Friday 10 July 2020

IWD 2018: Interview with Celia Hodson of Hey Girls  

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For International Women’s Day 2018, we have partnered with Hey Girls, a UK social enterprise who sell sustainable and ethical sanitary products and are a one for one business set up to end period poverty in the UK. For every pack of sanitary products that are purchased, one package is donated to girls in need.

Ahead of the event, we spoke to founder Celia Hodson to find out more about Hey Girls' plans to end period poverty, empower young women and what we can do to help them with their mission.

To find out more about our International Women's Day celebrations from Thursday 1 March to Thursday 8 March and the chance to win a free pair of tickets to our In Conversation With the event on Thursday 8 March at Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street hotel, enter the ballot here.

What inspired you to set up a social enterprise like Hey Girls?

We all know that we need to make period products more easily available to all girls and women across the globe – because they’re not a luxury item, they’re an essential part of everyday life. But what most of us haven't considered is that many British girls right across the UK are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary pads and tampons. Our girls are missing out on education and skipping games because they’re unable to access sanitary products when they need them.  

New research has shown that British girls from low-income families are missing school thanks to their periods because they simply can’t afford tampons and pads. Women on very low incomes, considered to be ‘the working poor’, take time out of work rather having to make the choice between food and menstrual products and risking the stigma of leaking at work! 

Scottish grassroots group Women for Independence revealed this month that one in five women have experienced period poverty – resorting to alternatives like toilet roll, food banks and the charity of friends to make it through the month.  

Having been a single parent I understand first hand the financial strain of buying sanitary protection whilst bringing up a family and struggling to survive on benefits. The situation for women just like me hasn’t changed in twenty years, which is why we set-up Hey Girls with the philosophy that girls and young women should never have to compromise their well-being, self-confidence or their health, no matter what their personal circumstances. 

How do Hey Girls plan to end period poverty and empower young women?

We admire greatly the levels of powerful campaigning that are happening every day about Period Poverty and the lack of social justice for people who are menstruating, but we didn't want to be an echo chamber for all that great work. We decided it was important that we seek sustainable ways to address period poverty in the UK that are not reliant on the government. So we set up Hey Girls to tackle Period Poverty via something we all do every month - purchase menstrual products. We provide an alternative shopping experience for those wishing to make a difference with the items they purchase for themselves every month. By buying social, customers are doing good directly via each pack they buy.”

We know that girls and young women are all powerful individuals, care about their health, are passionate about the environment and want to make a difference. That’s why we girls created Hey Girls – to offer a no leak, super comfy, chlorine and bleach free, environmentally friendly product that tackles period poverty in the UK.  100% the profits from our Buy One Give One products go directly to help girls and young women in need – no fat cat shareholders taking a payout. So that means for every box we sell we give a box away to a girl or young woman in need- yep just that straightforward.

For those reading this interview, what can we do to help Hey Girls with their mission?

This year is all about raising awareness of Period Poverty in the UK and using our retail Buy One Give One model to grow the numbers of donations we can make. Our focus has to be about access to our products, whether that's via our Hey Girls online store or by gaining listings in one of the many major supermarkets we are speaking to at the moment. So the easiest way to support our mission right now is to shop online and buy, subscribe or donate a box of our day or nighttime pads - knowing that every time you press Buy Now we are packing your delivery and also putting a box on the donation pile. It's a very empowering moment and something that we receive a huge number of emails about. So why not give it a go!

What do Hey Girls have planned for 2018?

Having only launched Hey Girls in January of this year we are at the very beginning of our journey. But due to our customers getting behind our vision, together we have already donated over 4,500 boxes of pads to girls in need. So we know that with the support of our donation partners we can make a direct impact very quickly and get products out to where they are needed most. We plan to track geographical areas where sales are made and then donated directly back into those areas. That way our customers know that their purchase is supporting someone in their locality. 

How does this year’s theme of ‘Press for Progress’ impact your day-to-day life?

We believe every girl should grow up feeling confident about themselves. That’s why we have developed our workshops, online Facts Files, Myth Buster and a super easy to understand resource packs. Rather than being a sales gig for Hey Girls our school's workshop sessions address key topics around menstrual health, emotional, social and physical wellbeing. We also believe in educating boys to ensure that understand what is happening emotionally and physically for a girl when she is having her period. We've just launched a Hey Boys! page on our website for guys as we were surprised by the number of emails we received from men wanting to understand what was going on with their partner during their menstrual cycle. We found that many men didn't know anything about periods until their girlfriends told them.

We believe all good things stem from openness, awareness, and knowledge and only by understanding what going on for others can we make a deep and impactful change for good.

To find out more about Hey Girls, and to help them with their mission, visit their website here.

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