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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:

Photo of lee wallace

How might we create an affordable alternative? Or a method to 'gift'
Have you seen the Moon Cup?

THE MOON CUP is designed to catch your menstrual flow rather than absorb it. Its bell shape allows THE MOON CUP to fit snuggly and comfortably up against your vaginal walls, below but not touching your cervix. The rim is designed to help create a suction that keeps THE MOON CUP in place and collects your menstrual flow inside of it. The small holes around the rim are to help release the suction when you remove the cup.

The Moon Cup® menstrual cup is made of soft, non-latex, medical grade silicone. Introduced in 2006, The Moon Cup is innovative, economical, comfortable, and environment-friendly.

Visit the Usage and Care page to learn how to use The Moon Cup. The Moon Cup is FDA-approved and proudly Made in America.

I used one for a few years until my period stopped. I loved that there was no waste, easy to use, rinse and reuse.

Might there be a possibility to partner, they are a UK firm.
It could be a purchase as a gift like oxfam does. There may be cultural sensitivities that would need to be checked out for different cultures and countries.

Photo of Janice Wong

What an interesting idea. I have not heard about this product but am sure it would hold appeal to many organizations serving women in the global south. I recommend you contact organizations such as Women for Women, Women Thrive Worldwide, Plan International, Vital Voices, and the International Women's Health Coalition. Thanks for sharing.

Photo of Richard Dennis

Ruby Cup is a similar product. They donate one cup to a woman in Africa for each one purchased; they are based out of Europe. I helped arrange a marketing study for this organization. It seemed like a environmentally friendly product, though concerns to me are that the Ruby Cup/Moon cup require clean water, and education (how to keep the cup sanitary, so it does not cause more problems than it solves). A product that is both inexpensive, disposable yet biodegradable seems like a safer long term/user friendly/intuitive solution.

Photo of lee wallace

valid points, thanks for adding Lee

Photo of Kiri Dicker


I have been working on a project in the highlands of Papua New Guinea for the past two years to design a reusable sanitary pad for rural women. I met Rachel Khur, who was at the time with the Singapore University of Design and Technology and she came to the project site twice over a 12 month period to help us conduct some HCD research with rural women and facilitate a prototyping workshop.

The Simbu Provincial Government has now agreed to fund a product facilitate to produce these sanitary pads (known as Secret Moon) on a commercial basis.

Anyway interested in this project can email me on

Photo of Janice Wong

Wonderful. It's inspiring to hear about all of the innovative work going on in this area. Thanks for sharing.