Freeda Thong is Mahdi Earth’s first Earth Champion. The Earth Champion series showcases interviews with local Earth Champions. Earth Champions are inspiring people who have set out to make positive change in the world. Their initiatives help the environment, people or animals (and sometimes even all three!). The interviews discuss their products or services, their motivations and any advice they have for others.
I was lucky enough to meet Freeda at a Brisbane eco market a few weeks ago and was blown away by her kindness of heart, ingenuity and care for not only the environment, but women in need. I have no doubt that you will also be inspired after reading her story below.
Name of product: Ecopads Australia – Selling reusable menstrual cloth pads
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Melbourne, Australia, but moved up to Brisbane at the young age of 3, where I now call home. My parents were both born and raised in Cambodia, and have been in Australia since fleeing the atrocities and brutalities of the Pol Pot Civil War. Due to my rich cultural background, I have a strong passionate for human rights and equality throughout the whole world. I believe that as a generation, we can help alleviate poverty by combating each small issue one by one, and see the world in the beauty I believe it’s intent was to be.
2. What is Ecopads Australia and how does it benefit the world?
Ecopads Australia is a Brisbane based social enterprise. We design, sew and sell reusable menstrual cloth pads, which are essentially as they are titled. People often do double, triple or even quadruple takes before realising that it is in fact what they are – pads for periods that are made out of cloth. For each that is sold in Australia, we are sending one to a girl or woman in a developing country. In addition to this, we are working with organisations to provide educational workshops surrounding sex education and health hygiene. More importantly we are hoping to be tackle the confronting topics of period shaming, as there social stigma attached to menstruation, and we’d like to see this changed. Rather women should be embracing their womanhood and appreciate the beauty in it that it allows us to procreate.
3. What inspired you to create Ecopads Australia?
My sister introduced me to the product a little while ago, and since then I have been a research ninja on the topic of Reusable Menstrual Products (RUMPs). I believe that every girl and woman should be able to have access to sanitary products and this is a dream that our organisation lives by. Through giving a girl a reusable menstrual cloth pad pack, she is able to continue going to school without having to miss out on education.
4. How can people reading this help you and your brand?
- Speak about menstrual cloth pads
- Watch videos and do research on menstrual cloth pads and period shaming throughout the world that exists
- Spread the word through friends
- Give it a try! We are doing trial packs at the moment – get in quick!
- Check out all our social media sources
- Send us an email to connect at email@example.com
5. What has been the most surprising thing that has happened in the making of your product?
We never dreamt of selling over 100 in the first 5 weeks of starting up the business!
6. Who was your greatest role model/mentor on this journey?
There have been several mentors along the journey of starting up Ecopads Australia. It is with thanks to all the support of family, friends and networks within the same community that we owe our gratitude to the initial success. We cannot wait to see its further development and growth.
7. What has been the biggest challenge for you?
Reaching out to different organisations, we are not speaking about partnerships and further growth into other countries. Watch this space!
8. Did you ever want to give up? If so, what made you persevere?
Absolutely! For such a foreign product to the western world, there was a lot of determination behind building it up into what it is today. To persevere through, I had to remind myself why I am doing what I was doing, and to not be influenced by negative comments in the wrong way. Rather using these negative comments as an opportunity to explain the issue in a reasonable way.
9. Where would you like your brand to be in 5 years’ time?
We would like to dream to have branched out into at least one other country by that time. It is a dream to one day be hiring women in developing countries to create these, to not only allow access to cloth pads, but to also hire women from the communities who are not able to find jobs.
10. Do you have any advice for others wanting to follow their dreams?
I have always lived by Walt Disney’s words, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it”. I believe this is so powerful and true. Follow what your heart desires, and you will reap its successes in due time. If you are unsure where to start, have a chat about it to find clarity. All it takes is starting, which is the hardest part of any journey.
Do you know, or are you an Earth Champion? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org