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The People Teaching People Podcast Episode 16: Transforming Menstrual Equity Through Education & Sustainability with Madeleine Shaw

016: Transforming Menstrual Equity Through Education & Sustainability with Madeleine Shaw

Madeleine Shaw (she/her) is a feminist entrepreneur and writer based on unceded Coast Salish territory (Vancouver, BC). She is best known as the co-founder of Aisle (formerly Lunapads), one of the first groundbreaking ventures in the world to commercialize reusable menstrual products. In her first book, The Greater Good: Social Entrepreneurship for Everyday People Who Want to Change the World, she offers encouraging tips and reflections for aspiring impact-based entrepreneurs. She is passionate about creatively deploying the tools of business in service of social change, drawing inspiration from natural growth patterns as ways to build regenerative organizations, and neo-sobriety culture and discourse.

Madeleine is incredibly creative, compassionate, and curious. She truly embodies what it means to be a lifelong learner. You will be inspired by Madeleine and her commitment to social entrepreneurship and her initiatives to support everyday people who want to change the world. 


Listen in as we talk about:

  • What is sustainable menstrual equity? Madeleine breaks down what this is exactly, and why it’s so important when it comes to social change.
  • Why does this conversation matter right now? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you need menstrual products and don’t have access to them? Madeleine shares how triggering this can be and why we need to address it.
  • Why Madeleine wrote her book. We get a behind-the-scenes look at why Madeleine wrote her book, and the impact it’s making globally. 


Connect with Madeleine:


Shared by Madeleine:


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Menstrual equity is a concept coined by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf in 2015 that advocates for the fair and equitable distribution of menstrual products, education, and information to those who need them. As we know, the menstrual cycle is a fundamental part of human reproduction, yet it is often stigmatized and shamed within our society. As Madeleine explains, menstrual equity aims to provide support and dignity for those who experience periods and require products, privacy, medication, education, and information. 

It encompasses both material and mindset changes. Materially, it looks like free provision of menstrual products in public bathrooms. Mentally, it involves de-stigmatization and education. Sustainable menstrual equity considers the environment and long-term viability, aiming for a permanent, universal solution that is not disposable and doesn’t contribute to landfill waste. Madeleine also shares that disposables like pads and tampons take up to 500 years to biodegrade and are made of up to 90% plastic – an unbelievable statistic. 

Menstrual equity is a crucial concept that values and supports a core feature of human biology. By providing fair and equitable access to menstrual products, education, and information to all parties involved, we can help to destigmatize periods, support those who need it, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Madeleine Shaw is the co-founder and Director of Partnerships at Aisle


To date, menstruation has yet to be normalized, despite efforts to improve the stigma. As Madeleine explains, legislation, such as that of the BC government, and countries like Scotland are beginning to declare menstrual products as necessary and should be made available for free to all citizens. 

Also, universities in Canada have started providing reusable menstrual products for free to their students. As we discuss, this move is exciting because it demonstrates care and empathy to students who menstruate and shows that they matter. It also reflects that the administration cares about their attendance and participation in class and extracurricular activities. The use of reusable and sustainable products solves the problem of menstrual product availability permanently and sustainably, although disposable products should still be available for last-minute or bathroom solutions.

Having open and candid discussions about menstruation helps take away the shame and stigma, and allows for a more fluid and honest conversation about women’s needs.


The People Teaching People Podcast Episode 16: Transforming Menstrual Equity Through Education & Sustainability with Madeleine Shaw


In our conversation, Madeleine explains why education is crucial in menstrual equity. Not everyone understands menstrual cycles and the education around them can often be abstract and unclear. There is a need for clear and inclusive education that is delivered in a way that helps people understand the biological and material aspects of menstruation, as well as the broader spectrum of gender identities that can experience it.

Education can help people understand the environmental impacts of menstrual products and the importance of menstrual equity. As well, there is a political aspect to this issue. Education can help people come together to discuss and address the problem of stigma around menstruation. The more we educate ourselves and normalize the conversation around menstruation, the less shame there will be and the more we can work towards a more equitable and sustainable future.


The People Teaching People Podcast Episode 16: Transforming Menstrual Equity Through Education & Sustainability with Madeleine Shaw

“So much of what we do as social entrepreneurs comes down to how well we are able to create quality relationships with other people.”

Social entrepreneurship is a concept that puts social or environmental impact first, and it differs from mainstream entrepreneurship in its goals and priorities. Social entrepreneurs are people who have not necessarily gone to business school but have pursued a solution to a problem they see, with the aim of making the world a better place. They use structures, tools, and build relationships and community to make social and environmental impacts possible.

In “The Greater Good: Social Entrepreneurship for Everyday People Who Want to Change the World,” Madeleine shares about her 30-year career as a social entrepreneur and offers a manual to help people transition from their current story to the story they want to create for themselves. The book also features examples of other social entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds who have a personal story that inspired their venture and mission. The book is not just about creating a social enterprise, but it’s also about personal transformation, leadership, and accessing creativity.

Social entrepreneurship is a form of leadership and creativity that is driven by personal stories, missions, and visions. The book offers a framework for people who want to create a social enterprise by showing how to transition from their current story to their new story, and it emphasizes the journey of personal transformation and leadership. The book is more than just a manual on how to create a social enterprise. It’s a collection of stories that inspire people to pursue their ideas and make the world a better place.

  • What is something that you would love to learn about or something that you would love to learn how to do? Botany & Biomimicry

  • What is a place that is at the top of your travel bucket list? Japan

  • What is a book, podcast, or TV show that you have enjoyed recently? TV Series: “Sort Of” on CBC Gem

  • If you could sit down and have a conversation with someone that you would love to learn from, who would it be? Holly Whitaker


1:00 Meet Madeline

2:30 Madeleine’s story

6:25 Madeleine talks about sustainable menstrual equity and why it matters now

16:44 Madeleine discusses the role of education in the success of sustainable menstrual equity

19:00 Madeleine describes social entrepreneurship and what inspired her to write a book about it

24:25 Madeleine shares some of the social entrepreneurs that she admires and the work that they are doing to change the world

29:00 Madeleine talks about our experience working together to create a curricular toolkit/workbook for her book – The Greater Good: Social Entrepreneurship for Everyday People Who Want to Change the World

32:45 Madeleine reflects on her favourite learning experiences and teachers

35:55 What Madeleine is most proud of looking back on her journey so far

39:50 Madeleine answers some rapid fire questions

47:40 Madeleine’s words of wisdom



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