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.
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.
Arunachalam Muruganantham sanitary pad
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.