Shuari Naidoo is the CEO and founder of Moraka Menstrual Cups, who has been on a mission to counteract period poverty by creating affordable and sustainable period products. She is also currently a student at Victoria University of Wellington majoring in Political Science and Criminology. We feel so privileged to share Shuari's story!
Thank you for interviewing me and allowing me to talk about Moraka and who I am. I love to introduce myself as Shuari Naidoo - CEO and founder of Moraka Menstrual Cups but also a student at Victoria University studying political science and criminology and currently in my second year.
I was born in South Africa in Durban and was absolutely loved from the minute I was born. I was very close to my mother who cherishes me. We moved to Cape Town when I was 3 and then moved to New Zealand when I was 6. As an immigrant, I acknowledge how privileged I was due to my mom having a job and my parents being well educated and speaking English. However it was hard due to having to catch up with schooling and struggling with reading. Reading is my absolute passion now and something that has brought me joy and knowledge. My parents have always valued learning and there was no doubt I was going to be academically inclined.
My parents are my biggest cheerleaders. Their strength continuously inspires me and I would not be here today without their support.
I started Moraka Menstrual Cups when I was 16 years old under the Young Enterprise Scheme. The Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) is a programme in high school where students can create their own businesses in Year 11-13. My journey to Moraka started when I switched from geography to business studies. I wasn’t familiar with business and was apprehensive due to being told maths and accounting were the main focus of the NCEA course.
However, over time I learnt business encompasses many things and that you should not be afraid to try something because one part does not seem appealing. I went to a kickstarter event hosted by YES and was met with a brainstorming session of ideas. I thought of a conversation I overheard from my mom who wanted to start a menstrual cup business but did not feel it was the right time. I decided we are in a time of social change. I also wondered where people got menstrual cups from? I had heard of menstrual cups but never seen anyone provide them. I looked into the socio-economic issue of period poverty (the circumstances in which someone has limited access to period products) and the impact it has on young people in Aotearoa. Digging even deeper I found that other cups and sustainable options were extremely expensive for middle to lower income users. As a student and teenager I just could not afford a $50 menstrual cup. Furthermore, as menstrual cups were becoming more mainstream it was important to educate people on the benefits and why not have a small cost upfront to help people adopt sustainable period product options.
So I came up with the Moraka Menstrual Cup. Moraka’s mission is to sell affordable, sustainable and cost effective period products to counter the issue of menstrual taboo and period poverty in society. Accessibility is at the core of our business as we want everyone to have access to sustainable products without breaking the bank.
We believe education and awareness is the key to destigmatizing periods. Having access to period products is a human right - the right to dignity and accessing basic resources. Period poverty which affects 1 in every 2 Kiwi women in New Zealand can lead to people missing out on jobs and educational opportunities and shame. A normal bodily function should not hinder opportunities for people.
Our vision has changed throughout the journey. We launched officially in 2021 as a social enterprise under a B2B model. We have worked with NGOs such as the Period Place, Endo Warriors Aotearoa, Te Oriori and Nest consulting. We worked with Massey and Victoria University. However we have decided that in 2022 we are going to be a charity! We are super excited for this and hope to launch on the 28th of May for World Menstrual Hygiene day. Our new model would mean we can reach more communities and get more businesses on board. We want to help businesses support women and the environment through purchasing a cup for each employee. With these funds we would send cups to women in need.
Moraka has been a journey with many highs and lows. The highs have always been helping people access period products and being able to alleviate a monthly burden. While a menstrual cup is small it can have such an impact on someone. The highs also include meeting wonderful wāhine across Aotearoa and learning about periods and their experience with period products. Meeting people from all backgrounds and professions has been insightful. Another high includes the amount of support I have received on social media.
The lows have been trying to convince people to try cups. Cups are seen as invasive or ‘dirty’ which is completely untrue. It has been a challenge to get people to see the benefits of menstrual cups. Moraka acknowledges that not everyone can use or wants to use cups but we urge people to try. Another challenge has been being compared to other NGOs and organisations in Aotearoa. Moraka is different as we specialise in accessible sustainable products with an aim to reduce period poverty across Aotearoa. We are unique because we want sustainable period products to be for anyone. Moraka also works alongside these organisations rather than against them. We all work towards the same movement with similar goals, plus we are run by some awesome leaders.
It is important to reflect on what we enjoy beyond our ventures as it can seem like it defines us, like I love to read as I mentioned before. Reading can transport you to many worlds and help you expand your knowledge in such a vast way. I love to write short stories, particularly those from different perspectives. One of my goals is to one day write a book from the perspective of a migrant woman in NZ.
Volunteering has also always been a passion of mine. Throughout Year 13 I worked fundraising jobs with the Lions and Kai Aroha. I was also able to do this via the Lions exchanges which was a two month trip across the USA and Canada where I explored Atlanta, North and South Carolina, Saskatchewan in Canada and LA during the school breaks. It was life changing and being able to travel and volunteer made me feel so lucky. When the borders open I encourage university and high school students to try the Lions exchange programme.
I laugh when people think I have it all together. While it is important to hear about someone’s successes, we also want to hear about someone’s resilience. A few months ago I wanted to give up Moraka because many people told me no one would want to buy from you.
I was in the midst of walking away because I knew I would never be as good as the other period organisations. When I feel this way, my mother tells me to go back to Moraka’s mission which is ‘affordable and sustainable’. I started Moraka because I felt sustainable options were inaccessible for many people. Some days it feels like I cannot achieve it all or I am not wanted in the period movement. It feels as though I am parading as something I am not, i.e. a fake. However I know great movements take time and being patient is the key to growth.
I have always defined success as doing something purposeful. Purpose and being driven by a cause is something that will always steer me in the right direction. Whether I continue with Moraka or go work/start in another business venture I need to know that I am making an impact.
I have so many dreams and aspirations but they are continuously changing. I have a brief idea of what I want to achieve e.g. 2x Masters degree in Politics and Business, a thriving business and charity, living overseas and maybe a little doggie. However the future seems uncertain, in that, we are constantly evolving. I had made so many changes in the last two years I can only wonder how life would be at 29/30 years old.
Hard to narrow down but I would love to see more period activists out there particularly the amazing wāhine from Endo Warriors Aotearoa and the Period Place. The Y25 cohort for 2021 are an amazing bunch of humans and would love to be interviewed.