Catching up with Ira Concept: How Ira has adapted their social enterprise to serve in the time of crisis
On February 6, 2023 a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southern Turkey near the northern border of Syria causing thousands of deaths and millions of homeless survivors. The initial destructive earthquake was only the first of multiple magnitude 5 earthquakes to follow in the future weeks, ultimately causing the 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake to be the “worst natural disaster in the WHO European Region for a century” according to the WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge (Politco 14 Feb 2023). Millions continue to be internally displaced with many families living in temporary shelters. Essential infrastructure has been severely damaged, jeopardizing the well-being and health of children and families (UNICEF 6 April 2023).
Though not known for its emergency response, Ira Concepts from Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator’s second cohort, had to do something.
Ira Concepts was founded by the inspiring Varangtip Satchatippavarn who “wanted to change everything about pads for Thai people by making disposable pads that are biodegradable”. In her own words, “The company was born out of my own pain point of not finding the right products for me” since many pads have hidden ingredients and cause rashes. Varangtip’s goal was to end period stigma by changing how pads are perceived, bought and disposed of. As a result, through Ira Concept, she created pads that look genderless, are available in a subscription model and can be decomposed at home. In addition to the fundamentals of the product itself, Ira Concept dedicates themselves to helping communities within Thailand and abroad. They advocate for and give donations to offices and schools in need of menstrual products while developing education and awareness programs to reduce period stigma.
Ira Concept responded to the devastating crisis in Turkey head-on. Varangtip noticed that the Turkish embassy in Thailand was opening an area to accept donations to send to the earthquake victims and recognized that sanitary pads were on the list of things they were asking for. She sprung into action by contacting the embassy and moving the sanitary pads and similar products to the cargo airline planning to go to Turkey. As a result of their quick and generous efforts, Ira Concept was able to provide thousands of resources to the survivors struggling with collapsed homes and physical injuries.
Turkey-Syria Earthquake: Ira Concept pads in the airport warehouse waiting to be loaded on plane to Turkey
Ira Concept is an inspiring example of how a social enterprise can pivot from their main projects during crises in order to take action and help thousands of survivors in need. Ira has gone above and beyond to make a positive impact within Thailand and abroad through their dedication to creating biodegradable pads and developing education programs to end period stigma.
To continue to learn more about Ira Concept and their other community projects, explore their website!
– Written by Sophia Sacchetti, Duke University student and DUIA Research Assistant
To learn more about the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator, visit www.dukeunicef.org