When did the idea of The Cova Project first come to mind?
While working for an NGO in Namibia, I visited this tiny, disintegrating local shop which sold essentials, bread, water, nappies, and sanitary products. In fact, if I’m to be specific, they sold nine pads. That’s not nine packs of pads, that’s nine individual pads because no one was coming through those doors flashing the kind of money that was going to get you a whole pack. These women would buy pads individually and they ration them, which only allows them to participate in certain activities for short periods of time while menstruating. I knew there were products out there that could provide an immediate solution and it seemed too simple to not get involved in.
What does the process of beginning a charity look like?
Grueling! For us, it was a complex situation because The Cova Project was meant to be an initiative of an established Namibian charity so when we had to set up independently in Australia, last minute, we were thrust into the world of the ACNC paperwork and DG1 tax statuses. But we got through it, assisted by many wonderful people who believed in our vision and helped pro-bono, and when we finally had everything in order, we took off. There was something about being a young and tech savvy charity, that hit a target market of young women looking to enter philanthropy but unsure of where a smaller donation would go and the real impact it would have. We definitely filled that gap!
How do you go about getting the services and products to the women in need?
Our supplier, Flowcup, in Sweden, delivers the menstrual cups over to DHL who transport them all across the world and allow us to get them to our passionate local partners, in country. These incredible partners, who help us reach girls most impacted by period poverty, are fellow NGO's, community based organisations or even just passionate individuals looking to serve their community. Menstrual cups are oftentimes an entirely new concept to the girls so our partners conduct in depth trainings that touch on puberty, sexual and reproductive health and menstrual cup usage. Fun and energised trainings conducted by likeable and well respected women from the community are the secret to our success.
What has been the most difficult part of your journey so far?
We have had so many ups and downs. Leading the charge on this work means that we are often setting the standards and educating the authorities on best practice. This just means we're extra hard on ourselves to make sure we're maximising our positive impact and minimising our negative impact. There hasn't been a most difficult part of the journey, it's all a steep learning curve with big payoffs. Honestly, I'm just blinded by how proud I am of our network and teams.
What are the biggest obstacles you've had to overcome?
My personal obstacle is dealing with a chronic illness while running a global operation. It's definitely more of a challenge than I ever thought I could tackle but my illness has given me the gift of being able to stay big picture, ignore and push through pain and be pig-headed in the pursuit of our goal. I don't believe I would have the strength of character and the resilience to run something as complex as The Cova Project if I hadn't experienced the adversity I've experienced.
What are your ambitions for yourself and The Cova Project in the future?
Growth. We want to grow The Cova Project, not only as an organisation but as an implementable blueprint for other organisations to implement themselves. Currently the word on the street in regards to menstrual cup projects is that they don't work and they're hard to do. The latter is true but the former is objectively wrong and stands in the way of many girls receiving long term menstrual health solutions. We want to change that reputation and have a global impact alongside other passionate organisations.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that we have positively impacted the lives of 11,000 girls by providing menstrual cups and menstrual health education.
I'm also proud of our partners, for example, Eluby, who is our project leader in Malawi. Eluby had always struggled with managing her period. She used chichenge which is a traditional wax print fabric that is basically non-absorbent. When we first came to Malawi, we distributed cups to Eluby’s village and she helped translate, but as time went on, Eluby’s role grew and she slowly became The Cova Project Malawi, learning to conduct trainings, collect data and take meetings with large NGO’s and government. Now, Eluby is at university, something she was not confident she’d achieve, and she travels the country training other NGO’s on menstrual health. That's the stuff I'm most proud of.
What does it mean to you to have your very own Cova Lipstick?
Having the Cova lipstick is a dream for so many reasons. One, it's just fun! So much of our work is managing challenges and fighting for equality and working on this collaboration with Lou Lou Lips was a breath of fresh air! It felt like we were doing something that would make Australian women feel great and as an aftereffect, help a girl in Malawi or Liberia feel great too. It's also always wonderful to find a partnership with shared values and working with Lou Lou Lips, we knew we were going to end up with a quality product that cared about the customer, that really matters to us.
How do you feel when you wear The Cova Lipstick?
Wearing my Cova lipstick is an instant pick me up! I'm someone who's big on comfort, like if you're going to work a 16 hour day, by all means do it in your trackies and produce your best work, but I'm constantly on zoom calls, meeting people for the first time and representing The Cova Project. The Cova lipstick is now like my secret weapon. I just pop a little on and it is an instantly professional look, that also gives you that zap of energy makeup can give you. I love it, I feel confident and even more empowered knowing the impact each lipstick has!
For ever Cova Lipstick sold Lou Lou Lips will donate the equivalent of 1 menstrual cup to The Cova Project.
Find out more about G.D Anderson and The Cova Project here
Buy your Cova Lipstick here