Many women and girls lack access to menstrual hygiene articles, a health problem for the individual that has consequences for both gender equality and the economies of the societies in which they live. This is a situation that Louise Berg at Sibship wants to change. Now, a new product developed in collaboration with RISE is beginning to take shape.
Louise Berg has been working on menstruation-related issues for the past five years, and gender-equality issues for even longer. She has worked in Asia, South America and Africa and collected material for a documentary film dealing with issues such as: How does the taboo around menstruation affect people? How do we view people who are menstruating? Out of this work came the concept for a new product; a readily available menstrual hygiene product with certain specific properties.
Louise pitched the basic concept at regional entrepreneurial competition Venture Arena. The menstrual protection needed to function for an entire day, have no negative health or environmental impact, be easy to use and, finally, work in areas without access to water. Was the concept possible to develop?
In order to realise her idea, she needed to connect with supplementary competences. A RISE employee was among the audience and was able to guide her towards RISE’s biomaterials organisation. However, Louise needed to expand the team in order to make a funding application to Vinnova – Sweden's government agency for innovation – for the first stage of the development journey. A medical expert was engaged and the application was designed and approved.
So far, one year later, she is satisfied with progress.
“The first step went very well; development work has been very structured, we have conducted a number of workshops and between meetings we have worked on our individual assignments that we have reported to one another. RISE developed various materials that could be used for menstrual protection,” she explains.
During spring 2017, Louise Berg participated in the Venture Cup, winning the Game Changer Award. The aim now is to apply to Vinnova’s Challenge-driven Innovation Programme for Stage 2 funding, with the aim of developing a prototype.
“What we need now is more project members, including a manufacturer to work on design issues, as well as a forestry company. My role is to act as project manager, while RISE works on product development. We will also need to find partners to work on marketing and communication,” says Louise Berg.
In developing the new menstrual hygiene article, it has become apparent that there are a range of possible customer groups, including women in wealthy nations who are looking for a comfortable and environmentally friendly alternative to current products.
Sibship AB is focused on gender equality, diversity and sustainability. Established in 2016, the company is a further development of the Sibship association for social entrepreneurs. The company is behind the development of the Next Period product and is based in Norrköping.