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Irise / East Africa Work  / Statement from our outgoing CEO, Emily Wilson

Statement from our outgoing CEO, Emily Wilson

Irise was started in response to a Kenyan schoolgirl, given a chance to tell stakeholders what she wanted and needed, sharing that periods were holding her back in school and that no one would listen. We dreamt of creating an institution that could champion the voice and leadership of the people most sidelined by this issue. An institution that could make people listen to the voice of a Kenyan schoolgirl and that could help her find the courage to speak out in the first place. I believe that our Kenyan school girl would be proud of what her testimony has achieved over the last decade.

As I prepare to handover a truly unique leadership role, I wanted to share some of my personal highlights of the last decade of Irise:

  • Our concurrent session on Period Equality at Women Deliver 2023, bringing together youth activists, grassroots leaders, government representatives, Leaders from UN agencies and global funders to produce a new global call to action for Menstrual Justice for All.
  • The ‘Every Period Counts’ Campaign in the UK, securing coverage for period dignity in UK schools on the Today Programme, BBC, ITV, Sky News, reaching 791 million people, sparking conversations in schools across the country and securing national policy change.
  • The launch of The Period Equality Network, now boasting 160+ members across the East Africa region, currently administering the second round of small grants for grassroots action.
  • Irise being named as one of the eight most effective organisations in the world tackling period poverty and shame in a global report by The Kulczyk Foundation and Founder’s Pledge in 2020.
  • Convening on the UK government’s Period Poverty Taskforce in 2020.
  • Receiving the Power Together Award from the Global Women Political Leaders Forum in 2019 on Irise’s behalf- in recognition of our contribution to building a global movement to end period poverty and shame.

Women Deliver (right), Every Period Counts (centre), Power Together Award (right)

As I prepared this year’s annual reports, one quote really stuck with. It was from Leilah, a Ugandan school girl receiving a microgrant, training and mentorship as part of our Rise-Up covid recovery work. She said, “Thank you Irise, for seeing my capability.” This is the power of Irise in action. A collective ability to recognise and unlock power and potential in unexpected places and overlooked people.

As Irise embarks on a second decade of global impact towards Period Equality for All, I know that this will remain the beating heart of the work that we do.

I have often quoted the African proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” Irise is about the power that we find in ourselves and others when we stand together for social change.

Here’s to being bold enough to believe in a fairer future,


Read Irise’s statement on Emily’s departure here. 


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