OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Sanitary Pads as Revenue Creation (SPARC)

Sparking women’s social and economic empowerment through the creation of economic opportunities and access to menstrual hygiene materials.

Photo of Plan International USA

Written by

*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

How has the project changed your life?
 “Before I came to work here, I just stayed at home, cooking and eating. Then I joined my Self Help Group and we were trained and many members started enterprises – our group has over 100,000 rupees saved now, you don’t need to worry about us!…Before I started working here, I had to ask my husband for money for everything. Now when I leave the house, people know me and greet me.” –Member of the existing pad production unit

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

We train women to manufacture, market, and sell low cost sanitary pads using local materials to provide the women with a source of income and increase the availability of these essential products.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

Plan International tackles root causes of discrimination against girls, exclusion and vulnerability.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

No, we have successfully pilot tested the idea through the development of one sanitary pad production unit (10 women) and the installation of five sanitary pad vending machines. Our goal now is to refine and scale up the model to improve coverage and impact more women and girls.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

In our target community:
-Women and girls lack access to affordable sanitary products. This negatively affects all aspects of their lives.
-Women have limited access to economic opportunities, which restricts their independence and ability to provide for themselves and their families.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

This project was designed to be implemented over three years. In Year 1, we will focus on refining our tools, identifying and training the women’s groups, and building brand awareness about the product. By the start of Year 2, the sanitary pad production units will be fully functional, and we will continue to support networking, business and marketing opportunities. In Year 3 we will scale-up production, and taper off support to the production units, which will be self-sustaining by this time.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

The project will be supported by a cadre of Plan staff, including technical experts in menstrual health and economic empowerment, who will develop the model and tools required. To implement activities at the community level, we will work through trusted local partners, including AVBT, CASP and Alam.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Program/Product/Service Design

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Iterate or improve on my product/service

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

We will measure project results both quantitatively and qualitatively:
-Quantitative indicators tracked on a monthly basis include: # women trained; # pads sold; # pads sold via vending machine; Costs per production unit; Profits produced per woman.

-Qualitative indicators to be monitored on a semi-annual basis include: Product quality; Perceived benefits of program participation; Knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to menstruation; impact of Saleeqa pads on buyer’s life.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

We met with women in the current pad production unit on May 9. Based on their feedback:
1) We are exploring upgraded versions of the pad production machines to allow for the production of a range of products (i.e. pads with wings, extra-large pads, etc.)
2) We will refine the training provided on the production and marketing of the pads to make it more comprehensive.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

-We are still considering how best to measure the impact that our product is having on our secondary beneficiaries, the women and girls who buy the pads. Because a portion of the pads are sold via vending machine, we do not have contact with the buyers. This makes it hard to know things as basic as how many women and girls are buying our pads or what percentage of buyers return for a repeat sale.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

This idea is a three year program that tackles the problem of women’s lack of empowerment and employment opportunities, as well as women’s lack of access to menstrual hygiene products in two urban slums in Delhi, India.

It addresses the problem by providing women from low income households with a profitable and sustainable source of income generation, while also improving access to menstrual hygiene products in the community. It intersects planet and prosperity because it promotes the production and sale of locally produced, all natural, biodegradable sanitary pads over the import and promotion of international products (planet), and by providing poor women with opportunities for employment (prosperity).

In India, gender inequality is prevalent. Women suffer disproportionately from poverty. The society is highly patriarchal which has a wide range of detrimental effects on the lives of women and girls: it impacts their opportunities for economic empowerment through restrictions on women’s mobility, access to education, and health facilities; reduces their decision-making power; and increases their risk of being a victim of violence. Women have fewer employment opportunities, and often struggle to access the capital, resources, and knowledge necessary to start their own businesses or income generating activities.

Women also face an additional (biological) barrier to gender equality: menstruation. Every day, there are 800 million menstruating women and girls around the world, and yet in many places, including India, they face serious barriers to managing their menstruation safely, comfortably and confidently. In many cultures, women face harsh social taboos that exclude them from certain activities during menstruation, and cause feelings of shame and embarrassment.

Due in part to these taboos, menstruation is not something that it is openly discussed, even among family members. Women and girls often have very little understanding of what menstruation is and what their options are for managing it. They also do not have access to affordable menstrual hygiene products like pads, tampons or menstrual cups because these products are not available in their communities, or because they do not have the disposable income necessary to purchase these products. One study found that of the 355 million menstruating women and girls in India, 88% rely on improvised materials, such as cloth or rags, which can lead to infection, discomfort or embarrassing leaks. The cost of hygienic products like sanitary pads is a significant barrier to use—70% of Indian families cannot afford sanitary pads (Plan India, 2013).

To improve gender equality for women, our project will address both access to economic opportunity, and improving access to affordable menstrual hygiene products.

To ensure that women and girls have access to hygienic and affordable menstrual hygiene products, Plan International has developed and successfully piloted a local production model, which this project will scale up in the Mangolpuri and Sultanpuri resettlement colonies of Delhi. We will take a two pronged approach: 1) creating opportunities for low income women to engage in income generating activities so that they can afford to purchase products; and 2) supporting the supply and distribution of low cost, affordable sanitary pads.

 To do this, we will train women’s groups to manufacture, market and sell low cost, disposable sanitary pads. This not only provides a source of income for the women, but also increases community access to affordable menstrual hygiene products.

Explain your idea

In the target areas, Plan International has established women’s groups with a membership of 20,000 women who receive financial education, leadership training, and entrepreneurship skills. Building on this platform, we will train interested groups in the production, marketing, and sale of simple sanitary pads, as well as business and financial management. We will provide the machinery, start-up capital, training, and technical oversight.

We will provide the capital investment for the purchase of the production equipment. These machines are low cost, have a low skill requirement, use little electricity, and are easy to maintain. The machines can produce 2,000-3,000 pads per day, allowing for high volume production. We will train the women to use the machines and perform routine maintenance.

We will provide the initial input of materials. The pads and packaging are made from locally-sourced, natural, biodegradable materials. By sourcing the materials and producing the pads locally, the environmental footprint and waste streams are significantly reduced compared to international products that are often promoted.

With our support, the women will work with local distributors, businesses, and vendors to sell the pads through stores and kiosks. We will also equip each group with a vending machine. The vending machines are locally made, manually operated, and require no electricity and little maintenance. They offer a simple, convenient, and embarrassment-free way to buy affordable menstrual hygiene products.

We piloted use of these vending machines to sell locally produced pads with great success—the demand for the pads through this channel outstripped the supply. The vending machines are primarily located in female-owned, female-visited businesses like beauty salons so that women can access them safely, and without embarrassment; this also helps to prevent vandalism and stock outs as store owners can monitor use.

By scaling up use of these vending machines and production of the pads, we will enable supply to meet the demand, improving women and girls’ access to affordable menstrual hygiene products throughout the target area.

To grow demand, build awareness on the importance of menstrual hygiene, and correct stigmas and myths, the women will act as educators, sensitizing local vendors, school students, women’s groups and other key stakeholders. We will also utilize posters and signage, radio spots, and word of mouth.

The pads are sold in packages of two. The cost of production, including raw materials, wages, and packaging is Rs. 2.80 per package and they are sold for Rs. 3.50 per package, a profit margin of Rs. 0.70 per package. Experience has shown this price point is affordable for local women and girls and provides sufficient profit for the producers.

The women’s groups will become progressively independent. By project end, the production unit will be self-sufficient, covering capital expenditures and operating expenses

Who Benefits?

The project will be implemented in the Mangolpuri and Sultanpuri resettlement colonies in northwest Delhi. These urban areas are characterized by high rates of poverty.

The primary beneficiaries of our project are the 100 female entrepreneurs who will be trained to produce, market and sell the menstrual hygiene pads. This project will provide the women with a sustainable method of income generation to support themselves and their families.

The secondary beneficiaries are the 30,000 women and girls in the target communities who will have increased and improved access to menstrual hygiene products. Currently, the demand for affordable disposable pads far outweighs the supply in the target communities. Because of this, many women and girls have difficulty accessing these necessities which can have a detrimental impact on their health, mobility, dignity and comfort.

How is your idea unique?

While there are similar initiatives training women on the production and sale of pads, this project is unique because of its use of low-cost technologies, particularly the vending machines. Most pad production models rely on face-to-face contact for the actual sale; however Plan realized that this face-to-face requirement posed a barrier to purchasing pads. Given the strong stigma around menstruation, women felt uncomfortable purchasing menstrual hygiene products from a person, particularly if that person was male, as many shop owners are. The vending machines offer a simple way for women and girls to have consistent access to sanitary pads without having to interact with another person to purchase them. We place the vending machines in primarily female-visited locations such as beauty salons, to ensure that women feel safe and comfortable using them. They offer a low-effort way for the women’s groups to sell their products, giving them more time to focus on product production.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

Working side-by-side with communities in 50+ developing countries, Plan International has been working to end the cycle of poverty for children for more than 75 years. And because no country’s or community’s needs are the same, everything we do—from strengthening healthcare systems to improving the quality of education, to advocating for increased protection and beyond—is built with and owned by, the community. The result is a development approach designed to improve the lives of the youngest members of the community for the longest period of time. Using this approach, in 2016, an estimated 69 million people were directly impacted by Plan’s work in over 51,800 communities in 52 program countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Plan has been working in India since 1979, and in urban areas of Delhi since 1996.

Plan International has extensive work across a range of technical areas including both economic empowerment and menstrual health. Our economic empowerment programming is based on the principle that when households are economically viable, stable and resilient, then there are better outcomes for children, including increased educational attainment, better health and overall well-being. Therefore Plan works with caregivers and youth to build their productive assets, learn skills to manage those assets effectively, and equip young women and men with the employability skills they need to secure safe and dignified jobs in the local economy. Our menstrual health programming seeks to ensure that girls and women can confidently and comfortably manage their periods without shame and embarrassment. To accomplish this, we work to promote access to girl-friendly sanitation facilities, hygienic menstrual hygiene products, and comprehensive menstruation and puberty education, and to create a supportive enabling environment free from stigma and taboos.

To manage this project, we will leverage Plan’s existing systems, financial and staffing resources, and financial control procedures and systems. The project will be supported by a small cadre of Plan India office staff providing short-term technical assistance and using state-of-the-art systems such as SAP for accounting and reporting, HR and administration software for rapid start-up and recruitment, and country and regional learning platforms. The project will also be supported by Plan’s US office to provide oversight and direction to ensure achievement of program deliverables and quality programming.

To ensure sustainability and local ownership, we will identify and work with local partner organizations to support implementation at the community level. We will work closely with these local organizations to build their capacity to implement quality programming and to ensure achievement of program deliverables.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

21 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of abubakar Mbarak
Team

This is amazing, but what are you doing for those young girls in schools or those who cant afford the commodities you sell. do you guys have a program for them, maybe subsidized prices or something of the sort?

View all comments