2021 Young Australian of the Year Isobel is the co-founder and Director of Health and Education at Taboo (@tabooperiodproducts) – a brand of organic pads and tampons where 100 per cent of profits go towards fighting period poverty. Her goal is to break down the barriers facing menstruators around the world.
“Period poverty is when someone is unable to afford or access the products or services they need to manage their period safely, hygienically and with dignity. People use alternatives to soak up the blood, such as socks, mattress rippings and old cloths. It’s also about a lack of education around the menstrual cycle, and the fact we don’t talk about it – then people in positions of power don’t factor any [related] issues into their decision making.
We need to start talking about [periods] so we can create sustainable and meaningful solutions. “In some developing countries, 30 per cent of girls drop out of school as soon as they get their periods. The fact that it so strongly affects schooling is a huge issue, but [it also impacts] employment and that has a perpetuating effect on the poverty cycle and gender inequality. You see it in developed countries as well – a report from South Australia revealed young menstruators having to take days off school, reduce their hours at work, disengage in social or community activities [because of periods].
“Sparking conversation is an effective way to address [period] stigma. It makes a huge difference when we shift the tone from negative to positive. For example, instead of the first thing you teach young people being how to hide their periods or deal with them discreetly, it should be things like, ‘What’s going on in your body? Why is it happening? How can you harness the different fluctuating hormones so that you can reach your greatest potential throughout the month?’
“We don’t ask students or employees to bring their own toilet paper, so why do we ask people to bring pads or tampons? When we start to question what’s ‘normal’, we wonder why periods are treated differently to other bodily functions.”