Menstrual hygiene is a critical aspect of women’s health and well-being. Yet, it is often overlooked or stigmatized in many parts of the world. In Tanzania, menstrual hygiene remains a taboo subject often met with silence and shame. In addition, the lack of access to affordable and reliable menstrual hygiene products is a significant barrier to women’s education, employment, and social mobility.
Maji Safi, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Tanzania, is working to change this narrative by providing access to menstrual hygiene products and education to girls and women in rural communities. This article explores the challenges women face in Tanzania with regard to menstrual hygiene and the impact of Maji Safi’s interventions on these women’s lives. It highlights the need for more investment in menstrual hygiene education and infrastructure in Tanzania and other low-income countries to ensure that all women have access to the essential resources to manage their periods with dignity and without shame.
Menstrual Hygiene Products
In many places, menstruation is a taboo subject. It is shrouded in silence and stigma, so people are not properly educated about menstrual hygiene health (MHH), reproductive rights, and respect for the other sex. In addition, a lack of access to feminine hygiene products keeps women and girls away from work and school, and the use of makeshift materials, such as old rags, hay, and mattress fillings, leads to serious health issues.
Maji Safi Group has built an innovative and much respected Male and Female Hygiene Program in the Mara Region of Tanzania. Through interactive school classes, community events, and radio shows, we have helped break the silence and educated thousands of people about menstruation and reproductive rights and given the girls in our school programs free access to different kinds of feminine hygiene products: disposable pads, reusable pads, tampons, and menstrual cups.
Fortunately, menstrual hygiene products are becoming increasingly accessible and affordable to females in Tanzania.
Below is a list of companies that are targeting this need, including a brief description of their products.
Anuflo Industries – Introduced affordable, safe, and eco-friendly menstrual cups to rural Tanzania and created an app and a website in Swahili to educate their users and provide a convenient way for girls and women to track their menstrual cycle.
AFRIpads – Started as a 3-person social enterprise and now delivers reusable menstrual pads to 37 countries. They are committed to providing cost-effective and eco-friendly MHH solutions that support local manufacturing and rural development. Their standard kit includes 2 Super Maxi pads, 3 Maxi pads, and a carrying pouch.
ReliefPad – Makes eco-friendly, reusable pads with a focus on chemical- and fragrance-free products with anti-microbial properties that kill off germs to protect from infections. They empower 10 million girls across the globe by breaking taboos, providing MHH education, and offering pads.
Luna Cups – Makes eco-friendly menstrual cups from soft, durable, and hypoallergenic medical grade silicone that eliminates the risk of toxic shock syndrome. The cups can be left in place for up to 12 hours, where after they should be emptied, rinsed with water, and reinserted. After each period, they must be sterilized and then stored.
Always – Is an American product manufactured in Canada and sold globally. Their menstrual hygiene products include disposable maxi pads, ultra-thin pads, panty liners, disposable underwear for nighttime wear, and vaginal wipes. They have run several campaigns, such as ‘Always Keeping Girls in School’ and ‘End Period Poverty’ where a pad was donated for each package sold.
Be Girl – Is a social enterprise committed to meeting the menstrual hygiene needs of 250 million girls with high-performance products, addressing gender equality, and giving girls choice, confidence, and courage. Be Girl also provides age-appropriate menstrual education for girls and boys. They are well-known for their period panties.
WomenChoice Industries– Is a social enterprise that manufactures and distributes low-cost reusable breast pads, diapers, and menstrual pads called ‘Salama Pads’. Their mission is to ensure that every woman and girl in Africa stops using unhygienic materials to manage her menstruation. Salama pads can withstand 100 washes and are manufactured in Tanzania.
Fahari Pads – Fahari reusable sanitary pads are fabricated in Dar es Salaam. They are eco-friendly, ultra-absorbent, natural, long-lasting, and made of high-performance textiles designed to keep the user safe, dry, and comfortable during menstruation. Each kit contains 4 reusable sanitary pads (1 maxi and 3 regular size pads) and costs approximately $5.
Elea Ambassadors – Produces affordable, eco-friendly sanitary pads made from high-performance textiles. The reusable pads provide protection for 12+ menstrual cycles. Elea Pads are distributed and sold by a woman-to-woman, micro-entrepreneurial sales force, whose members receive start-up kits, training, and marketing support. Elea Pads has a network that reaches more than 50,000 girls and women in rural areas.
Lunette Cups – This Finnish company’s mission is to change the attitude towards menstruation and provide education and period care solutions, so daily lives are not interrupted by lack of MHH. The design of reusable Lunette cups is rooted in safety, ease, and comfort and accommodates bodies of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Lunette cups are ecological, convenient, and economical.
PrincessD Menstrual Cups – Made from medical-grade silicone, this South African menstrual cup brand is reusable for 10 years and offers leak-free protection for up to 12 hours. One menstrual cup is equivalent to approximately 3,000-5,000 sanitary pads/tampons over a 10-year cycle and therefore ideal for girls in impoverished areas and environments with without proper waste management.
O.B Tampons – The idea for a tampon that could be inserted without a separate applicator was initiated in Germany in 1947 as the cardboard used for the applicator in the American product Tampax was unavailable in post-war Germany. The young gynecologist Judith Esser designed it, and by 2010, O.B. tampons were exported to over 30 countries. Although not reusable, tampons are preferable to disposable pads, as they are more affordable and create less waste.
U By Kotex® – U By Kotex® believes that nothing should get in the way of a woman’s life, especially not her period, nor the negative perceptions around menstruation. Kotex produces disposable tampons, pads, and liners. The company is a founding sponsor and supports the mission of the nonprofit Alliance for Period Supplies, which collects, warehouses, and distributes menstrual hygiene product in local communities.
Lavy Pads – Tanzanian entrepreneur, model, and beauty contest winner Flaviana Matata has launched these high-quality feminine sanitary pads that are safe, comfortable, and affordable. Her goal is to break the silence and stigma surrounding menstruation and help vulnerable girls get pads for free while in school in low-income areas. Ten percent of her profits go directly towards this goal.
Mother Nature Products – This South African company has launched Glory Pads. They are plastic- and chemical-free, 100% natural and fully biodegradable within six months. They are highly absorbent, super soft and light, odor-free, and equipped with a unique bamboo charcoal center for maximum absorption and antibacterial properties. Revenue from Glory Pads supports MHH campaigns and educational programs in schools and communities.
T-Marc Tanzania – This organization is an independent, locally managed, non-governmental organization committed to improving the well-being of Tanzanians through programs that provide accessible, affordable health services and products in both Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. In January 2020, they launched Flowless sanitary pads. They are a high-quality, ultra-thin, and cost-effective product. They offer an ultra-soft cotton top layer, a breathable back sheet, super-absorbent core, side leakage protection, and aloe vera extract for freshness and smoothness.
Maji Safi Group
Maji Safi Group is committed to helping girls and women in Tanzania grain access to affordable menstrual hygiene products, so they can stay in school and be successful in the workforce. We are delighted to see that so many options are available. So far, our strongest partners are Anuflo Industries, AFRIpads, and Be Girl.