Among all the bad things happening in the world, it’s easy to forget that we live in a pretty amazing country where we’re afforded adequate healthcare and access to information and education, especially when it comes to women’s health. There are many parts of the world where women can’t even access sanitary products – menstrual health after all is still a taboo subject even in Australia – and this idea seemed ridiculous to young South Australians, Isobel Marshall and Eloise Hall. This idea is also what led them to start TABOO, a sanitary product brand that is looking to help change the world.
To introduce you to TABOO and what they do, it’s a business which will be selling sanitary products made from 100% organic cotton, and most importantly where 100% of net profits will be re-invested into giving women in developing countries access to proper menstrual health care and education. It’s a pretty massive feat for anyone, but especially if you consider that Isobel and Eloise are only 19 and 18 years of age, respectively.
Both the girls are first-year university students, fresh off gap years, who have spent nearly two years working hard on developing a business, creating a product and all with a clear cause. The journey really started prior to them entering year 12 though, when they attended a leadership conference that really inspired them. “We listened to incredible people talk about how they were changing the world including the co-founder of Thankyou water, Daniel Flynn,” says Eloise. “This was the first time we were properly introduced to the 100% profit model of social enterprises”. Although she does also put it down to their upbringing and strong community sense. “[We] have been very blessed in that we have grown up in communities who have focused on helping others such as school and church,” she continues.
It’s not often you meet younger people who are aware of their privilege but this is the driving force behind turning TABOO – which started as a school project – into a real life business. “We both have a huge passion for women’s health…as we continued to research into the need of menstrual health care and education in developing parts of the world, we were shocked at the reality we found,” Eloise continues.
“Our prime focus is definitely on the women who face severe hardship as a result of their period,” Isobel adds. “However an important part of our vision involves removing the stigma and discomfort associated with the ‘period topic’ in places like Australia,” she says as well when we ask whether TABOO is looking to change this perception.
“It’s such a natural process, and so if we can provide that comfortable environment for people, and get the conversation flowing – pun intended – then we will be very happy!”
The sanitary product – which will be available later this year – they have commissioned is going to be made from 100% organic cotton by a manufacturer in Barcelona that runs completely off green energy. “Menstrual health products produce a huge amount of waste every year so the use of biodegradable materials was a very important factor for our decision,” says Eloise. “As owners of the company we felt especially responsible for the environmental impact that [TABOO] could have on our planet. We thought it would be very hypocritical if we were to give all our profit to amazing projects yet be harming the planet at the same time”.
Finishing school and starting uni are daunting enough alone for any young adult yet Eloise and Isobel have continued to take TABOO from strength to strength during this time. So we couldn’t help but ask what keeps them going. “When we both feel out of our depth, the thing that keeps us motivated is definitely reminding ourselves of the potential impact TABOO could have on women around the world,” says Isobel. “It’s so helpful to have grounded our idea in something that is bigger than ourselves”.
“There are definitely times in the start-up world that can be very overwhelming and draining,” Eloise adds. “Although without fail, when I consider and compare the life that I am living to the lives of those women we will be helping, it’s an instant encouragement and energy booster”.
Their hard work and strong sense of social justice have translated into passion that people can really see and have been inspired to get behind. This has led to very successful round crowdfunding – making nearly $54,000 when their original goal was $48,000 – and has afforded them the ability to purchase their first batch of TABOO branded products, which they are hoping will be available to sell very soon and re-invest profits into overseas projects. “To give you an idea though it costs roughly $16 Australian dollars to give a girl access to pads for an entire year,” says Eloise.
On a final note, the girls mention a proverb – ‘she is clothed in dignity and strength, and laughs without fear of the future’. “We strongly believe that no woman should be deprived of being all of these things,” Isobel says. “If we can help that to happen by providing a way to practically empower women around the world, then that gives us more than the energy we need to keep going”.
Crowdfunding has finished but you can still purchase TABOO merch where profits will also go to this first batch of product coming later this year on tabooau.co.
Keep up with their journey on social media at @taboosanitaryproducts.