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GRL Talk: OHNE

For 2019’s New Year’s Resolutions, we’re thinking less about nitpicking at our personalities to make a change for the sake of it (we’re pretty damn good as we are), and more about how our everyday choices can be improved to make our lives more fulfilling and our daily habits more ethical and sustainable. That’s why when thinking about who to chat to for our next GRL Talk feature, the answer was obvious. OHNE are the coolest tampon brand around; they create non-toxic, organic tampons, they’re spearheaded by two amazing womxn, and they provided goodies for our first event (thanks, babes). What’s not to love? Here, we chatted to one of the founders, Leah, about everything OHNE.

(Scroll down for 50% off your first box, too)

For those who don’t know, what is OHNE and what do you do?

OHNE is the most bespoke organic tampon subscription service in the UK – but it’s also a knowledge platform and the core of an incredible community dedicated to smashing outdated period taboos and starting conversations about anything and everything to do with periods, menstrual health, sex, feminism… the list goes on. We want OHNE to serve women in all the ways the mainstream ‘feminine hygiene’ (ew) industry has been failing them.

What inspired you to found OHNE and what are your goals for the future?

I’d been using organic period products from a young age to help with cramps but hadn’t realised what mainstream tampons were made of. It wasn’t until 2016, when Nikki opened a mainstream pad covered in purple hearts and wrapped in plastic that we started chatting about the current menstrual health industry that we believed served to disempower and perpetuate a feeling of shame. We explored creating new products for womxn and it was during the exploration that we realised the lack of transparency in the industry (we’re always shouting from the rooftops that hamster food has more disclosure regulations than tampons do!) We hate to think of how many women are using toxic products without even knowing it.

We also discovered that 69% of women are regularly unprepared for their period (us included!) and we got to thinking about how mad it is that you can find a innovative tech answer for almost anything we could ask for these days, so there’s really no reason shopping for your period products has to be harder than finding a date. We decided to launch our bespoke subscription service to address this issue – and to do it in a way that caters to as many different people who have periods as possible. Not every person who menstruates has a 5 day cycle that lasts exactly 28 days. Our service reflects this, as well as being cognisant of the fact that many people need a variety of absorbency types over the course of their period.

What makes OHNE different from other sanitary brands?

We’re really proud to say that, to date, we are the only organic tampon delivery service in the UK to have been certified by both the Soil Association and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). It was important to us that we didn’t just slap the word organic on our product – we want to be accountable to our customers, so that they can feel 100% safe and happy with the products they’re putting in their vagina. We’ve also partnered with School Club Zambia, a grassroots social enterprise, whose Girl’s Programme was set up to improve the lives and education of young girls living in rural Zambia. Rather than donating single-use, disposable period products, for every box of OHNE tampons bought, customers are directly contributing to long-term change in rural schools. To top it off, we’re founded by two mid 20’s women (a first in the UK!) so our purpose comes from a authenticity and a genuine desire to create better change.

Conversations are starting to get more prominent around menstrual health and period poverty. What are some stigmas about menstruation you want to challenge?

What isn’t a taboo when it comes to periods? Period poverty is a massive issue – obviously – because, in a world that’s too embarrassed to talk about periods, the challenges of how the hell you afford to manage one when you’re struggling financially or living below the poverty line go completely undiscussed.

One of the biggest taboos surrounding periods that I think we’re still, even in the most ‘woke’ online communities, shying away from discussing openly is how difficult or life-altering periods can be for many people. This applies to everything from your ‘average’ (again: no such thing as normal) PMS that makes it really hard to get motivated at work, have the energy for socialising, or feel ~up for it~ in the bedroom, to truly debilitating period cramps that could be a sign of Endometriosis. We’ve got this hangover from 20th century feminism that ‘anything a man can do I can do too!’ and while, yeah, we’re absolutely never going to tell anyone their biology holds them back from becoming or doing anything, it’s no longer revolutionary for womxn to be moulding themselves to fit into the ‘man’s world’. The world has got to change. And when it does, it’s got to be mindful and accommodating of the fact that some people who have periods can’t necessarily go on as normal when they’re menstruating.

We want OHNE to be a space where all of these conversations are welcome and encouraged. No one should have to suffer in silence or feel like they’re betraying the ‘feminist cause’ if they admit that they find their period really disruptive to their everyday lives, for whatever reason. There’s no wrong way to have or experience a period.

There’s also very little discussion of conditions like Endometriosis or PCOS, which everyone should be taught about from a young age as absolutely nobody should be having to miss school because their periods are unmanageably heavy or painful. Yet, on the other side of the same coin, we’re teaching young people that a period lasts 3-5 days and a menstrual cycle is 28 days. When young girls and other people with periods have experiences which differ from this, their worries and questions go unaddressed because we haven’t opened up that conversation.

Which womxn are you inspired by?

Every womxn in our online community is absolutely smashing it and inspiring us every day. You’ve got Gabby Edlin, the founder of Bloody Good Period, Gina Martin, the woman behind the Upskirting campaign, Venetia Falconer and Immy Lucas, who are both sustainability queens, and so many more who are working to make the internet and the world at large a better place.  

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt through starting this mission?

That if you want to make change in a specific industry you’ve got to truly believe in what you’re doing. You face a lot of up’s and down’s, it takes a thick skin and a determined commitment to carry on even when things get a bit tough.

Finally, the question we ask everyone on GRL Talk. What would you go back and tell your 16-year-old-self?

Where to start?! I’d definitely tell my sixteen-year-old self to tell shame and taboos where to go – whether we’re talking about periods, sex and sexuality, or anything else that seems so big when you’re young. Just having conversations about the things that we’re experiencing, without feeling like we’re confiding a shameful secret, is so liberating. And don’t be afraid to reach out to other people for advice or support. We all spend way too much time being embarrassed about periods and puberty when we could be saving that energy for having fun/learning/smashing the patriarchy to smithereens.

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