Pacific | Tonga

Teenager makes reusable period underwear more accessible in Tonga

Eighteen-year-old Evalani Pouli addresses a vital yet often overlooked need for women and girls in her homeland.

After the Ha’apai Tonga tsunami devastated parts of Tonga in 2022, a teenage girl swung into action making menstrual products for women available from her home in Sydney.

Evalani Pouli, an 18-year-old woman, decided to address a vital yet often overlooked need for women and girls in Tonga.

Tonga, like many other places, faces the challenge of expensive menstrual products making it a concern in the country.

Pouli recognised this issue and decided to do something about it.

“It’s not free.

It’s obviously essential but when you think about it, it’s the food, water, and clothing that are essential, and periods are not spoken about enough in my opinion,” she says.

She continues to send packs today.

When the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano erupted, Pouli understood that women would face even more challenges during this difficult time.

To provide practical and sustainable solutions, she sent reusable period kits, including period underwear and shorts designed for menstruation.

These innovative products feature a special lining that absorbs menstrual flow and can be used as regular underwear as well, adding to their convenience.

At first, Pouli faced resistance to her initiative when asking for assistance from her father.

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When he finally accepted her idea she then got feedback from older members of the Tongan community who found menstruation a sensitive subject.

She acknowledged these concerns but was determined to still send her donated products due to the need. for them

“I got pushback again when I was trying to translate the instructions of use.

I had older women telling me that it’s inappropriate; no one wants to talk about that, which, obviously, I understand, but as a young person, putting it into perspective,” she says.

Despite the initial challenges, Pouli’s initiative gained momentum, with support pouring in from various businesses and individuals.

She even won an award from New South Wales Council Pacific Communities for her service to her Tongan people.

Over 600 packs, including period products, clothes, masks for Covid-19, and hand sanitisers, have been donated, with a total value of around $10,000 Australian Dollars.

Pouli personally contributed $300 of her own money towards this effort.

Having recently completed her final year of high school, she now plans to visit Tonga in person to witness the impact of her initiative.