Kathy Walkling is the co-founder of Eco Femme. She is an environmentalist, activist, and speaker who works to spread awareness on menstrual hygiene and such topics considered a stigma in society.
What made you start Eco Femme?
Initially it was a personal quest. After moving to India from Australia back in 1995, I struggled with how to dispose on my own sanitary waste given that garbage disposal was such an obvious problem. Digging holes each month to bury my sanitary waste was difficult and motivated me to find another way! In 1999 I stumbled on cloth pads during a holiday back home and I was really impacted by the multiple benefits, even beyond the pollution problem I was trying to prevent. As time went by, I became more aware of the nature and scale of this problem - of how much plastic is in a pad and the problem of how to effectively deal with sanitary waste in urban areas in a country with such a vast population like India and this was a further motivation.
In 2009 I was working for a local NGO on social enterprise creation – we were looking for income generating options for women and the idea for them to stitch cloth pads seems like a natural fit so all of these factors converged to give birth to Eco Femme.
What is the one personality trait which also reflects in the brand?
Ilove nature and I am fascinated by the subtle power of the feminine. I think these passions help me bring a particular orientation to how we do business and run Eco Femme that is rooted in care for the whole of life.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a socially conscious business?
Increasingly it seems to boil down to economics. As a social enterprise, our products are not as cheap as other cloth pad manufacturers who do not have a social mission or give back programs. We are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain sales amidst growing competition with lower priced products.
Who inspires you the most? Any mentors that you look up to?
I am inspired by anyone who attempts something big on behalf of life and the planet. This takes a kind of fearless courage and focused dedication and I have been inspired by many great women who have modeled these qualities: Vandana Shiva, Jane Goodall, Claire Dubois (Founder of treesisters), Nina Simmons (founder of Bioneers) all come immediately to mind.
Do you think an individual's actions matter?
I think it matters tremendously. I believe that an immense potential lies like a seed in us all and when we find access to it and start trusting and acting from that source, we can literally change the world.
One quote or a particular perspective that keeps you going in life?
I guess an evolutionary perspective guides my life – that we are created by Life itself and our lives are not only not random but have a deeper purpose and meaning. This orientation inspires me to keep striving to stretch into life and and engage fully from the conviction that my attitude and actions – an indeed everyone’s – matter in an intelligent and unfolding universe. In other words, that we can all make a difference and indeed are meant to as creative agents in a bigger story that we are all participating in and writing as we go along.
What would be the one message for people to help them adopt?
Be gentle with yourself! If you understand the problem we have with disposables – the plastics, the chemicals, the lack of disposal options - and want to find a more healthy and sustainable way, then give reusable cloth pads (or menstrual cups) a go. Start small – experiment and get used to how the product performs. You can also watch video’s read other stories of people who have made the switch. Inform yourself and take the step that feel right for YOU!