Young Australian of the Year 2021 is Isobel Marshall

Isobel Marshall is named Young Australian of the Year for 2021. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Isobel Marshall is named Young Australian of the Year for 2021. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

A woman who has built a business to fight period poverty has been named the 2021 Young Australian of the Year.

While most of Isobel Marshall's peers were concerned with finishing high school, she was starting up a social enterprise business to help women fight the stigma around menstruation.

The then-18-year-old founded TABOO with her business partner and school friend Eloise Hall.

The pair crowdfunded $56,000 to make the dream a reality and launched their range of menstrual hygiene products in 2019.

TABOO sells high-quality, ethically sourced and organic cotton pads and tampons with all profits going towards charity One Girl. The charity has programs in Sierra Leone and Uganda which support girls and young women with business skills, affordable sanitary products, education in menstrual hygiene, water and sanitation and high-school scholarships.

TABOO has partnered with Vinnies Women's Crisis centre to provide free pads and tampons to women in emergency accommodation in South Australia.

The company also supports the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council, which is governed and directed by Aboriginal women across 26 desert communities in the cross-border regions of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Young Australian of the Year Isobel Marshall and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Young Australian of the Year Isobel Marshall and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Ms Marshall lives in Adelaide where she went the Walford Anglican School for Girls. The now 22-year-old is studying a bachelor of medicine and a bachelor of surgery at the University of Adelaide.

In 2016, she and Ms Hall attended a Bond University leadership conference in the summer before their final year of high school. They saw great potential in the menstrual hygiene market since Australian spend $300 million on products annually.

In their research, they were shocked to discover that 30 per cent of girls in developing countries will drop out of school once they start having periods and that too many reproductive complications from a lack of appropriate menstrual health care and education.

The successful crowdfunding campaign was launched at the beginning of 2018 and the pair travelled to India and Kenya in the same year to better understand menstrual stigma and hygiene issues.

The first batch of products was released in August 2019. TABOO products are now available in selected pharmacies and supermarkets and customers can donate a monthly subscription for Australian women in need.

Ms Marshall described her award as an unexpected honour.

"Period poverty is real, It is still a major reason for inequality in the world," she said

"Periods should not be a barrier to education. They should not cause shame.

"Menstrual products should be accessible, affordable [they are] not a luxury or a choice.

"Those on your period, expect respect in place of shame and be proud of what your body can do.

"Families and teachers, invest in creating an environment that understands the importance and the strength of the menstrual cycle, and don't shy away from the conversation.

"Let's all commit to fighting period poverty around the world."

This story Period poverty, stigma brought to light by entrepreneur first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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