Photo of a hand holding a periwinkle Bfree cup, a menstrual silicone cup designed by Women's Global Health Innovations

i.d.e.a. Fund impact story: Leisa Hirtz, Women’s Global Health Innovations

Leisa Hirtz is passionate about period poverty. As CEO and Founder of the social enterprise Women’s Global Health Innovations, Hirtz and her team are on a mission to support women worldwide to manage their periods healthily and with dignity.

Revolutionizing menstrual care with the Bfree Cup

Their first product, the Bfree Cup, is the first and only physically anti-bacterial silicone menstrual cup, meaning it does not require boiling to clean it after every period. This is a game changer, especially for marginalized adolescent girls and women living in communities without access to clean water.

“I’m doing what I wanted, as a confirmed feminist, to do in my heart since the age of 15 —that is fight for global gender equality,” says Hirtz. “But the question of how I would do this eluded me for years.”

After studying science at the University of Toronto, she worked as a healthcare professional in preventive health and health promotion. Attaining a broader, more holistic view of the potential for new products to enhance overall health, she returned to formal studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design with a focus on fabrication and product development, including extensive work with plastics and silicone, a dynamic material used in many medical devices, including the production of menstrual cups.

Leisa Hirtz, CEO of Women's Global Health Innovations, with students in Palorinya
Leisa Hirtz, CEO of Women’s Global Health Innovations, introducing the menstrual cup to female students in Palorinya, Uganda. Source: Women’s Global Health Innovations (

When Hirtz learned that menstrual cups were being introduced to adolescent girls living in lower-income urban neighbourhoods in Kenya, she was struck by what felt like a bolt of lightning. Knowing that the stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation keep millions of girls and women who live in poverty from realizing their full potential, she felt she could play even a small part in the solution.

“I’m doing what I wanted to do, as a confirmed feminist, in my heart since the age of 15 —that is fight for global gender equality.”

“I had found my life’s purpose,” she says.  “I knew taking on menstrual inequity was a grand challenge and came to the logical conclusion that if menstrual stigmas and taboos persist, global gender equality is not achievable.”

That was over a decade ago. Today, Hirtz is even more steadfast in her mission and purpose to produce period products that positively disrupt and transform lives. Her goal is to provide high-quality products that are healthier, more comfortable and user-centered in design with a low environmental impact.

A sustainable vision for the future

Women’s Global Health Innovations received a grant from Innovation Factory through the i.d.e.a. Fund program. The i.d.e.a. Fund is supported by the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), to provide high-potential businesses with seeding funding and business supports.

The grant enabled the company to explore ways to automate its entire production processes better, resulting in reduced material waste and water usage. Hirtz appreciated the i.d.e.a. Fund’s focus on environmental sustainability in addition to the mentorship she received. “I was not expecting the depth of support and advice I received from my mentor. I’m confident knowing that I can still contact her for sound advice anytime.”

Hirtz has big plans for the Bfree Cup. Bfree Cup has currently reached over 30,000 girls and women globally. Hirtz and her team’s efforts have diverted 1.2 million disposable period products from landfills and have saved over 182,000 litres of water—and they have only just begun. “My goal is to be the most innovative period product company globally,” she says. “There’s got to be better solutions. We’ve got to do better.”

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