Gift Box Organic
The Y spoke to Saskia Hampele, actress and founder of Gift Box Organic about her journey kickstarting her initiative to assist homeless and vulnerable women with access to sanitary care.
The Y: Tell us a bit about Gift Box Organic, what is it? How does it work?
Saskia: Gift Box is a tampon company with a heart. It's a one-for-one social enterprise - for every box of organic tampons purchased, a box will be donated to women who are homeless and cannot access sanitary care. Think Tom's Shoes and Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. Instead of the profits of essential products going into big corporations, Gift Box will sell high quality organic tampons in stores and online, and use the profits to gives back to women in need.
The Y: What inspired you to start the campaign?
Saskia: Last year I was confronted with the fact that there are 85,000 homeless women in Australia each year going without sanitary products. These women are forced to use makeshift pads and tampons made from things like dirty sponges, toilet paper, newspaper and even dead leaves and bark. As a woman, these statistics were alarming and it dumbfounded me that there was not a solution to this issue. At the moment in Australia, women's refuges and homeless shelters rely on product donations from kindhearted women, but I didn't feel that this was sustainable. It also meant that big business double their profit, and the taxes women are paying for tampons is doubled. I wanted to create a sustainable support system that used profits from female hygiene and fed it back into a female issue.
The Y: Why do you think that this is something that hasn’t been addressed before now?
Saskia: I think that women's issues are currently and historically largely overlooked. It's not surprising, given the taboo around menstruation. The fact that this issue has only been brought to the agenda in the past few years is concerning in itself. In Australia we can access free condoms and free syringes, but women don't yet have access to free tampons and pads. The female homeless population is a very vulnerable demographic and most likely struggle to ask for their needs to be met. They are experiencing such an overwhelming range of complex issues, it is likely that sanitary care has simply been overlooked in the past. It has taken a lot of advocacy to get this particular issue on the agenda, with incredible charities like Essentials for Women & the Period Projects working tirelessly to ensure tampons and pads are getting to those most in need.
The Y: How can Gift Box Organic remain sustainable?
Saskia: Feminine hygiene businesses profit over $15 billion worldwide every year, which makes it seem absurd that so many women go without. Our Kickstarter will allow us to purchase our first shipment of product and get the line up and running, and then moving forward the initiative should fund itself. We are keeping things simple, with stripped back packaging and an assumption that women will choose a socially conscious brand over those simply making profits. The product will be the same as competing brands in both quality and price.
The Y: Where and how are these been made for the project?
Saskia: The tampons are being made by a leading organic cotton manufacturer in the EU. We will be shipping them to Australia to be boxed and distributed - with half of our product being distributed by our charity partners to women's refuges, homeless shelters and women sleeping rough.
The Y: Why not menstrual cups instead of throw-away sanitary items?
Saskia: This is something I have been asked a lot, and I am very open to expending the line down the track. The Melbourne Period Project did some research with homeless women and also consulted doctors and gynocologiests about distributing menstrual cups instead of tampons and pads, and there was a resounding 'no thankyou' from all sides. Some of the reasons they found were an increased risk of infection without adequate sterilisation, increased risk of contamination (STD's/HIV), embarrassment of having to wash the cup in public places and potential public health risks of pouring blood into a public place.
The Y: What has the response been like so far?
Saskia: I have been so humbled and overwhelmed by the response so far. The campaign was the most stressful and rewarding thing i have ever done. Seeing the messages of encouragement, pre-purchases and donations flood in throughout the campaign made me realise that this is something that really needs to happen.
The Y: There is a focus on simple design for the Gift Box Organic product, where did the design come from?
Saskia: I wanted to keep the packaging simple to reduce costs first and foremost. This initiative wouldn't be possible if we were pumping our profits into fancy designs and printing. But I also wanted to shake up the stigma around feminine hygiene packaging needing a girly, colourful and ambiguous design to be easily disguised in your handbag. The taboo and shaming we experience around having a period is ridiculous and I wanted the design to feel accessible for women from any walk of life and not something that needs to be hidden.
The Y: The Kickstarter campaign was a success in raising the $45,000, what’s next?
Saskia: Now the real work begins. Once the pledges have been processed we can get started on ordering the first shipment of 250,000 tampons. We are in the process of finalising our packaging and sorting our warehousing and distribution, and once these things are locked in we are ready to get the product into stores and available online. Through the kickstarter we already have a long list of subscribers, who will have product delivered to their door every few months. No more running to the store in times of need! And for anyone wanting to place pre-orders please follow our Facebook page for updates on when our website goes live. You can also follow us on instagram and twitter