Equality Hub
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Equality Hub

Improving sustainable period care

This Environmenstrual Week, read our interview with the founder of Freda — a smart, sustainable period care company with a strong social purpose.

Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne founded Freda in 2018 after a career break. The company offers organic, chemical-free period care products delivered to the door internationally, aimed at both individuals and corporations.

Supporting female entrepreneurs is important not just for the women involved, but for the economic and social advancement of the United Kingdom. The Government’s Rose review into female entrepreneurship found that £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women were enabled to start and scale businesses at the same rate as men. Female entrepreneurs are also able to bring different products and services to the fore, which may have been overlooked in a male-dominated environment.

We spoke to Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne, founder of Freda — an online provider of organic, chemical-free period care products delivered to the door, aimed at both individuals and corporations. She is joined by Natalie Palkovich, Freda’s in-house copy and content writer.

Equality Hub: “Freda was founded in 2018 and by the end of 2019 you had shipped 15,000 boxes of period products and had over 50 corporate clients. What inspired you to found Freda?”

Afsaneh: “I knew that I wanted to start a company with a social purpose. At that time I was acutely aware of the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe. Coming from a refugee background myself, I began making calls to the World Food Programmes to see if period products were being provided. When it became apparent that they were not, I was inspired to take action myself and founded Freda.

“With a teenage daughter at home, a gynaecologist husband and a firsthand experience of being a refugee, I was painfully aware of the taboos that surround menstruation and wanted to start a company that could work to break down some of these social barriers.”

​​Natalie: “Freda was one of the first companies calling for the provision of accessible period care in schools and workplaces. Since its foundation, customers have been able to buy their products online and, at the same time, donate products to various causes.”

Equality Hub: “How do you think we can address stigma around menstruation?”

Afsaneh: “When you’re dealing with taboo subjects like periods, language matters. And as a digital company,

language is your shop front.”

Natalie: ‘We take the time as a company to consider the words, channels and images we use in order to communicate with our customers in a sensitive, but also empowering way. One that normalises the conversation around periods.”

Afsaneh: “Treating and providing period products as essential items is also critical, if we are to reduce the stigma surrounding periods in society.

“We have always targeted businesses as clients, as we believe that it is a human right to have period products in every workspace. To have products provided by the company you work for says that your employer appreciates and sees you.

“In most cases, it would cost less than a pound a month for an average sized business to provide a selection of pads and tampons in their toilets to serve employees who get caught out. Similarly, it would cost hotels little to address the real needs of their visitors. When you arrive after a long flight, do you need a mini sewing kit or a plastic shoe horn? It would be much better if hotels provided period products in their complimentary packs.”

Equality Hub: “How do you try to be inclusive?”

Natalie: “There are many narratives around periods. Not everyone has the same experience. There are different stories in different cultures, races, backgrounds. Whether it’s disabled people or transgender people, everyone experiences a different set of stigmas.

“We recently launched a period care line called Cycle specifically to champion the issue of period inclusivity. We worked with McCann and trans-male influencers on a campaign that uses neutral branding and ungendered language to promote period care that is free from plastics, pollutants and preconceptions.”

Afsaneh: “Similarly, with our work with refugees and asylum seekers, we take care not to impose what we think is right on them. When providing products to refugees we don’t send cups and reusable pads, even though they’re more sustainable. Where can someone wash out a menstrual cup in a refugee camp? In order to be truly inclusive, you have to be sensitive and culturally attuned.”

Equality Hub: “What are the next steps for Freda?”

Afsaneh: “Freda is always looking to advance its sustainability agenda by working with the industry to find better sustainable solutions, make products less polluting and take up the least amount of landfill space.

“Recently we made the decision to remove all plastic applicator products from our store.

“Plastic applicators are a gimmick that feed into the idea that women don’t want to touch their own bodies. Even though our applicators were made from green-materials, we felt that they still contributed to landfill and we wanted to encourage our customers to question whether they really needed to use them.

“We are also turning our gaze to menopause. The stigma around this issue is multi-layered. It’s ageist as well as sexist and needs to be tackled with the same sense of inclusivity, sensitivity and empowerment that we like to bring to all our campaigns.

“Fertility is so ingrained in our ideas of meaningful womanhood.

“If you say you’re perimenopausal people think you’re ancient, even though, as we live longer and longer, we are spending more years post menopause than in fertility.”

Natalie: “Menopausal women are one of the strongest buying powers in this country, but they’re shopping within a world that is designed for a younger woman. There’s an overwhelming narrative for younger women of ‘that’s not me’ rather than ‘that’s not me yet’. There’s no notion of unity.”

What is the Government doing to support schemes that are available for entrepreneurs?

  • The Help To Grow scheme, which has 30,000 slots over three years, is open for UK businesses from any sector that has been operating for more than one year, with between five to 249 employees eligible from each business.
  • In response to the Rose Review in 2019, which found that female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey, the Government has set an ambition to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2030, equivalent to 600,000 new entrepreneurs.
  • Startup Loans are also available with the government offering between £500 to £25,000 as an unsecured personal loan, with free support and guidance on business plans for eligible entrepreneurs.

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