Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Periods: Blessing or Curse?

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 by Madeleine


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?

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:


AFRIpads & Lunapads: putting a ring on it

Friday, March 7th, 2014 by Madeleine

It’s amazing timing that AFRIpads founders Paul Grinvalds and Sophia (Sonia) Klumpp have recently become engaged (hooray! we wish them every happiness), because we have some commitment news of our own: Lunapads has just become an official shareholder in AFRIpads.

Lunapads becomes AFRIpads shareholderMadeleine, Paul, Sonia & Suzanne meet in Uganda for the first time in 2012

Like most long-term relationships, you keep building it over time (in this case, since 2008), not really paying attention to all the incremental pieces of trust and co-creation that are taking place. And then from time to time it hits you that it’s actually something special that’s worth pausing to take stock of and celebrate: this is one of those moments.

Looking back at our over-20 year career as entrepreneurs, our relationship and visit with AFRIpads stands out as a high point. For those of you new to the story, the journey started in 2008 when Carrie-Jane Williams, then a UBC student, brought over some Lunapads kits to the Ugandan village where she was working on a literacy project. There she happened to meet Paul and Sonia, themselves also volunteers working on a development project, and showed them the pads she had left.

Paul and Sonia, for their part already having identified the issue of girls missing school due to lack of feminine hygiene products, were inspired to start their own business making pads modeled after Lunapads. They wrote to us to ask for our support, we said yes, and “off to the races” they went.

By the time we met Paul and Sonia and the AFRIpads team for the first time in January of 2012, they had 30 employees working in 2 facilities, and had supplied over 100,000 girls with AFRIpads kits. Since then their team has grown to over 60 and they have supplied over 250,000 girls with pad kits.  And, as new investors, we are beyond proud to be directly supporting the building of their new factory, which just broke ground this year!

Following our 2012 meeting, we decided to launch our One4Her partnership, whereby for each Lunapads One4Her product sold, AFRIpads are donated to girls in need in East Africa. To date, the One4Her program will have provided over 34,000 AFRIpads to thousands of girls: the largest distribution being 2,000 kits in Kibera, Kenya in October 2013.

While our relationship with AFRIpads’ most obvious benefit is providing girls with pads to support their school attendance, another key aspect is sustainable employment for local Ugandan women, and we have also been proud to support AFRIpads’ staff professional development.

Like getting married, becoming shareholders is a big step: but when it feels right – well, it just feels right. We’re excited for the future, knowing that we are stronger together.

Congratulations to everyone, and many, many happy returns!

Announcing G Day for Girls!

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by Madeleine

Telling you about G Day feels like a combination of my birthday, a weekend and every holiday I’ve ever anticipated. It’s a new creative project that I have had in my heart and mind since I was a little girl.

As a girl, I was awed by the idea of becoming an adult woman. Like Margaret in Judy Blume’s classic Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, I was obsessed with all the details, particularly menstruation, and on a semiconscious level I hoped that there would be some sort of fanfare when the momentous time came.

The obvious aside, nothing happened, and I was left with a sense of deep disappointment. Not that I could have told you what exactly I had imagined might happen – I just wanted other people to acknowledge in some way that what was happening to me was special, because I sure thought it was.

I was reminded of these feelings early last year, when I was invited to speak at Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver as part of a Special Edition created in partnership with Women Transforming Cities. At first I thought it was a bit weird to be thinking about my work in an urban context, and then I remembered my girlhood dream, and landed on the idea of creating modern Red Tents where we could bring our daughters to celebrate them when they entered adolescence.


Pirates, B Corps & Disruption: Not Business as Usual

Monday, January 20th, 2014 by Madeleine

Not Business As Usual Documentary from institute B on Vimeo.

It won’t come as news to most people reading this blog that our business philosophy is firmly grounded in the belief that capitalism can be a powerful force for positive social change. You just don’t often get to see these types of values expressed every day, let alone as a documentary film with you in it.

As some background, Institute B is a Vancouver-based social impact business think tank/incubation/education and venture capital firm. Suzanne and I have participated in their highly regarded Changemakers series, and are proud and excited about the work they’re doing and community they’re building. They are massive champions of the Benefit Corporation (B Corp) movement, a group of almost 1,000 companies worldwide who participate in a rigorous evaluation process of their impact, then go a step further to amend their legal articles of incorporation to enshrine a commitment that pursuit of profit will never come at the expense of social or environmental considerations.

When we were approached to be interviewed for the video, naturally we agreed to share our story. What we didn’t know was that the “video” was actually destined to become an hour-long documentary about the evolution and future of capitalism. Several of our favourite friend/colleagues/B Corporations (hello Fairware, Junxion Strategy, Save On Meats, Potluck Cafe, Renewal Partners) were also interviewed, and the result is pure inspiration. We were also delighted to see our sister company AFRIpads featured too!


Following the screening, Suzanne was invited to join a panel of fellow entrepreneurs for a discussion, moderated by Kevin Lee Royes, a serial “soulcial-preneur” who successfully closed a deal on Dragons Den (the Canadian version of reality TV entrepreneurial pitching) and parlayed that into a guest hosting gig on future shows. His first question to the panel was “Is it too late to save the world?” In response Suzanne retold the story of the Little Hummingbird & the Forest Fire and said that “we (ie: Lunapads & AFRIpads) are simply doing what we can.” And so thanks to all our customers and supporters: you are helping make that happen!

The “Pirates and “Disruption” in the title of this post are references to a couple of particularly cheeky lines of my and Suzanne’s. There’s not much more to say other than thank you to the IB team for this incredible opportunity to be part of such a powerful and innovative movement. We’re not stopping anytime soon ;-)


One4Her: Eliminating Poverty with AFRIpads

Monday, October 7th, 2013 by Madeleine

During a coaching session I had once upon a time I was asked what my favourite hobby is. I said gardening, and the Coach then asked what I had observed during my time in the garden that might be applicable to the rest of my life. “That everything takes its own time”, I replied. I thought of this when we received this video of a recent One4Her distribution of 2,000 AFRIpads kits in Kibera, Kenya.

Going back through my email to discover just how long we have been talking to Judy Craig from Eliminate Poverty Now tells me that not only has our conversation been going on for close to four years, but moreover that in its course it has built a quality of deep and mutual respect. Without getting into all the ins and outs, bit by bit by bit we have exchanged ideas and contacts without really having a sense of what our goal was. But we kept going, and now we have some great news for you.

The other very notable long-term player and relationship in this story is AFRIpads, who go back to 2008. The consistent features? Trust, communication, and willingness to keep supporting, answering questions, making suggestions – even when we didn’t know what we were going to “get out of it” (the expression feels ludicrous given how much goodwill exists between all of us!).

In Judy’s words, this is what you get: “We had an intensely moving day. You get a sense of it from the girls’ faces. For me, the high point was when one of the girls asked whether there would be clotheslines to dry the pads on at secondary school. She clearly intended to go to secondary school – and we know that having the pads will help her achieve that goal. But just as clearly, she had no personal experience of what secondary school would be like. Probably, she’ll be the first child in her family – or in her neighborhood – to go to secondary school. And we are helping to make that happen. How lucky are we to be able to help someone transform their life that way?

Living Extraordinary with Conscious Divas

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 by Madeleine

Suzanne and I are unabashed in our affection for the fabulous Kate Muker and her inspiring business, Conscious Divas, and incredibly proud of our partnership.

Here’s a fun video of us speaking at last year’s version of her Living Extraordinary LIVE! event. It’s wonderful how many speaking/storytelling events have cropped up in recent years. We have had the good fortune to participate in TEDx and Pecha Kucha Night, as well as to be inspired by countless peers doing the same.

Speaking of which, we can’t wait to see some of our favourite entrepreneurs and changemakers take the stage this year, including Tantra Goddess Devi Ward, eco-fabulous fashion designer Nicole Bridger, self-made Sales guru Belynda Lee and one of my longest-time sister entrepreneurs, Aromatherapy tycoon Deborah Drummond-Backer.

The 48 hour ticket sale starts tomorrow: September 13 & 14 – just $30 each! Hope to see you there!

A Happy Camper

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 by Sara K.

I don’t believe in regret and rarely entertain it. There was, however, one exception that was recently inspired by Hello Flo’s viral video “Camp Gyno.” It struck such a cord inside me that I couldn’t help but entertain thoughts of “what if…”

The summer I was eleven, my father sent me to camp at a ranch in the Rockies. I couldn’t have been more excited about spending my days horseback riding and evenings in a bunk with forty other girls. It was like a giant sleepover every night.

I was in heaven, until I got my period on the third day. Having only had it twice before, it was still fairly new to me and pretty unpredictable. I’d come to camp prepared with all kinds of supplies, including massive mattress-sized overnight pads, but they were no match for my flow. Within two days I’d bled through pretty much all the clothes, pyjamas and underwear I’d brought with me. Far too embarrassed to talk to any of the counselors, I kept it to myself and simply demanded to be sent home, letting them believe it was due to homesickness.

campgynosaraHow would that summer have been different, if I’d felt empowered to talk to another camper or a counselor about what I was going through? What if I’d had a Joan of Arc championing my vadge? What if I’d felt pride and not shame? What if I’d seen my period as a Red Badge of Courage?

While I do feel regret for the scared and embarrassed 11-year-old I once was, I am beyond elated that “Camp Gyno” is fostering conversations about periods. Even if just a fraction of the >5.7 million people who have viewed the clip so far go on to promote a more positive perspective of periods, we are making strides. And that makes me a happy camper!

How about you? Do you have any summer camp or first period stories to share?

A better sensory + aesthetic experience

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 by Guest
Public domain photo // Wikimedia Commons

“With menstruation on my mind, I wondered, then, if a major motivation for convincing people to use alternative menstrual products is simply that it creates a better sensory and aesthetic experience.

Mainstream tampons and pads seem a lot like metaphorical airplanes—unintuitive, wasteful, uninspired, bland, and meant to leave us with no sense of individuality or humanity.

For me, switching from years of using tampons to instead using funky, super comfortable, eco-friendly Lunapads created the opportunity for a better sensory experience—as they were physically more comfortable and created no unpleasant smells—and aesthetic experience—as they added a bit of individuality and uniqueness to the experience by having visual appeal. Reusable pads also eliminated the problem of worrying about clogging toilets with tampons, filling trash cans with ugly wrappers, and carrying a pile of products along on trips and vacations.

For me, Lunapads created a bit of much-needed peace with my menstrual cycle.”

The excerpt above is shared with permission from the post Menstruation as a sensory and aesthetic experience by Breanne Fahs. Read the full post at re:cycling, the blog for the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.

Supporting the class of 2017 in Ethiopia

Friday, June 21st, 2013 by Madeleine


A beautiful report from our friends at imagine1day – wow! We are so thrilled to be able to support their amazing work building schools and empowering students in Ethiopia.

Dear Suzanne & Madeleine,

I trust that you both are well and flourishing in all that you’re up to. We continue to be buoyed by the contribution that you’re both being to the community here in Vancouver and beyond. It is truly inspirational to watch you in action!

I’m writing to give you an update on how the girls of our Graduate Fund high school scholarship program are doing, and share some great news about this year’s program.

Over the past 2 years, Lunapads has become an incredibly important partner for imagine1day in that your contribution has directly correlated to our Graduate Fund girls being able to focus on their education and thrive in the classroom without worrying about their menstrual cycle interfering. We are so happy to report that the girls of Class 2015 and 2016 are all excelling in their Grade 9 & 10 studies, with the exception of one student who has taken some time away to deal with some personal issues. That’s 41 girls in the midst of blossoming into their full leadership potential.


We have recently completed the selection process for our Class 2017 scholarship students, who will be starting their high school journey with us this September. The amazing news is that we’ve been able to increase the number of scholarships to 60 in total, 47 of which are girls. All of the students are buzzing with excitement, and are grateful for the opportunity to continue their education beyond Grade 8. 14 year old Nigisti Yisfaw (pictured below) is one of the girls who is particularly enthusiastic about her short walk to school, given the challenges she has faced in the past.


The girls will be starting school again in September this year, and we would train them to use the pads as part of the Life Skill Training we offer to help them settle into their new lives living away from their families to attend high school. These girls do not have ubiquitous access to underwear, so the kits with undies in them are ideal.

Many many thanks,

Michelle & the imagine1day team