Two women passionate about ending period poverty have launched an innovative solution: self-disinfecting period underwear.
The recently launched non-profit Reemi was started up by non-profit marketing manager, Emily Au-Young, and emergency nurse Ashleigh Howan, to offer women in third-world countries a safe and culturally appropriate solution for menstruation.
Reemi underwear is made from CottonX, a hospital-grade smart fibre blending 100% cotton with copper oxide. It's leak-proof, zero-waste and won't wash out into waterways, making it eco-friendly as well as sanitary.
They have three different layers of material: an inner layer of CottonX, a leak-proof layer in the middle, and a breathable Lenzing Modal outer layer. Each pair can hold two regular tampons' worth of blood.
Reemi can be purchased online via the kickstarter page, which was set up to help fund a trial run of the product.
The idea was born when Au-Young realised how difficult it is for women in developing countries to manage their periods. "It's a huge issue for women not having access to sanitary products."
She and Howan, who went into nursing because she's passionate about women's health, started looking for a solution.
A research trip to Bangladesh, Nepal and India in 2017 showed them how bad period poverty was in those regions.
They decided to kickstart their project in Bangladesh, where 80-95% of women can't afford or access sanitary products, using torn sari or pieces of cloth instead.
One study showed that 73% of factory workers in Bangladesh miss an average of six days of work a month due to infections caused by using unsanitary cloth, said Au-Young.
"Taking time off work or skipping school because you have your period isn't getting anyone ahead, and we're here to change that."
A year and a half of research later, they're thousands of dollars closer to doing that.
The project was launched on November 13 and has raised $49,192 from 432 backers, exceeding its original goal of $44,000.
Au-Young said she and Howan were "thrilled to have created a product people want".
"We're really excited to see what we can do in 2020, as this really enables us to help more people!"
People have made purchases from all over the world as well as from New Zealand, said Au-Young.
"Our vision is that menstruating people all around the world will have access to a convenient, safe and healthy period; to not be held back."