Imagine missing 20 percent of the school year just because of your period…
When Mia Klitsas gets an idea, she doesn’t waste any time.
Sick of her tampons getting destroyed in the bottom of her handbag, she created a company to sell tampons in a durable, purse-sized tin. Six months later, Woolworths was stocking her Moxie sanitary products and she hasn’t looked back.
‘Had I known what was involved in starting a new business, it probably would have scared me off,’ she said. ‘But I love it.’
Armed with a marketing degree and big plans for herself, Klitsas started work as a graduate in a big company in Melbourne, Australia. She quickly found she wasn’t taken seriously.
‘I was young, blonde, and they thought I was stupid. I got told I was too young to have an idea. They’d say rubbish things like “you’re too young to have enough experience”. I’ve always been of the opinion that anyone can have an idea.’
Her big idea came from her noticing that her friends would talk about everything but sanitary products—they would shop for them alone as opposed to shopping for other products like makeup which was often a group activity.
Also unappealing was the garish packaging of most products and the patronising advertisements that presented a completely unrealistic view of women’s menstrual experiences.
Moxie’s down-to-earth approach of acknowledging that your period can be a less than pleasant experience rather than about wanting to run around on the beach in white pants seems to have paid off with the company a raging success.
But for Klitsas it’s about more than tampons in tins and creating non?patronising ads. It’s about women helping women—giving something back to those who need it. As part of that mission, she has just started a new initiative called One for the Girls.
It began last month when a friend sent her an article about the high rates of school absenteeism amongst Ugandan girls because they don’t have access to pads and tampons.
She read about the girls using things like rags, banana leaves, sometimes even dirt, which leads to embarrassment and health problems like infections. There are also some cultural taboos around menstruation that make it difficult for young women to attend school.
For these reasons, many Ugandan girls miss 20% of their school days. They fall behind and can’t catch up. They often get discouraged and stop going to school altogether. When that happens, they often end up getting married and becoming mothers very young, at 14 or 15.
‘When I read about this, I felt like a bit of a jerk, being in this industry and never having thought about the challenges of women elsewhere,’ Klitsas said. ‘We do work with Indigenous Australian groups but I’d never thought beyond Australia.’
Wanting to contribute responsibly and be respectful of the local economy, she did some research on the products made in Uganda. Before long, she discovered Afripads, a local, sustainable business that employs 50 local women and makes reusable cloth pads, Klitsas got in touch with one of the founders Sophia Klumpp and proposed that they could make a bigger impact if they worked together.
So they came up with One for the Girls, where for every pack of Moxie pads sold in Australia, the company buys an Afripads ‘deluxe menstrual pack’ and donates it to a girl in Uganda.
‘My thought was that women are buying pads anyway, so why can’t we make some good of it?’
Each kit includes pads with wings, without wings and a cover. All products are environmentally sustainable, don’t stain, and will last for a whole year. The initial aim is to provide 6,000 school-age girls with kits. Afripads also provides education on menstrual care and sexual health.
Klitsas emphasises that One for the Girls isn’t a vanity project to ‘help the poor people’, but is about providing a service to young women who need it.
‘These girls are just like us; they have the same aspirations. They want to get an education and a job and fall in love and look pretty and have iPhones and listen to Rihanna.’
‘Things I take for granted like having pads, they just don’t have access to. Just enabling them to not have to drop out of school simply because they have periods… it’s such a basic need and I can fulfil it while growing my business.’
It’s a genuine initiative, Klitsas said, but it’s also unabashedly about marketing. ‘The more pads we sell, the more we can donate. We’re not asking for donations or time; just showing your support through your consumer choice.’
Klitsas is off to visit Uganda in September to distribute menstrual kits. After this first 6,000, she hopes it continues indefinitely.
We have five special gift packs from Moxie to give away to lucky Lip readers! Each pack includes sample packs of Moxie Slenders Liners, Slenders Pads & Sleepovers Pads, as well as a hand-made bracelet, constructed from recycled magazines straight from Uganda! Email [email protected] with your name and address to go in the draw to win.