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Affordable sanitary napkins

Menstruation is not only a barrier to education for girls in the Global South but the lack of affordable sanitary products and facilities for girls and women also keeps them at a disadvantage by preventing their mobility and productivity as women. The lack of clean and healthy sanitation such as toilets and running water means that girls often do not have anywhere to change or dispose of pads safely and in privacy at school.

Photo of Janice Wong

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Improvements in sanitation can go a long way to combating the problem. In particular, free or affordable sanitary pads (and means to dispose of them safely) and building toilets in schools enables girls to manage their periods more easily. Hannah has posed the building of toilets as a solution and I'm illustrating some of the innovative ways people are tackling the challenge of affordable sanitary napkins.

When Arunachalam Muruganantham decided he was going to do something about the fact that women in India can’t afford sanitary napkins, he went the extra mile: He wore his own for a week to figure out the best design. You can learn more in the attached video where he talks about the time he realized that his wife had to choose between buying family meals and buying her monthly "supplies". Arunachalam Muruganantham vowed to help her solve the problem of the sanitary pad. He went on to create a system of simple machines to make modern sanitary napkins -- giving millions of women in his home country (and around the world) access to hygiene. You can view his TEDTalk in the link above.

Other groups, such as Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), are also helping local women in the Global South jump-start their own businesses to manufacture and distribute affordable, quality, and eco-friendly sanitary pads. Like Muruganantham, SHE couples its product innovation with a financially sustainable business model operated and owned by women in the community that can be replicated wherever the need exists. 


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Photo of Meena Kadri

Great share, Janice.

I'm assuming your use of the term "Global South" doesn't include our home country of New Zealand? :^)

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Photo of Mansi Grover

A similar initiative in India by an NGO called Goonj to provide women affordable sanitary napkins:

Photo of Janice Wong

Thank you for adding this initiative to the post. There are so many things I love about it: that it stresses long term change in practices, behavior change, education & replication; that the users can make it on their own; and that men and boys are active participants in the workshops as either staff or family members listening in. The greater the awareness amongst men, the less of a stigma it will be.

Photo of Mansi Grover

The BBC ran an article on Arunachalam Muruganantham today :

Photo of Janice Wong

A great article. Thank you so much for sharing this, Mansi.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Good catch, Mansi! And we're excited to see that someone created a Research post from it too:

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