11-09-15.30.25-300x224In and of themselves a rarity in India in general, these particular schoolgirls were an especially unlikely find, being as they are from the bottom of India’s caste system (“Mahadalit” basically translates as “lowest of the low”). “These girls have basically lost the global lottery,” in terms of social privilege, she explained, and was astounded to find an entire school dedicated to nourishing and educating them.

She went on to share Sudha’s story of determining to become as nun as one of the few ways to lead an independent life as a woman, learning of the plight of the Dalit people (also commonly known as “untouchable”) and determining to do what she could to support the most marginalized among them: girls.

Prerna means “inspiration”: the name of the school she founded on a shoestring in 2006, and inspiring indeed is the tale of how one woman has singlehandedly created two schools that now house and educate almost 200 girls. One of the most striking curriculum items is karate, a program where the girls have excelled to the point of winning local, state and even competitions in Japan!

Despite this extraordinary success, there are still massive challenges to be faced: often Prerna students are forced to get married when they return home to see their families, a common practice among their unschooled peers. Stephanie explained that while to Westerners the technically illegal practice of marrying off girls under 18 (most are married by the time they are 13) seems patently barbaric, to their parents it is doing their best to protect their daughters’ futures. Furthermore, while the Prerna girls may be getting an education, the rest of their society still sees them as inferior by virtue of both class and gender: what opportunities will they realistically have?

Lakshmi wants to be a judge, and Gunia, a teacher. Thanks to people like Sudha and Stephanie, they are far closer to those worthy goals than they ever would have been otherwise. Here’s hoping that they are the tip of a massive landslide of educated girls who fulfill the promise of the “Incredible India!” tourist billboards. Oh and hey: it only costs $200 to support one of Sudha’s students for a year. Email Stephanie if you want to help: snolen@globeandmail.com.

 

Margaret Cho Rocks Lunapads

Friday, November 7th, 2014 by Suzanne

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Madeleine and I have a lot to be thankful for for these days. One of the #1 reasons Lunapads has been a success is due to the hard work, dedication and brilliant minds behind our team. So, when I heard that Margaret Cho was coming to Vancouver, it seemed like a great way to thank the gang for their efforts and go on a Lunapads Staff outing! We adore Margaret for her fierce talent and vocal support of women and LGBTQ rights. Plus, she’s kick ass funny as hell.

Leading up to the event, we used Twitter to reach out to Margaret, who is not shy about talking about vaginas and periods. We wondered “does she know about our products” and “is she a fan”? We could only hope. She replied to one of our tweets with the hashtag #giftbasket. Ready with a gift basket full of Lunapads goodies, we wondered “How will we get it to her? Will it happen during the show”?

The big event finally arrived, and we eagerly gathered in our seats. The opening act featured actress/comedian/dancer Selene Luna, who immediately treaded into a topical conversation about sex and consent. Right now in Canada, we are reading stories daily about the evolving scandal around Jian Ghomeshi. As uncomfortable as the subject and jokes were, both Selene and Margaret shared very personal stories about their own experiences of sexual abuse and expressed their anger against those who perpetrate violence.

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Hello Flo’s Unhappy Period Party

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 by Madeleine

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Monthly subscription period providers Hello Flo have done it again, creating yet another provocative and hilarious video about menarche, the sequel to last summer’s hit “Camp Gyno“.

For all of its gumption and hilarious one-liners, the new video also made me a bit sad. Maybe it’s because I’m still coming down from an incredible high with the successful launch of G Day on April 28th. While not explicitly a “First Moon Party”, G Day was definitely a rite of passage celebration for adolescent girls, inspired by my desire to have the specialness of menarche honoured in my own life back in the day. It was so amazing to see 250 girls together celebrating this uniquely magical time of life: watching them revel in it was one of the highlights of my life.

The Hello Flo video troubled me not so much for its problematic portrayal of mother-daughter relations, as NPR commentator Laurel Dalrymple explores in her poignant article, Meanstruation: HelloFlo’s Mother-Daughter War is Funny, and Sad (although I can absolutely see where she is coming from on that front). At the root of this, for me at least, is some resentment that the idea of a menarche celebration is being mocked, making yet another hefty contribution to the period-as-joke trope. Jokes can lead to shame, and shame is the last thing that any of us, particularly girls, need: they’re getting enough BS messages about their bodies as it is. The subtext  of the video seems to be: what could be more dreadful than your Mom organizing some form of celebration of the onset of your period?

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Why #MenstruationMatters to us at Lunapads

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 by Lunapads Team

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You know that you’re really getting somewhere when there’s an “official” day about your cause. For us, that day has finally arrived!

According to their website, Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th) “will help to break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.”

After over 20 years of trying to get this simple yet woefully underrepresented message out into the world, I am so thrilled to hear this. Our friends at WASH United are behind this excellent initiative, complete with all the bells and whistles to propel the issue to worldwide attention: an infographic, Action Toolkit, and social media campaign: #menstruationmatters.

In the spirit of the day, we thought that we’d address why #menstruationmatters to us at Lunapads. Here are a few of our thoughts:

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Celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day with The DivaCup

Friday, May 2nd, 2014 by Lunapads Team

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Help us reach our goal of providing AFRIpads kits to 500 girls in East Africa. For the month of May, Diva International has generously agreed to boost our One4Her program to provide an entire AFRIpads kit for every DivaCup purchased at Lunapads.com. Already have a DivaCup? Then tell your friends! It’s time to make the switch or buy one for your friend today!

Menstrual Hygiene Day is on May 28, 2014, but we’ll be celebrating all month long by helping improve access to sustainable menstrual products for girls in East Africa. We’ve partnered with Diva International to expand our One4Her program and donate an AFRIpads kit (2 pads with 5 inserts, plus 1 carrying bag) for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May. Each kit provides a girl with a sustainable supply of cloth pads to manage her period for over a year.

Since 2002, Lunapads has been operating Pads4Girls, a program that addresses an issue faced by hundreds of millions of girls and women in developing nations: missing school or work for several days every month because they lack adequate means to manage their periods. Providing girls with sustainable menstrual supplies is a simple yet highly effective way to give them a chance for a better future.

AFRIpads and Lunapads

Taking our commitment a step further, in 2012 Lunapads partnered with AFRIpads, a social enterprise in Uganda, to create One4Her, where for every One4Her product sold online, Lunapads matches that purchase by financing the production and distribution of a Ugandan-made AFRIpad to a girl in East Africa.

The Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) issue in the developing world is a complex one, where many product and educational options are being explored. What makes One4Her unique is that, in addition to providing a proven, easy-to-use, cost effective solution, it also supports employment in Africa. This is why Diva International has partnered with Lunapads & AFRIpads to provide cloth pads to girls in need.

Please help spread the word about the importance of MHM and tell your friends to make the switch to The DivaCup!

click to tweet: I just got a @DivaCup from @Lunapads. They’re donating @AFRIpads to a girl for every cup sold! http://lunapads.com/divacup.html #Diva500

click to tweet: My @DivaCup purchase from @Lunapads helps girls stay in school. What does yr menstrual product do? http://lunapads.com/divacup.html #Diva500

click to tweet: A @DivaCup 4me = @AFRIpads 4her. Get yrs at @Lunapads this month & make a difference for 500 girls http://lunapads.com/divacup.html #Diva500

The joy of personal liberation

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by Madeleine

madsleftOne of the greatest gifts that switching from tampons to Lunapads and the DivaCup (in addition to all of the obvious things that we are always talking about) has given me is the inspiration to question all kinds of personal and consumer choices that we often take for granted as necessary or inevitable.

For some women, casting aside caring about others’ opinions of them, or even the notion of being a woman at all, can open up whole new worlds of freedom and self-expression.

I have been enjoying the Raw Beauty Talks campaign, where Vancouver social entrepreneur Erin Treloar has been photographing local women without makeup, and pairing the portraits with frank interviews about photoshop, “inner beauty” and how we navigate judgement about appearance.

As someone who uses some makeup pretty much every day, I have been moved by beholding the real faces of many women that I know, effectively “seeing” them for the first time, and reconsidering my own choices as a result. Am I “empowered” in my choices around my appearance, or a still-deluded consumer too shamed to accept myself in my natural state?

While I’m not ready to give up my mascara and mineral powder just yet, there are many other related choices that I have become conscious of since I discovered that I didn’t “need” disposable menstrual products. I still remember the first time I passed by the “feminine paper” aisle in the drugstore in my post-tampon euphoria: I felt so free, like I didn’t have to believe a particularly pernicious lie anymore. In what other ways does the Emperor have no clothes?, I wondered.

What about the practice of hair dyeing and removal? Most women that I know dye or at least highlight their hair, as I did for many years. I still remember the burning sensation at my roots as I tried to do what is still taken for granted as a rationale: conceal the inevitable grey. I have been proudly and happily dye-free for 8 years and feel fantastic about it. When asked what my hair colour is, my joke has become that I have no idea and honestly don’t care. (For a longer, excellent read on the hair topic, head over to our friend Marnie Goldenberg’s blog.)

What if I could feel the same way about the crows feet around my eyes, the scars on my belly, my post-nursing breasts, and acne-pocked skin? How great would that be?

I know other women who have “let themselves off the hook” (literally!) by ditching bras, or at least those with underwire. Others say no to waxing, dieting, nylons, skinny jeans, thong underwear or high heels, just to name a few. What standard “beauty rap” have you let go of (or do you embrace?) Here’s my “off the hook” list: lipstick, hair dye, waxing, high heels, nylons. And still going there (for now): teeth whitening, picky haircut, eyebrow maintenance, eye makeup, the odd facial.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that “beauty” maintenance is necessarily bad. Some women I know love their high heels, for example: they make them feel powerful. Right on, Sister! The point is to become more conscious about whether or not something is a true, freely-made choice that supports your fabulousness, or just something that you do because of a false, unquestioned belief (who would want to look old if they could help it, right?) that doesn’t actually serve you (or anyone, for that matter). Maybe one day I’ll find the perfect pair of heels, discover that tooth whiteneing is toxic, or decide to cut my hair short or dye it purple, who knows? In the meantime, I’m just going to keep checking in to see what feels good to me today.

Ageism is rampant in our society, and nowhere is it visited more harshly than upon women. Look beautiful, stay beautiful, fight ageing: this is what we’re told. How about this instead: love, accept, care for and celebrate yourself in whatever ways serve you, free yourself and others from judgement, and seek joy and liberation in whatever forms they take for you.