Founder of Sheba Feminine, Zizipho Ntobongwana from the EC, has introduced a range of biodegradable sanitary products made from organic cotton as a reaction towards commercial menstrual care products containing tonnes of harsh chemicals and plastic. The range consists of tampons, pads and pantyliners, and packaging is made using recycled cardboard. The products aim to destigmatise reproductive health and female anatomy and encourage open, honest dialogue on the topic.
Ntobongwana conceptualized Sheba Feminine in 2017 after realising that there was very little information on her tampon box. “I was sitting on the toilet during my period and reached over to read my box of tampons. I realised that there was very little information on the box and that it also didn’t have an ingredient label. I then decided to do my own research on what was in the products that I was putting in my vagina,” she said.
Some of the challenges she faced when started Sheba included the lack of suppliers in the field. “This was especially true when I began Sheba, however, the number has since drastically increased. The certification and accreditation have a lot of red tapes too. This means that space often lacks inclusivity,” said Ntobongwana.
“I would love to see conversations surrounding reproductive and sexual health become less shameful, less taboo and less restricted. I would love for the education surrounding these topics to be more accessible. I would love to see more conscious consumerism and transparency in these spaces, from your menstrual care products to your feminine health products,” said the Social Sciences honours graduate.
Sheba is attempting to achieve some of Ntobongwana’s goals through the product range, social media platforms and their Pay for a Pal’s Pads Programme. Sheba Feminine staff members visit various schools in disadvantaged and rural areas around South Africa and host educational sessions on menstruation, consent and body positivity. The sessions allow the girls to ask questions and speak to our facilitators about the challenges they face socially.