While feminine hygiene sections of stores are filled with familiar names like Always, Kotex and Stayfree, there has been a significant increase over the years in newer brands offering plant-based and organic products. Not only is it good for the planet, but it’s also needed for women looking to be protected during that time of the month while also being protected from unnecessary chemicals. Some of the newest offerings have come from Black women, including Beatrice Dixon‘s The Honey Pot Company, and now, Canadian-based Toun Omezi with NIIMA (pronounced “nee-ma”).
Omezi’s recently launched organic period care line was inspired by her own needs following the removal of an endometrial polyp. She desired cleaner feminine care products, and some of the options she’d used in the past, she realized, were far from that.
“I decided after the uterine polyp removal procedure to transition into a healthier lifestyle that will manage and mitigate the reoccurrence of the polyp. While researching, I discovered the harmful chemicals used to produce conventional non-organic sanitary pads that I had been using for years,” she tells ESSENCE. “I knew that I could not go back to using the conventional non-organic pads anymore now knowing what the adverse effects were, and I did not want other women to unknowingly do the same.”
In the past year she spoke with a number of women, family and friends, many who suffered from uterine conditions like fibroids, endometriosis and heavy bleeding. She discovered they weren’t aware that by using pads and tampons that weren’t organic, they were possibly further aggravating the issues that were impacting their periods and overall health.
“There is definitely a need for Black women to be aware of the adverse effects of exposing our reproductive parts to these harmful chemicals,” she says. “With that said, I am seeing more Black women transition to healthier and safer period care options.”
Omezi wanted to have a hand in providing more of those options. She was also motivated to start NIIMA as an impactful brand capable of taking on period poverty, which she’d witnessed in travels to Lagos, Nigeria as well as in her home of Canada. “From the bustling streets of Lagos to the trendy streets in Toronto, one thing that resonated with me is that regardless of race or background, period poverty wears the same face where women can not bleed with dignity,” she says.
That reality plays a role in the colorful packaging, which exemplifies the brand’s motto of “Designed by women for all women,” as well as in the construction of the products and her work to distribute them to those in need.
What she’s come up with are 100 percent certified organic cotton pads that are 90 percent biodegradable, which she’s working to get to 100. NIIMA also sells OEKO-TEX certified cotton period panties for those who prefer not to use menstrual pads. No plastic, no harmful chemicals, and both are now available online via the brand’s website in Canada and the U.S. The next rollout will include tampons in 2022, and the vision is to build NIIMA “into a full suite of organic, safe period and feminine care products” with both disposable and reusable options.
In the meantime, Omezi is happy with the first offerings, the reception to them so far, and with the good she is doing for women like herself.
“I want all women, not a few or some, but all women to have the ability to bleed with dignity using safe and healthy period care options,” she says. “More importantly, I needed to create a brand that would be transparent and open about all ingredients and materials that are used to manufacture our products. A brand that will allow women to make educated choices around the period product she will use.”