Discover how female entrepreneur Ruby Raut has been transforming the way we think about periods
Ever heard of reusable, period-absorbing pants? WUKA, the creator of the UK’s first reusable period pants was founded in 2017 by Ruby Raut, now-33 year old female entrepreneur. Ruby and her WUKA team are on a mission to reduce period waste by completely replacing pads and tampons with sustainable period pants and to break taboos around periods along the way.
Ruby grew up in Nepal, where shame about periods was widespread. Nachune is the Nepalese word for period which basically translates as ‘untouchable’.
When she started her period, she experienced a form of Chapaudi, a form of menstrual taboo prohibiting women and girls from participating in normal family activities while menstruating, now illegal in Nepal.
When menstruating, Ruby was sent to her aunt’s house and wasn’t allowed to go out in the sun, look at men or touch plants – as it was believed that she would kill them – just because she was having a period.
Like many other girls, she was given her mother’s old sari rags to use for the bleeding, which happened to be reusable and eco-friendly, but not particularly hygienic. They weren’t leak-proof nor comfortable, and not very practical for school life or sports.
Ruby arrived in the UK in 2010. “I was astonished by the wide range of menstrual products available on the supermarket shelves, but quickly realised that most of them were neither comfortable nor leak-proof, and they certainly were not eco-friendly.
We can see the single-use plastic in tampon applicators, but most of us don’t realise that pads are usually made from 80% plastic.”
The ‘lightbulb moment’
When studying for her Environmental Science degree at Open University in 2016, she discovered that more than 200,000 tonnes of tampons and pads were sent to UK landfills every year, contributing to the mounting tide of plastic pollution. This was Ruby’s ‘lightbulb moment’. She decided that she had to do something about the way menstruation was handled. She was going to create an environmentally friendly period alternative.
Her entrepreneurial flames sparked, Ruby’s wish for sustainable, effective and comfortable period wear lead to creating her own. Using her self-taught sewing machine, she made her first pair of period pants by sewing layers of material to underwear. After sharing her prototype with her husband, Dave, they decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to start production of a small batch of period pants.
From period pants to period swimsuits
The success of the Kickstarter campaign demonstrated the high demand for period pants, and – the period pants tried, tested and worked – WUKA was launched in 2017 as a sustainable start-up. From one pair, WUKA has developed a range of award-winning period underwear from thongs and high waist to activewear (including Period Leggings and Period Swimsuit).
They’ve even created the first period-proof pants created from recycled fast fashion offcuts, plus first period kits for tweens and teens. For extra sustainable seals of approval, the full range is also registered with The Vegan Society and approved by PETA.
Sustainability at the heart of everything
WUKA recently received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development, something Ruby is incredibly honoured by:
“Winning this award has given us the chance to look over our sustainable wins so far. Our brand was built with sustainability as a core foundation for our existence by being the first period pants to do a full carbon analysis of menstrual products.
We created WUKA to break taboos around periods while accelerating and innovating in sustainability. I’m so glad to be pioneering in the right direction, and we encourage all brands to do so. We have only one planet.”
Marking Menstrual Health Day, WUKA Flex launches their newest innovation – the world’s first adjustable period pants. WUKA Flex has been designed so you can quickly change your period pants, and perfectly adjust to your size every time – without the need to undress, whatever your location or lifestyle. WUKA stands for Wake Up Kick Ass, and that’s exactly what they intend to keep doing.
Interested in being more sustainable with your beauty routine, too? Find out how to get started.