Turning tampons into agents for change

    Molly Hayward (right) works with Indian manufacturers in hopes of empowering a new generation of young women. (Courtesy Cora 2014)

    Molly Hayward (right) works with Indian manufacturers in hopes of empowering a new generation of young women. (Courtesy Cora 2014)

    A Philadelphia company uses feminine hygiene products to empower girls in developing countries.

    There are two hot trends in online merchandising right now: professionally curated subscription boxes and purchases with a philanthropic impact. Cora, founded by Philadelphia’s Molly Hayward, has found a way to logically combine both business models. The service delivers a personalized menstruation management kit—tampons, tea, chocolate, etc.—each month while providing a supply of similar products to girls in India who might otherwise have to take days off from school for their period.

    From the company’s inception, Hayward was adamant in bringing organic alternatives to Cora’s subscribers that are not only safe for women, but for the earth as well. “Conventional feminine hygiene products are not bio-degradable,” Hayward explains, “They end up in landfills, and you think about what is generated by the number of women who use those products. You’re talking about tons and tons of waste.” Tampons, pads, and liners provided by Cora ditch the synthetics for two materials: cotton and corn cellulose.

    And with each box purchased, part of the profit is sent to Calcutta to support a small-scale manufacturing unit, completely run by women, which makes biodegradable feminine products for locals.

    “I didn’t want to import a product into their economy. I wanted to work within a system where products were being made locally, the local economy was being served, local women were being served.” She says the operation sets in motion a cycle of empowerment for the local women. “The unit that is currently being set up in Calcutta actually is employing women who would otherwise be engaged in the sex trade, and their daughters are actually the girls in the school that will receive the products from that unit.”

    Hayward is not just focused on social change, but also changing how a woman views the biological process of menstruation. In her eyes, Cora is “allowing women to have a different experience with their periods, to have it be a pleasant experience, and a meaningful experience.”

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