Even though essentially half the population of the world has them, periods are still a taboo subject but as an all-female team we at Wild Fawn want to help banish this taboo. So we sat down (virtually) with Ruby Raut, founder of WUKA, one of the UK’s leading sustainable period product brands, their ethically made period pants are a revelation (we can attest to that!).
We would love to know a little about your background and what inspired you to found Wake Up Kick-Ass (WUKA)?
I grew up in Nepal, where shame about periods was widespread. Nachune is the Nepalese word for period which basically translates as 'untouchable'. When I started my period, I experienced a form of Chapaudi, now illegal in Nepal. During menstruation, I was sent to my aunt's house and wasn't allowed to go out in the sun, look at men, or touch plants - as it was believed that I would kill them - just because I was having a period.
Like other girls, I was given old sari rags to use for the bleeding, which happened to be reusable and eco-friendly, but not comfortable. They weren't leak-proof and didn't work for me when I played sports!
Why was it important to you to make your brand as eco-friendly as possible?
When I arrived in the UK, I remember being astonished by the wide range of menstrual products available on the shelves, but quickly realised that most of them were neither comfortable nor leak-proof, and they certainly were not eco-friendly. We can see the single-use plastic in tampon applicators, but most of us don't realise that pads are usually made from 80% plastic.
A few years later when I was studying for my Environmental Science degree, I discovered that more than 200,000 tonnes of tampons and pads were sent to a UK landfill every year, contributing to the mounting tide of plastic pollution. This was basically my 'lightbulb’ and this is how WUKA was born.
Are there difficulties in trying to be a responsible brand in today’s society - if so, how have you and your team overcome them?
Staying on top of new technology and materials is a key part of our business. We like to offer our customers a choice of different styles and fabrics when it comes to our period pants. Sustainable and vegan fabrics are important for the welfare of our environment and wildlife. Whilst, there are many alternatives to animal-derived fabrics for your cruelty-free wardrobe, many are not sustainable and eco friendly. When choosing a vegan textile it’s important to consider its production and whether it is easily compostable and biodegradable. For example, our WUKA Organics which are GOTs certified, which means that the cotton was grown without chemical pesticides, chemical fertilisers, GM seeds and therefore does not doesn’t destroy our ecosystems.
Transparency in our supply chain and where our products come from is also key to our business. We visit our factories for regular checks and ensure that the workplace is. BSCI certified, meaning that the factory is responsible for the living and working standard for all the workers.
Can you offer any thoughts for consumers to consider when making the choice between sustainable and disposable period products?
We now have many choices of period protection products and long gone are the days where tampons and pads were the only products on the shelves. Back to when tampons and pads were the revolutionary solution, no one thought to think of the long term effects of these single-use products. Plastic Ocean UK reports that in the UK 4.6 million single-use plastic period products are flushed down the toilet EVERY DAY – and used tampons and pads are the 5th most polluting single-use disposables found in our rivers and seas, polluting our beaches and affecting wildlife. The great thing about period pants is that you invest in them once every two years and know they are plastic-free and do not contribute to landfill waste. In other words, where disposable will take hundreds of years to decompose, period pants will not.
We know period products are essential and shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, would you like to tell us a little bit about your Period Pants Tax Campaign?
All our customers are currently paying 20% tax on their period pants. We believe periods are not a luxury, it is not something that we choose to happen, periods happen whether we like it or not. The government is profiting off periods, whereas things like helicopters or Jaffa cakes are tax-free. This is now a social justice issue.
The taxation of period pants is an imperative cause that needs to be heard, as a lower price point would not only make period pants more accessible to purchase but also would help reduce the huge amount of waste that single-use, disposable period products create after just one single use. Our petition has gathered over 18,000 signatures and now our local MP Daisy Copper, has started an EDP. To date we have 26 signatures from MP’s all around the country and we are definitely not giving up until the tax is removed.
Could you recommend any books/podcasts/movies that you think our readers would find useful in their efforts to get to know their bodies better and overcome the taboos around menstruation?
Our WUKA team are huge fans of books. A couple that come in mind are “Wonder down Under” and “Period Power”, as they tell you a lot about how your body and hormones work. We also sell two books for young tween and teens, “The Girl's Guide to Growing up Great” by Sophie Elkan, will take your child on a journey of exploring puberty and all that it comes with, in a positive and empowering way.
We also stock and love “The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods”, which is written by an autistic writer Robyn Steward and is favourite for parents with children on the autism spectrum. Where in a very straightforward way, a child can prepare for their very first period.
What's your Zodiac symbol? - Would you say your personality is typical to that star sign?
I am an Aries and I’d say that I can be quite direct in my approach when it comes to business, but that’s because I’m so passionate about what I do.
Unfortunately, attitudes to menstruation can differ depending on your upbringing, country of origin and ethnicity, how important is representation and inclusion to WUKA?
Representation and inclusion is really important at WUKA. When working with creatives, models and influencers we always ensure to work with a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities and sizes. Our pants have been recognised as a great alternative to tampons and pads for people with sensory difficulties and autistic individuals. We want to make sure that everyone has access to comfortable and sustainable periods.
Lastly, can you offer any thoughts or words of wisdom to people still struggling with the shame and taboo associated with periods?
Educating adults is the first work needed. Our world is still influenced by our parents and elders, we still listen to them on every myth that they have been told by their parents. But this needs to change, we have to educate everyone periods are normal and no one should feel embarrassed of it. It’s the fundamental reason why humans exist in this world.
Simply by talking more often about periods, drop in a conversation with your friends and family, can help bring the barrier down. Let’s not forget that the media, TV play a huge role in influencing people. In the last few years, we are seeing this shift in seeing periods in pretty much every TV show, in news and social media.
We hope you enjoyed Ruby’s thoughtful and enlightening insights as much as we did! If you want to find out more about WUKA and their products you can check out their website.
If you want to find out more about sustainable period products see our blog post 14 Eco-Friendly Period Products