Tsuno Breaks the Taboo of Menstruation to Help Fund Education Programs
I'm passionate about design, sustainability and women's empowerment. I'm inspired by the people around me doing amazing things, traveling, the opportunities I have had in tertiary study through the art and design courses I have done over the years- I'm currently back at university after a 5 year break, slowly completing the final year of a Bachelor of Industrial Design with Honours.
Tsuno is a social enterprise run by myself, which sells disposable sanitary pads and tampons made from natural and organic fibres. The business exists as a way to help fund education scholarships for girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda, with 50% of the profits being donated to a charity called One Girl, who facilitate education programs, business training and menstrual health support for women and girls in both those countries.
I was studying industrial design at university in 2012 and was in a class learning about sustainability and everyday products, and also had recently been gifted a menstrual cup by a friend of mine from Finland. This peaked my interest in reusable products, the materials used in common disposables, and then around the same time I attended a talk by the founder of the charity One Girl. I was hooked on this topic, shocked that girls out there in our world had nothing hygienic and effective to manage their periods with, often resulting in them missing school days and falling behind because of this.
I wanted to do something to help, whilst also finding a way for myself to be self employed, supporting my own living too. It took about a year of thinking about it, then about a year of planning, doing a small business course and writing a business plan, and then followed by a crowd funding campaign where I needed to raise $40 000 for the first shipment of bamboo fibre pads, and then in October 2014 the product arrived and I have just been doing it since then!
At the time of creating Tsuno there were very few natural and organic options on the market in Australia, most of the ones that did exist were branded in plain 'medical' looking packaging, and then the alternative mainstream brands were all packaged in plastic, bright colours with lots of butterflies and flowers!
I wanted Tsuno to be something different, beautiful and special. The taboo around menstruation was quite strong even back in 2014. I have seen a massive change in the general openness of the media to write about menstruation even just in 4 years. I thought by creating a beautiful package, Tsuno users might feel more likely to have their pads/tampons on display on their dresser/shelf/bathroom vanity rather than hiding them away in a drawer, in a small way addressing the taboo here in Australia, subtly.
To do this, I decided the packages would feature the work of different artists with each large order, and one day I hope to have enough customers to make the boxes change their design on a monthly basis, to keep up with the monthly cycle!
Tsuno is also unique because we give away half our profits! This business doesn't exist because I wanted to run a sanitary product business to make lots of money for myself, it exists because I wanted to create a way for people to support charity in a direct way through an everyday essential product. The business still runs as a normal financially sustainable business would, everyone is paid appropriately, but at the end of the day we are here to create funds to enable girls to get an education and help break the poverty cycle in some of the world's poorest countries.