Periods are challenging. Besides the menstrual cramps that some women experience during this time of the month, single-use napkins that many women use to maintain their hygiene are also polluting the environment.
But these disposable napkins are products of the modern world’s fixation on convenience. Women just a few decades back used reusable cloth to maintain their hygiene without polluting the environment.
Cecille Guevarra, owner of Workingmum, has joined the growing businesses that give a nod to the sustainable ways of the past with her products—washable menstrual pads and pantyliners. Launched online in May 2018, Workingmum aimed to provide alternatives to disposable sanitary napkins.
Cecille is the tailor of her products. Originally from Occidental Mindoro and currently based in Sta. Cruz, Manila, she also subcontracts a seamstress from her province. “As I manage my own business, I am happy to provide livelihood to a single mother,” Cecille said, proud of empowering a fellow mother.
“I used to have rashes and blisters wearing them. I don’t want my daughter to experience these discomforts,” Cecille shared.
Cecille started sewing cloth pads for personal use in 2016. When her daughter started to have her period, she convinced her to use reusables which her daughter did.
“I have been in the reusable scene before I started selling my handmade pads,” she said.
When Cecille launched her business, her first buyer was her best friend, whose mother died of cervical cancer. “[My friend] had her tissue analyzed to test any indication of the disorder. She was then advised to not use disposable sanitary pads. For a ‘friendly’ price, she purchased her first set of cloth pads [from me],” Cecille said.
Cecille then linked up with other eco-warriors to resell her products. “I feel Workingmum is classy [for] having buyers from Makati and Bonifacio Global City,” she said, referring to Philippine cities where the well-off live.
She added: “I am aware that more than just wanting to be trendy, [the buyers] share the advocacy of personal and environment care. I will not do the math anymore. I’m humbled for being an instrument in avoiding disposable pads on the minefield of plastics.
Opportunities during the COVID-19 Pandemic
While the quarantines declared early in 2020 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected many businesses and caused anxiety to many business owners, Cecille saw opportunity from the situation.
“People are forced to stay at home and have more time to go online. Thus, we received more messages for orders. It seemed these women had no other choice because most of the stores were close,” she said.
Since the lockdowns, another washable has been added to Workingmum’s products— facemasks. “The stocked raw materials for cloth pads were turned to reusable face masks. We make quality face masks that sell for a reasonable price,” Cecille said.
Due to limited access to resources, production is also limited. Cecille strategized the distribution and preferred not to sell in bulk. “However, there was an exemption. I had a buyer who requested to purchase in large quantities. I found out that she was donating the facemasks to frontliners,” she shared.
According to Cecille, her business has been good for her family life. “The manufacturing of the washables has knitted the bond of my marriage. My husband is the ‘master cutter’ of the patterns,” she said.
She added that the business also allowed her to discover some things about herself. “I realized that I am an artist creating designs of my own products.”
The designs and the materials of the washables, according to Cecille, evolved as time went by. “We discovered better types of clothes and upgraded our products. This may have added costs on our part but we didn’t change our pricing. We ensure the quality to help keep women and girls feel comfortable while keeping conventional period products out of landfills,” she shared.
She added: “I consider Workingmum as a small step to a Zero Waste lifestyle—a small step from each of the women who purchased from us. Our sales may be slow-paced at times yet it is consistent and I am not giving up on it.”
Photos courtesy of Working Mum.
This article is part of the book, BUSINESS UNUSUAL: Enterprises paving the way to Zero Waste, a collection of feature articles on select enterprises in Asia Pacific that practice and promote Zero Waste principles. Published by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, the publication may be downloaded for free at www.no-burn.org/Business-Unusual.