How Ruby Raut is helping change lives with her path-breaking products
By: NEELAM MISTRY-THAKER
Although more conversations are being had, periods remain a taboo topic within the South Asian community, despite the physical, emotional, and practical impact on women during the monthly cycle.
But there have been huge developments in the menstrual products available. From pads and tampons to menstrual cups and period pants, there has been a huge growth in the market. One British brand leading the way has been WUKA, which offers a brilliant range of period pants that have been game-changers for women. Brand founder Ruby Raut has created sleekly designed products that are functional, comfortable, and engineered to ensure there are no chance of leaks, but also promote confidence in women.
Eastern Eye caught up with the business entrepreneur to share her journey towards changing the lives of women and speak about important conversations about periods.
What first triggered your interest in sustainability and period products?
Growing up in Nepal, I studied environmental science and knew after graduating that I wanted to work in sustainability. It wasn’t easy to find a job in sustainability, so I built a small schools’ curriculum and started teaching children about food waste. I then started working with a charity and began talking about period products.
What was the starting point for WUKA?
In Nepal, I would use an old cotton sari as my main menstrual product. When I came to UK and saw the range of products, I was shocked, as none of them were reusable or sustainable. After speaking in schools, I realised there was a huge gap in the market. We needed a comfortable product that all generations of women could use to support them in their monthly cycle, which wouldn’t cost the planet’s health.
What else drove you to create the brand?
I was always rebellious and wanted to question and challenge social norms. I wasn’t afraid as an immigrant to do things boldly. In Asian culture, forward thinking is often suppressed but I wasn’t afraid to speak my truth and challenge outdated views and ways of doing things. I realised we needed a functionable, comfortable, and pretty product for the everyday girl and woman.
How did you start creating the product?
Using YouTube videos and a cheap secondhand sewing machine I began by stitching a reusable pad onto my own underwear. I had no skills in sewing but was determined. I wore these prototypes for three months and learned there were some changes and developments that were needed. I started a kick-starter in 2017 and gained 117 people and £7,000.
You have now turned it into a multi-million pound business. What inspired the fabulous name WUKA?
I came across a phrase online Wake Up Kick Ass Repeat. I just thought that was cool, so went with the abbreviation of WUKA – Wake Up Kick Ass. It took time to develop brand awareness, but we are now well known in the market.
The WUKA range is amazing. How would you explain why period pants are a great menstrual product?
Our period pants are the most comfortable in the market. They are easy to use and convenient. They can easily be popped in the wash, dried, and reused repeatedly. They are also perfect for travel and can be packed just like normal underwear. Women often struggle to leave the door when on their periods for fear and anxiety of being uncomfortable or leaking through their menstrual products. WUKA solves a very real problem. They work well with a heavy flow, alleviating the panic of leaking.
Do they work for women of all ages?
That’s the beauty of this product. We have customers ranging from eight to 80-years-old. They are so easy for first timers like young girls, some as little as eight who start their menstrual cycle; we wanted to develop a product that would make them feel so comfortable and at ease in their skin. Not only do they work well for the menstrual cycle but also for those customers experiencing endometriosis, PCOS, extremely heavy flow, incontinence, and postpartum bleeding.
Could you explain to us the sustainability of your products?
These are the most sustainable menstruation products on the market. One pair of period pants replaces 200 plastic products going to a landfill. Every pant has five-six times less of a carbon footprint than a pad or tampon. We are so proud of these achievements.
You have grown a big community and shown that representation matters. How important is it to overcome the stigma that still remains around periods, including in the south Asian community?
The more we talk about periods, the easier it will be for us to reach a younger generation and change the way we think. We need to look at how we can change education both in school and at home for both young and older generations. In schools we need to speak directly to youngsters, but at home, it needs to start with conversations through the generations. Times are changing. We are changing the narrative of a topic that was once seen as dirty.
Could you tell us about your period pants petition?
Period pants are the most effective and sustainable menstrual product but are taxed at 20 per cent when pads and tampons are not. Why are people being punished for using a more sustainable product? We have a petition running to stop taxation on period pants and encourage every person to sign it and support a very real movement.
What do you see for the future of WUKA?
We want to reach every single woman, globally, not just in the UK. I want every young girl growing up to have a comfortable, easy to use solution to their monthly cycle. We want to start and grow the conversation in all homes and start to normalise periods.