Women spend thousands of pounds on sanitary products in their lifetime, and rely on these products to see us through our periods in a way that’s hygienic and dignified. But how often do we really think about what products we use? Yes, I’m sure we’ve all debated pads verses tampons, applicator verses non-applicator, wings or no wings, but what about whether the products we used should be organic? Or whether we should be giving money to a company that’s doing good? Periods have become a hot topic in the last year or so, and companies like Freda have emerged offering something different when it comes to how we care for ourselves, and how we care for others. Period care is getting more convenient with monthly subscription boxes, going organic and giving back through social initiatives. Bethan Taylor from A Pretty Place to Play caught up with founder of Freda, Affi, to find out more.
What inspired you to create Freda?
At the outset of the refugee crisis, I was shocked to learn from friends who work at the UN and relief organisations that period products aren’t included in the hygiene kits they provide – societal taboos and stigma have caused the menstrual needs of women to be overlooked, in refugee camps and in all public spaces. It was this realisation that started me on my Freda journey!
The more I looked into it, the more I became frustrated with the impact of the stigma around periods not just on access to these products, but on how they are made – with cheap unnecessary chemicals that don’t legally have to be disclosed –, and marketed – patronisingly! So I want Freda to represent something new in this stagnant industry, both in terms of the product itself, and what we stand for.
You’re on a mission to de-stigmatise periods and end period poverty, can you tell me what drives this mission?
As I say, the stigma has effected the way these products are made and marketed, but also crucially who can access them. As periods are not openly discussed, it’s assumed societally that women are managing their periods privately, but the truth is that many cannot afford to. So, we’ve incorporated a giveback pledge at the core of our business to counter this.
I know that you support a number of initiatives that aim to tackle period stigma and period poverty, what are they and why did you choose to work with them?
We believe that access to period products is a basic human right, so we donate a portion of our profits to initiatives tackling period poverty in the UK and abroad. We give money and pads to our non-profit partners, and also provide some of them with a donation platform where we make our pads available at a subsidised rate, and in bulk, so that more products can be donated more efficiently. We’ve selected these initiatives because they’ve got an on-the ground presence with direct links to the communities they serve, small but effective operations, and a vision for sustainable period care solutions for those in need.
It’s fascinating that you’re using AI to make sure your customers get period products just in time, how does it work?
We’ve worked with my husband, a consultant gynaecologist, and his colleagues, to develop an algorithim that will sync delivery to your cycle. We use a similar formula to fertility apps, but use the information differently – to ensure that our service is seamless. Our Period Calculator asks you three basic questions about your period, and can then work out the window in which you will need your Freda box.
Freda is truly organic and eco-friendly, why should we be going organic when it comes to our periods? What are the benefits, and what difference will we see?
When you consider the amount of periods a woman will have in her lifetime, and the amount of products she’ll use for each one, it becomes obvious that we should limit the environmental impact of these products as much as possible. At Freda, we offer a sustainable alternative to the big brands, by making our products in eco-certified European factories with 100% organic cotton for our tampons, and renewable materials for our pads.
In terms of the difference you’ll see, there is none! The switch to natural pads and tampons is an easy one to make, in that you don’t have to compromise on protection or comfort, at least in our case, while still reducing your harmful impact on the environment.
Companies can bulk order period products, why’s this important and what are you trying to achieve?
For periods to shed these negative associations, it’s important that they’re recognised simply as a routine, healthy process. The inclusion of pads and tampons in hotels, gyms, offices, schools, refugee camps… it all helps towards normalising what is a natural process, and these are practical steps we can take. Companies should budget for period products just as they do for other essentials.
If you could do anything to change the conversation around periods, what would it be?
I want periods to be seen as a sign of health rather than a loaded signifier of a woman’s sexuality, which is inherently sinful traditionally. Even the use of the word ‘sanitary’ to describe pads and tampons signifies that there is something dirty about periods – which is why we’ve coined the term ‘period care’. As progress is made in the movement towards women’s equality, this way of thinking will necessarily be challenged, and periods will no longer be seen as shameful and embarrassing.
What can we do in our everyday lives (other than buy Freda!) to help de-stigmatise periods?
Why not get your work place to stock tampons? This is a really simple but important step towards de-stigmatising periods – after all, we’re not expected to carry around our own toilet paper, and period products are just as essential.
Also, be mindful of the terminology you use – just say period, not ‘time of the month’! Let’s just be matter of fact about what is a natural bodily process, so that it’ll begin to be treated as such.
What are the words Freda lives by?
Natural. Responsible. Accessible.
Final Thoughts from our Writer
I really love the convenience that Freda offers – tampons and towels, to your door, just in time for your period. While tampons and towels aren’t necessarily the most environmentally friendly option (got to go cup for that!), by buying Freda products you’ll be helping to do some good, supporting women who don’t have access to something you take for granted and smashing period stigma!