Molly Hayward has spent the last eight years traveling around the world studying and working for women’s rights and socio-economic empowerment. She is the founder of Cora, a company that provides U.S. women with customizable, monthly deliveries of organic feminine hygiene products and donates sanitary pads to girls in developing countries. With these seemingly simple donations, Cora helps girls stay in school and be their radiant selves all month long. It’s a mission that we’re passionate about, and hope that you are too!
What was your inspiration for founding Cora Women?
The second moment of inspiration came when I learned about what’s in conventional tampons and other menstrual products in my own society. The products at the drugstore are made with cotton and synthetics that are contaminated with carcinogenic pesticides and toxic dioxins and furans, but manufacturers aren’t required to disclose that to the public or conduct independent studies on their effects, so most women have no idea. I thought to myself that women deserve better.
You emphasize organic menstrual hygiene products; but for many women, organic means expensive. How can we get organic products into more hands — er, vaginas — more affordably?
Organic products are always going to be slightly more expensive than conventional ones, because of the additional labor and high quality materials required to create them, as well as the smaller demand for them at the moment, but I often ask women who balk at spending more: What is the health of your body worth to you? What is your dignity as a woman worth to you? For too long we have been taken advantage of by faceless corporations who profit from our exploitation and ignorance about the dangers of their products they sell. As more women use organic products, the price will decrease and they will become more widely accessible. We’re asking the current generations of women to take a first giant step with us, for their own health and safety, and for that of all future generations of girls and women to come.
Menstruation can be very disempowering for girls in developing countries. When you look at the statistics of how these girls suffer — socially, educationally, health-wise — because of a basic biological function, it is both maddening and overwhelming. How can an individual help make a difference?
Women can make the biggest difference by becoming aware of their bodies and their cycles, and choosing to use only products that will not expose them to harmful chemicals. If a woman chooses to do that through Cora, she will be providing a month’s supply of sanitary pads to a girl in need in India who would otherwise not be able to afford them, and would stay home from school and inside her house for days each month. It’s an incredible sensation to feel your own cycle tied to that of a young woman on the other side of the world. It reminds us of our universal experience and the unique bond that that creates.
Who is your number one feminist role model?
Simone de Beauvoir! She taught me to look at womanhood from every angle of experience and existence, and to be critical of my thoughts and actions–to really examine where they were coming from. That’s a practice I plan to continue for the rest of my life, and one that I hope to impart to other women so that we all can have the richest possible experience of womanhood.