We were recently invited back to our old school to talk to the students about starting TSUNO, organic tampons, what is a social enterprise, and a whole lotta period talk - which was cool. It’s good to talk periods to young girls, (and young boys too!), don’t you think? Did you know that in a recent study in the UK, 14% of girls don’t know what’s happening to them when they get their first period - isn’t that awful!
Anyway, we thought we would share some of the students questions - as I know lots of people have great questions on periods, organic tampons and bamboo pads - but sometimes they don’t have the access to the answers - so here we go…
When did you get your first period?
So we asked everyone at TSUNO to answer this question - because everyone is so different...
Chris: A long time ago! I was 14 and at the time I was at boarding school - so it was something that all the students talked about A LOT. It was a bit of an anti-climax, but I do remember feeling quietly relieved that I had FINALLY got my period.
Roz: I was almost 16 when I got mine, and felt like I was the very last girl in my group of friends. I was also at boarding school, but I remember very clearly it happening on a Friday afternoon after school just before I was getting on a bus to make a 3 hour trip home. My best friend gave me a pad. All my friends were on the bus, jumping around from seat to seat, and I sat there, didn’t move the whole time, paranoid that I would have blood EVERYWHERE. When I got home I ran down the hallway of our house announcing to my mum and dad- “I’m finally a womaaaaan!’ went to the toilet to reveal the crime scene in my undies and there was the tiniest dot of blood on the pad!
Tash: I remember at school they showed us a video of a cartoon girl getting her first period by waking up in a pool of blood, so when I saw a really dark red spot on my undies one morning when I was 11, I just thought I was disgusting for not properly wiping up after a number 2. A few days later I felt a bit of a gush while I was playing Sims 2 with my brother and so I went to the toilet and there was blood all over my undies. I remember running to my mum’s room and crying. She gave me a really thick pad and told me her period ran like a tap which made me cry even more.
When do girls get their first period?
Anywhere from the age of 8 to 15, the average age is around 12/13.
What are the signs you are going to get your first period?
You might notice cramps in your lower belly or back, bloating, more pimples than usual, sore breasts, feeling tired and you might be a little more moody before your first period. We're all different, I personally had none of these symptoms - just the sensation of something wet in my pants ; )
Does getting your first period hurt?
Besides the symptoms mentioned above, no not really. If you do feel pain you need to talk to an adult or a doctor.
Have you used the plastic products - how are TSUNO products different?
Yes we have used LOTS of different products, we are continually testing all products, including our own.
The main point of difference is TSUNO has less plastic in our packaging, we don’t offer any plastic applicators (we acknowledge some people do need them, and we recommend looking out for the reusable applicators available), and we are continually looking at ways to reduce plastic in our production, packing and final products.
We also use organic cotton in our tampons and bamboo fibres in our pads - which are natural, renewable materials, with less negative environmental impact.
Finally we are passionate about breaking the ‘period taboo’ - that’s why we have artworks on our packaging, so you can display your pads proudly in your bathrooms (or lockers) - and not feel ashamed or embarrassed about pads, tampons and periods, because the period taboo is not healthy.
Other brand pads give me a rash, will yours?
Many customers have come to us because they’ve found some pads give them rashes. One of our customers told us how her rashes were so bad her doctor suggested she had genital herpes, but she didn’t - she was just allergic to the ingredients in the pads she was using.
We are all different, and we can’t guarantee our pads won’t give you a rash, but it is highly unlikely because the bamboo is a natural material, and we don't add dyes or fragrances to the pads. If they do cause a rash, stop using them, let us know and we will refund you your money.
When you did the One Girl ‘Do it in a Dress Challenge’ and went without pads and tampons for a month - which was better out of the sock or newspaper for absorbency?
Well the sock - but I have to say, you never want to have to go without sanitary products - that was really TOUGH. The sock was hot and sweaty and lumpy. The newspaper also was hot and sweaty and lumpy, but just not as absorbent. My whole motivation to start TSUNO is because so many people do go without sanitary products - and that is a difficult reality we are trying to change.
What does Tsuno mean?
TSUNO (pronounced ‘SUNO’) is inspired by a Japanese cartoon character - Yoko Tsuno who is an electrical engineer. She is compassionate and has a knack for making friends. Yoko is also a skilled scuba diver, holds a black belt in aikido, and can pilot both gliders and helicopters. She sounded very cool, and someone who could change the world.
Do you have an embarrassing period story that will make me feel better about mine?
Chris: Although at Tsuno we don't find periods embarrassing, we've all experienced period leaks. I was in high school and it was long jump time in PE, and unfortunately I had my period and I was leaking - not that I realised it until someone saw my leak when I was doing high jump... At the end of the day, all was fine, I'm still alive to tell the tale - it was a really good reminder to check your pad/tampon before sports activities at school!
What should we do if we leak at school?
It’s always a good idea to keep spare pads and tampons in your bag, and a spare pair of undies too - then if you do leak, you can just excuse yourself from class / sport to go to the bathroom and clean yourself up. If you don’t have any spare pads or tampons, ask your friends to give you one - or ask a teacher or go to the school nurse and ask for some supplies. Remember everyone leaks sometimes, and it is not shameful! Just a sign that you are human :) If the leak is big, don’t freak out, one of your teachers will be able to help and they might be able to find you a spare uniform to wear for the rest of the day.
(We also had lots of the older students chime in when this question was asked, suggesting to tie your jumper around your waist until you can get to the bathroom - great idea!).
Have you used period underwear?
Yes. We think they are great - and a great addition to wearing pads and/or tampons when you are first getting your period.
How does the social enterprise work?
We work to create profits just like a normal business, but we are driven by our purpose and we donate 50% of our profits to charities who support girls education and menstrual hygiene support for those that can’t afford it.
We also donate product to The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, The Asylum Seekers Centre (NSW), The Rough Period, Share the Dignity, Essentials for Women (SA) and Period Pack.
In addition to that - we encourage our customers to Donate a Box to any of these organisations, and for every 2 boxes donated we donated a third box - and then we deliver all the boxes together.
I think the key difference between a social enterprise and a regular company, is you have a very clear vision and purpose - and you care about making a difference in the world.
Are TSUNO products more expensive?
A key feature of Tsuno pads and tampons is that they are no more expensive than other products already on the market. This makes your consumer choice a no-brainer. This is the key to making any social enterprise work. By simply switching your choice, you can make a difference to your global community, and take back some power as a consumer. Right on!
How can we help?
You can buy your bamboo pads and organic cotton tampons from TSUNO, or donate a box to someone in need. Or you can donate to One Girl.
Will you have another art show?
Yes! Subscribe to our newsletter to hear about our next art show!
Image credits: lead image Erol Ahmed on Unsplash, Welcome to Your Period by Yumi Stynes and Dr Melisa Kang. Yoko Tsuno illustration as featured on http://www.audetourdunlivre.com