Breaking the taboo of periods in India with VMLY&R Commerce
VMLY&R Commerce created Tea Cycle an initiative in partnership with Unipads and Tea Promoters India aimed at shattering taboos around menstruation in India. The initiative scooped the Educational award at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose. Here is the award-winning case study.
Example of the campaign work
The women who work at the heart of Unipads understand the need of other women’s knowledge, support and care when it comes to menstrual hygiene. Our reusable products are made by women belonging to rural areas which creates a livelihood for them, but also a sisterhood; that's why we say, "Our business begins and ends by serving women."
It’s more important and pertinent than ever in India to combat the myths and social taboos associated with menstruation to improve the reproductive health of teenage girls and women, where periods are still an unspoken topic among many.
Our first and main strategy to combat this is to educate teenagers on menstrual health and hygiene - with this idea our goal was to trigger conversations around the natural cycle in families, schools and social networks among all genders and ages in a culturally apt way.
We created a tailor-made pack of 28 tea sachets that every day of the menstrual cycle engaged, educated, and helped girls and women unpack what is happening to their bodies, hormones and emotions. Each of the 28 teas was created with ingredients that soothe, ease and assist with the period symptoms that usually occur at the point in the cycle; from reducing inflammation, to alleviating cramps, and even stabilizing hormones. However, it’s also a kit to discover with your parents, partner, friends, classmates through simple educational information and illustrations that tell the full story of a period. All together it’s a 360° approach to demolish beliefs and myths that put young girl’s physical and mental health at risk, empowering them to have a healthier adult life.
India is the biggest tea consumer in the world, and traditional kitchens have used their medicinal benefits for generations; women learn these traditions from when they are young through their families for many things, but not periods. The ‘tea moment’ is imbued with rituals, and enjoyed gathered among social circles where they share the drink and trust - this was perfect for us for two reasons: Firstly, because tea can have many ingredients that can help control physical effects of menstruating, and secondly, because tea is enjoyed in the company of partners and family. Therefore, through the world of tea, so familiar to them, we could create conversations that should also be familiar, looking to break taboos and myths, and educating them to feel more empowered, and less likely to be one of the 23% of girls in India who drop out of school when they begin to menstruate.
Tea Cycle was launched during March 2023 at Nini’s Kitchen at Ahmedabad, where community leaders, influencers and key women figures from the region were invited. We also collaborated with the NGO Manav Sadhna, to spread awareness in community schools and centres. During the same cycle, the physical pack was introduced for community students and adolescent girls at Gitamandir locality in Ahmedabad. Sessions were conducted to raise awareness around periods, symptoms and open discussions around the topic at schools like Gyanjyot vidhyalay, Sarvoday Sankul, Kanya Chatralay, Adarash Nivasi, and 28 more within the first week. 88 more schools are to be covered in Phase 1. Unipads’ village-level entrepreneurs - who sell reusable pads and raise awareness and answer any questions around periods at village level - are now raising awareness around daily symptoms on menstrual cycle and how the tea can help with any discomfort. 158 villages will be covered.
Covered by leading dailies and new outlets in Gujarat
Reached 1.3 Million viewers on the first day of launch.
Reached 32 Schools in the first week, reaching around 5,700 adolescent girls
Reached 1200+ women in rural via community awareness sessions in the first week.
Ongoing roll-out in 120 schools in phase 1.
Phase 1 also to reach 158 Villages via Kalyani model (village-level entrepreneur model) recognised by the Ministry of India.
IIM Ahmedabad, India’s top-tier Indian institute wants to showcase Tea cycle for Marketing and Management students.
Cultural & Context
Women in India have little or no conversations regarding menstruation as it is still seen as a taboo, being considered ‘dirty’ and ‘impure’. This is why many girls and women are restricted in their daily lives simply because they are menstruating, but most impactfully it causes 23% of girls in India to drop out of school when they begin to menstruate. As they begin their journey into womanhood they need to learn about the changes in their bodies and moods by themselves as the conversations are hard to have in families, and there isn’t much information or tools specifically for them. This lack of information is what leads to their choice to remove themselves. However, tea is part of India’s DNA, and a time for conversations, so we wanted to use this space to open difficult chats in a natural and simple way, in a setting that is culturally appropriate.