This Company Invests In Menstrual Health & Sexual Pleasure Orgs. To Fast-Forward The Cause For Gender Equality

Although it is 2021, it is still very common to have the word “taboo” automatically attached to issues such as menstrual health and sexual pleasure (especially women’s pleasure). Which is why the numerous organizations and funds that work to break the stigma are more important than ever. But it takes investment and support to ensure the message gets out there, which is what The Case For Her is all about.

Founded in 2017 by Cristina Ljungberg and Wendy Anderson, The Case For Her believes that by investing in key women’s health issues that have been long underfunded and overlooked, they have an unprecedented opportunity to push forward the cause of gender inequality to ensure women and girls can thrive.

The company recently announced the recruitment of health and development expert Shannon Lövgren as their new Managing Director. Shannon has a Master’s of Medical Science in Global Health and has spent the last seven years working with the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD) as Zimbabwe Director. At the ICLD, she was responsible for the training of over 250 senior officials and politicians in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) resulting in more than 150 projects working towards achieving SDG targets in Africa.

As the formal head of The Case for Her, Shannon will work closely with the founders to drive their mission forward. The Case for Her is a risk-tolerant and fast-moving team that began investing in menstrual health as a strategic stepping stone towards its larger goals of advancing gender equality. Today, The Case for Her has a global portfolio that includes investments and grants in companies like Clue, Unbound, The Pleasure Project, Sustain, and Acumen.

We spoke with Shannon to learn more about her background and work, and why focusing on sexual health and pleasure is a major part of turning the world toward greater gender equality.

Shannon Lövgren, Managing Director of The Case For Her

Congrats on your new position at The Case for Her. What are you most looking forward to doing with the company? 

Thank you! I am looking forward to many things but what I am most looking forward to is amplifying menstrual health issues to attract more awareness, investment, and research. Menstrual health is key to many areas of development and to expand the conversations around it into new arenas is exciting to me. 

I am also looking forward to the speed and flexibility of philanthropy to create investment-based impact. My background is in donor-based development, which often takes time to see results, and so I look forward to being able to make investments and create impact quickly.

You’ve spent your career focused on Global Health. Can you share more about why women’s sexual, reproductive and maternal health is especially important to you?

Women’s sexual health isn’t just essential for women and girls, it is essential for everyone’s well being and that is something that people don’t always think about. If women aren’t thriving, or healthy, then the world isn’t healthy. Women are half of the global population, and yet their health has been consistently overlooked and underfunded on so many levels. 

Menstrual health is still very taboo in a lot of countries, and in many cultures (including Western culture!). How is The Case for Her working to dismantle this stigma through the grants you award? 

The Case for Her began investing in menstrual health because the founders saw it as a strategic stepping stone towards gender equality. Menstrual health is an area that cuts across many different sectors, from sanitation and hygiene to education and health, so it is a huge opportunity for impact. 

We believe that women’s empowerment begins with understanding, owning & loving your body. The organizations that we work with are equipping women and girls with accurate information about their bodies, family planning, and reproductive health, and giving them the space to ask questions. 

The Case For Her Founders Cristina Ljungberg and Wendy Anderson

Why is it crucial for stigma to be broken down around menstrual health? 

Menstruation is a normal biological process experienced by half of the global population, yet harmful taboos and societal shame persist even today. In some places, young menstruators don’t know what is happening to them when they get their first period because the issue is so highly stigmatized that no one ever prepared them for what to expect and what to do.

The needs and requirements of menstruators vary across the world, as do the barriers that prevent them from fully participating in their communities, the workforce, and their own personal aspirations and ambitions. Breaking the stigmas around menstruation and opening up the conversation is crucial to closing the gender gap and reaching gender equality.

We’ve seen artists like Kiran Gandhi make statements about periods that go viral and drive conversation. We’ve seen documentaries about period stigma win Oscars. We’ve seen activists lobby for laws to make menstrual health products free or at the very least tax-free in a growing number of countries. What are your thoughts when you see movements like this create change on so many levels? 

I remember when Kiran Gandhi ran the London marathon free bleeding and how she had men and women talking about periods. It was amazing and we need more of that—more movements and more change on so many levels. Anything that gets people talking about periods is great because that is so key to removing the shock-value and destigmatizing the issue. Conversations create change and change is needed. Bring it on. 

Shannon (center) facilitated a Women in Political Leadership workshop in Cape Town, South Africa, focused on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Why do you think there is so much fear and taboo around the idea of female pleasure, even in 2021? 

This is an issue that is so rooted in the patriarchy and gender inequality. I think there is fear because there is real power in women owning their sexuality. We know that when sexual pleasure is prioritized as part of our overall health and wellness that we lead happier, more productive lives and that in turn is connected to better economic outcomes. There are so many layers to this issue and we need to address the stigmas so we can start tearing away those layers. 

What are the grants you offer used for, and how are they advancing the greater cause of gender equality? 

Our two portfolios (menstruation and female sexual health and pleasure) consist of a diverse set of funding from traditional investing, impact investing and grant funding. We don’t see ourselves as a grant-awarding agency in the same way that we don’t really see ourselves as FemTech investors, these are tools that we use in our philanthropy. The types of investments we make range from research and innovation to technology and design, but everything we do is to learn as much as we can so we can make the case and drive more funding into these areas.

What kind of progress do you hope to see The Case For Her achieving within 5 and 10 years? 

Our main goal is to prove that women’s sexual health is not “niche” and to drive more funding into the space. In five years I hope that women’s health issues are recognized as the smart investment and impact opportunity that they are, and on a global level. In ten years, I hope that we have worked ourselves out of a job and are not needed anymore. For that we will need everyone to get talking and spread the message that women’s health is global health. We are counting on everyone to raise their voices.

If there is a menstrual or sexual health company that would like to apply for a grant, what should they do? 

We are currently focused on learning as much as we can from our current portfolio and being active advocates for the issues we represent. The best advice I can give is to keep doing the amazing work you are doing and when the time is right, we will find you.