“It is time for action – It’s time to not leave our girls behind”: Interview with Real Relief

Get ready to dive deep into the crucial topic of period poverty and menstrual hygiene with us this month! 

We are kicking off the campaign with an interview with the co-founder and Managing Director of Real Relief, Trine Angeline Sig! Find out what Real Relief does and what each of us can do to tackle period poverty! 

By: Trine Angeline Sig from Real Relief and Anna Kiss

Reach Trine on: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Trine Angeline Sig, co-founder and Managing Director of Real Relief for the “Hear Our Voices #KickingOffTheDialogue2023” campaign. 

Menstrual hygiene is something that most people in high income countries can take for granted: most can afford to buy pads and tampons, have access to sanitation and bathrooms, and do not experience great deals of stigma because of periods. Nonetheless, across the globe many young girls, women, and other menstruating persons do not have these privileges. During the month of May we are partnering with Real Relief, a Danish entrepreneurial company tackling the issues of global and local inequalities in menstrual hygiene to bring about necessary change.

This month, we at Eye on Global Health will dive deep into the crucial topic of period poverty and menstrual hygiene. Through a series of articles and discussions with our partners and authors, we will be highlighting a range of perspectives, ranging from the impact of NGOs to the experiences of underrepresented groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community. We will discuss the harsh realities of highly-priced menstrual products and the inequalities faced by many. Amidst these challenges, we will showcase the efforts of individuals and organizations who are standing up for menstrual justice and illustrate how together, we can make a real difference. Get inspired by our spotlight on Real Relief who are leading the fight against period poverty and join us in raising awareness and making a meaningful impact.

We are kicking off our campaign with an interview with our partners at Real Relief. The co-founder and Managing Director, Trine Angeline Sig is giving her insights into menstruation and health equity and what Real Relief’s campaign, “Hear Our Voices #KickOffTheDiaglogue2023” stands for. 

EOGH: Hi Trine! Thank you so much for collaborating with us and answering our questions. Firstly, we wanted to ask you to introduce yourself and your organization! 

Trine: My name is Trine Angeline Sig, and I am the co-founder and Managing Director of Real Relief, which is an innovative entrepreneurial company based in Denmark, that designs, manufactures and delivers life-saving sustainable and environmentally friendly relief items for the humanitarian sector and people in need in developing countries.

I have more than 20 years of experience and recognized expertise in humanitarian- and emergency aid, and more than ever before, I am determined to do my part in the now almost exacerbating and indefensible ongoing challenges of global relief work. 

EOGH: As a co-founder, what was your motivation for starting Real Relief? Was there a specific moment or event that made you want to start it? 

Trine: It’s simple. I wanted to make a difference for people less fortunate, using my entrepreneurial skills to develop simple but very much needed solutions. I am presently on a mission to inspire, empower and connect girls and women to change the world. There are so many girls not being able to get an education because they don’t have access to menstrual hygiene information and products. It is time for action – it’s time to not leave our girls behind.

EOGH: Thank you, that is very inspiring. Safepad is one of your products, which you developed after recognizing a gap in the current offer of menstrual products. Could you tell us a bit more about Safepad and how it differs from regular menstrual products? 

Trine: Safepad is unique. It is a highly effective, reusable sanitary pad, that contains a permanent self-sanitizing antimicrobial treatment, effectively reducing fungi and bacteria during use and after washing, even if contaminated water is used. 

Our latest version is a greener version, namely a Safepad made from regenerated plastic bottles, reclaimed from the ocean, and collected from coastlines in South India.

EOGH: That sounds great! As I understand it, you tackle both issues with this product, namely the risk of infections and the issue of waste and continued expenses with buying single use pads. Speaking of waste, what do you think the role of sustainability is in menstrual hygiene? 

Trine: Sustainability plays a crucial role in menstrual hygiene as it is directly linked to environmental and social factors. The production and disposal of menstrual products have significant environmental impacts that can harm ecosystems, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to climate change. Therefore, it is essential to adopt sustainable practices in menstrual hygiene to minimize these negative effects.

One way to promote sustainability in menstrual hygiene is to use eco-friendly menstrual products such as reusable sanitary pads. 

EOGH: Thank you, that also gives us a very good insight into why Safepad itself is a sustainable solution. Talking more in general about your organization, what has been your proudest moment with Real Relief until today?

Trine: I am proud each time I speak to a Safepad user, that is now able to attend school or work, that does not have to trade her body for pads or use unhygienic materials when she cannot afford proper products. 

I was also proud when awarded a prize for the work that we do. Like when we received the Danish Design award for having designed an intelligent pad. 

The Danish Design Award jury says about SafepadTM: “In many places around the world, myths and taboos surrounding menstruation have unfortunate consequences, sometimes making girls and women stay home from school or work during their period. One of the causes is lack of access to sanitary pads or proper sanitation. The reusable sanitary pad addresses this problem and offers a sterile and durable solution. An innovative product that prevents infections while also helping to prevent the social isolation of girls and women in third-world countries.” 

Photo by Annika Gordon on Unsplash

EOGH: I can understand why that made you proud, it is a great achievement. The development of safe and sustainable menstrual products is only part of what you do. You are also leading a campaign on period poverty called ‘Hear Our Voices’ this month. What is the campaign about and what is its aim?

Trine: HEAR OUR VOICES #KickOffTheDialog2023 is organized by Real Relief to raise awareness about MHM (menstrual health management – the editor), Period Poverty and green period awareness in celebration of the International Menstrual Hygiene Day on the 28th of May 2023.

Menstruation is a natural healthy part of every woman’s life nevertheless many young girls and women are still facing discrimination when menstruating across the world. 

We find that unacceptable and call for a change. 

More than 130 million girls worldwide are missing out on school because of: 

– Lack of information & education on menstrual health management 

– Period poverty 

– Period stigmas 

– Lack of sanitary toilet facilities 

– Contaminated water supply 

This puts girls and women at high risk of infections and diseases, early pregnancies, and miscarriages. In some societies, girls and women are considered “unclean” and “impure” while on their period. 

The goal is to encourage all of you to BREAK THE SILENCE and address period stigmas, lack of hygienic products & create awareness about green periods. 

The campaign starts on the 1st of May in Denmark, where it also ends on the 28th of May. This gives us space to talk about all topics mentioned above in 27 countries including Denmark. 

We will be addressing some of the problems mentioned above with reference to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs) and our partner Global Goals World Cup (GGWC). 

EOGH: It really seems like you are tackling a crucial issue both in terms of health and human rights through this campaign. As you focus on period poverty, could you explain to us what period poverty means?

Trine: Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual products, education, and facilities, as well as the shame and stigma surrounding menstruation. It affects individuals who are unable to afford or access menstrual products 

EOGH: When people hear ‘period poverty’, some might assume that this is not a problem for high-income countries. What would be your answer to that, is period poverty a global issue?

Trine: Even in countries with advanced economies and high levels of development, there are individuals who struggle to access menstrual products due to financial constraints or lack of access to resources.

EOGH: Related to period poverty, what does period justice mean for you? 

Trine: Period justice refers to the movement addressing systemic inequalities and injustices related to menstrual health and hygiene. It encompasses a range of issues, including access to menstrual products, menstrual education and the elimination of taboos and period stigma.

EOGH: What would you say is the biggest challenge to eliminating period poverty? 

Trine: The biggest challenge to eliminating period poverty is the lack of awareness, political will and funding needed to address period poverty. Most people are unaware of the extent of period poverty and the negative impacts it has on the health, education, and well-being of women and girls worldwide. 

EOGH: Thank you, it seems like your campaign tackles exactly this barrier. At the end of your campaign, you will organize an event on the 28th of May. Why did you choose this day for your event?

Trine: The 28th of May is the World´s International Menstrual Day. The Menstrual Hygiene Day takes place every year on the 28th of May. This day aims to build a world where no one is held back because they menstruate. 

It brings non-profits, government agencies, individuals, the private sector and the media to promote good Menstrual Health and Hygiene.

All around the world millions of women and girls are ashamed, excluded, discriminated against and stigmatized because they menstruate. Many of them don’t even know what a period is and what it means to them.

This is not acceptable as menstruation is a natural thing and menstruating only shows that women and girls are in good health. 

Through that day, we break the silence about menstruation, and we raise awareness about it. We are doing it by informing, teaching and giving access to menstrual products and information. 

EOGH: Thank you, it sounds like a great initiative. We wanted to ask you which part of the campaign are you most excited about? 

Trine: That it involves so many people – 27 countries in total. 

EOGH: That is very exciting and will provide many different insights into the topic. We are already looking forward to discovering all of these perspectives. Since we are a student organization, how can students and young people help in the fight against period poverty? 

Trine: There are several ways that a student organization or students and young people can help in the fight against period poverty:

  • Organize a menstrual product drive: Collect and distribute menstrual products, such as pads, tampons, and menstrual cups, to people in need. Partner with local businesses, organizations, or community centers to provide drop-off locations for donations.
  • Advocate for policy change: Work with local lawmakers to introduce policies that provide free menstrual products in schools, public restrooms, and other community spaces. Raise awareness about the impact of period poverty on education and employment.
  • Educate others: Host workshops or informational sessions to educate others about menstrual health, period poverty, and the impact it has on people’s lives. Spread the word on social media, through flyers, or by organizing events.
  • Fundraise for period poverty organizations: Organize events or campaigns to raise money for organizations that are working to fight period poverty. This could include organizations that provide menstrual products or education, or those that advocate for policy change.
  • Partner with other organizations: Collaborate with other organizations that are working towards similar goals, such as organizations focused on women’s health or poverty reduction. Work together to amplify your impact and reach a wider audience.

EOGH: These ideas surely give us and our readers inspiration. Apart from inspiring action, we also want to use our platform to raise awareness and share reliable information. Is there any menstruation myth that you would like to dismantle? 

Trine: Yes, there are several menstruation myths that I would like to dismantle. Here are a few:

Myth: Women should not exercise or swim during their periods. 

Fact: Women can exercise and swim during their periods without any negative impact on their health. In fact, exercise can help alleviate menstrual cramps and improve mood.

Myth: Menstrual blood is dirty. 

Fact: Menstrual blood is not dirty or toxic. It is a natural bodily function and is not harmful.

Myth: Women should not have sex during their periods.

Fact: Women can have sex during their periods without any negative impact on their health. However, it is important to use protection to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

Myth: Women who experience severe menstrual pain are just being dramatic. 

Fact: Severe menstrual pain, also known as dysmenorrhea, is a real condition that affects many women. It is not just a sign of being dramatic or weak.

Myth: Women should not touch plants or cook during their periods because they will spoil the food or kill the plants. 

Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support this myth. Women can touch plants and cook during their periods without any negative impact on the plants or food.

EOGH: Thank you, these are very important myths to dismantle! Coming to the end of our discussion, do you have any take-home messages that you want to leave the readers with?

Trine: Period poverty is a serious issue that affects many people, especially those who are low-income or homeless.

Lack of access to menstrual products can have a significant impact on people’s lives, including their health, education, and employment opportunities.

Period poverty is not just an issue in developing countries – it is a problem in many developed countries as well.

Addressing period poverty requires a multi-faceted approach that includes providing access to menstrual products, education, and advocacy for policy change.

Everyone can play a role in the fight against period poverty, including students, young people, lawmakers, businesses, and community organizations.

Breaking down the stigma and shame associated with menstruation is an important step towards addressing period poverty and promoting menstrual health and well-being.

By working together, we can help ensure that everyone has access to the menstrual products and resources they need to live healthy and productive lives, regardless of their income level or other circumstances.

Thank you so much Trine for this talk and all of your work! We are very excited to see your posts throughout these coming weeks and to participate in your event on the 28th of May

Follow Real Relief on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram

Find more information on their campaign here and look up their event here

Find Trine on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram

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