“A period should only end a sentence – and not be the end to education or opportunity,” L. says.
As a photojournalist for the Red Cross and the United Nations, Talia Frenkel traveled the world documenting humanitarian crises, but everything changed after an assignment in sub-Saharan Africa.
After witnessing girls’ and women’s lack of access to reproductive rights and menstrual hygiene management products, Frenkel retired her camera in favor of a new mission: shaking up the women’s health industry.
So she founded L., a company that started out making condoms and now also makes organic cotton tampons and pads, with the goal of empowering women.
And in honor of Women’s History Month, L. is donating 60 million period products to girls in need, Teen Vogue reported.
L. already operates on a one-for-one model: for every condom, pad, and tampon that the company sells it distributes one in a developing country through its network of female entrepreneurs, according to the company’s website.
Frenkel started her company to help protect women and girls against HIV/AIDS and unplanned pregnancies.
“The fact that 90% of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa go through condom stock-outs [when stores run out of condoms] and that the one tool of prevention isn’t being made available to the people who really need it most was really a turning point for me,” Frenkel told Refinery29.
By providing girls in particular with such resources, she also hoped to help them stay in school, but to do that she had to do more than help increase access to condoms.
UNESCO estimates that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their periods. And social stigma associated with menstruation keeps women and girls around the world from participating in everyday activities.
In Nepal, girls have died while confined in “period huts” during a cultural practice called “chaupadi,” though the practice is illegal. One study found that in the US, nearly 75% of women hide their pads and tampons when going to the bathroom to change them.
“It’s clear that we are long overdue in addressing the deep-rooted stigma around ‘that time of the month.’ Periods need to be normalized, because that’s exactly what they are — normal,” Frenkel told Teen Vogue. “When we stop shaming women and girls for the natural and universal cycles of their bodies, we make room for educational, economic, and social opportunities,” she said.
And a crucial aspect to making sure girls and women can seize those opportunities is making sure they have the resources they need to manage their periods.
“Menstrual equity is about access,” Frenkel said. “Access to a safe, affordable necessity that the average woman will use more than 10,000 times in her life. It’s really that simple,” she added.
But L. doesn’t just hand out free condoms and period products, it also provides much-needed education and other resources to address key concerns in the areas in which L. has a presence. In India, L. helps to generate economic opportunities for women by donating machines so women can make pads. In Kenya and Tanzania — both home to around 1.5 million people living with HIV — L. offers sexual reproductive health, menstrual health, and STD and HIV prevention education as well as period products.
By doing so, L. hopes to empower women in these communities to become agents of change.
“At L., we believe that a period should only end a sentence — and not be the end to education or opportunity,” the company’s site proudly states.