Period Poverty in Tanzania

Period Poverty in Tanzania

In Tanzania, period poverty is a significant barrier to the empowerment and progress of young women. The Maji Safi Group, a dedicated organization in this East African nation, is spearheading efforts to challenge and overcome this issue. This article delves into the various aspects of period poverty in Tanzania, examining its impact on education, health, and societal participation of young women. From the lack of access to basic sanitary products to cultural taboos surrounding menstruation, the article explores how these factors collectively hinder the potential of young women. Highlighting key statistics and real-life implications, it underscores the urgent need for change. Through detailed analysis and examples, the article illustrates the critical role of organizations like Maji Safi Group in not only providing necessary resources but also in educating and empowering young women to become leaders who can break down these longstanding barriers.

Maji Safi Group seeks to empower young women in Tanzania to reach their full potential and see them become strong leaders in their communities.

However, one of the main obstacles to the educational and professional growth of these young women is the traditionally taboo subject of menstruation. Period poverty in Tanzania affects many women and girls who don’t have access to safe, hygienic sanitary products, and who are unable to manage their periods due to community stigma.


In 2018, Tanzania’s government reported that 60% of women live in “absolute poverty.”

According to UNICEF, 27% of those living in the least developed countries like Tanzania lack access to sanitation services like a handwashing facility with water and soap at home. Managing periods is a major challenge. As a result, 85% of girls are forced to use unhygienic solutions, including using strips of cloth which can spread fungi and infection. 

Other important figures include:

  • Water facilities not available in 38% of Tanzanian schools
  • Water facilities are not operational in 46% of the cases
  • 63% of school latrines don’t have a place to dispose of sanitary pads

As of 2018, only 44.2 percent of schools in Tanzania had teachers trained on WASH issues, with only 50.8 percent of those teachers providing some type of feminine hygiene products to young girls. Maji Safi Group is committed to helping end these barriers to proper feminine hygiene. But first, we must seek to understand the available resource options and the issues with making them available for these women.


Due to the shame associated with menstruation, girls often isolate themselves at home during menstruation, even missing school. Promoting menstrual health with information helps to break the silence surrounding period poverty in Tanzania. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), about one in ten African teenage girls in remote areas miss school during their menstruation cycle and eventually drop out due to issues that surround period poverty.

While most Tanzanians face water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues, there are specific struggles for women surrounding feminine hygiene. Especially in rural communities, menstruation is often surrounded by silence, leading to a lack of education and resources. Millions of girls know very little about their bodies and what happens when they menstruate. There is also a severe lack of access to proper sanitary materials, and available resources are often costly. The lack of resources often forces girls to use many unsanitary options such as leaves, pieces of a mattress filling, or used cloth.

Schools are an important setting when it comes to menstrual hygiene because of the lack of safe and private toilets, clean water for sanitation, and affordable and safe hygiene products prevents girls from safely managing their menstruation. This forces them to chronically miss school and sometimes drop out completely. As a result, these young women face long-term socio-economic and educational effects and sometimes teen pregnancy or social exclusion.

According to a 2015 study by TAWASANET Menstruation Health Management, the majority of girl students – or about 62% – miss school due physical illness that results from menstruation. In most cases, these young women miss between 1-3 days of class.

As of 2018, only 44.2 percent of schools in Tanzania had teachers trained on WASH issues, with only 50.8 percent of those teachers providing some type of feminine hygiene products to young girls. Maji Safi Group is committed to helping end these barriers to proper feminine hygiene. But first, we must seek to understand the available resource options and the issues with making them available for these women.


Period poverty in Tanzania generally refers to the inaccessibility women have to basic necessities when it comes to their menstrual cycles. Unfortunately, menstrual practices are still clouded by taboos and socio-cultural restrictions. As a result, adolescent girls remain ignorant of the scientific facts and hygienic health practices, which lead to adverse health effects. 

To combat these prevalent issues, organizations like Maji Safi are taking intentional strides toward the development and acceptance of female hygiene

There are bacteria that naturally accumulate around the time of menstruation. Women and young girls are susceptible to infections during this time. For example, when there’s an imbalance of bacteria, females may experience infections like bacterial vaginosis, which can require antibiotic treatment. Unfortunately, due to the issue of poverty, many women in the Tanzania region are unable to acquire such medicine and often succumb to other illnesses. 

Measure to take to ensure proper female hygiene include:

  • Changing period protection regularly
  • Washing to maintain health
  • Disposing of period products hygienically

Unfortunately, period poverty in Tanzania also means that many young women don’t have access to these types of practices. Maji Safi Group is working to address these common occurrences through products that promote general female hygiene. Options can be found below.


Disposable Pads: These are the most accessible hygiene products for women, but they are also the most expensive over time. Many families do not see the need for them, so it can be hard for girls to convince their families to make the purchase every month. The proper disposal of pads is also a barrier. The pads are often put into pit latrines, causing the latrines to fill up quickly and have a shortened life span.

Reusable Pads: These are harder to find but more cost-effective because they can last for a year or two. One barrier with reusable pads is where to dry them. Since menstruation remains such a taboo subject, many do not want these drying openly for others to see. Washing and sanitizing reusable pads also poses a problem due to the lack of clean water.

Tampons: These can be very difficult to find even in urban areas. When they can be found, the barrier women face is twofold: tampons have a high cost monetarily and culturally. Since they are so rare, supply chains charge a high price for tampons, especially in Tanzania. They are also not accepted culturally because of insertion.

Menstrual Cups: These are a great economical option for women. Menstrual cups last 3-5 years. Even though they may be expensive initially, they are a better option over time than disposable or reusable pads. Rural areas have a difficult time getting access to menstrual cups, and there are risks involved if a sterile water source is not available for cleaning. Menstrual cups also face the cultural barrier of having to be inserted.

Challenges and Limitations of Current Efforts in Combating Period Poverty in Tanzania

Moving Forward: Addressing Period Poverty in Tanzania

Maji Safi Group is committed to providing proper education and access to resources surrounding feminine hygiene. One way we are accomplishing these goals is through Feminine Hygiene Groups where girls age 11-18 meet in after-school groups to learn about hygiene, health, and puberty. Participants in these groups receive reusable sanitary products, such as reusable menstrual pads and menstrual cups.

MSG’s Menstrual Hygiene Program is recognized as a founding member of the nationwide menstrual hygiene management coalition in Tanzania. The coalition is committed to improving the supply chain of menstrual products, educating girls and women on feminine hygiene, and breaking the silence of the barriers women face during menstruation. The young women in our programs have bright futures as leaders and change-makers, breaking stigmas and barriers surrounding menstruation and not letting this natural process keep them from reaching their goals any longer.

Challenges and Limitations of Current Efforts in Combating Period Poverty in Tanzania

Limited Funding and Resources

One of the most significant challenges in combating period poverty in Tanzania is the limited availability of funding and resources. Efforts by organizations like Maji Safi Group often face financial constraints that hinder their ability to reach a larger segment of the population. Limited funding also affects the sustainability and expansion of programs, making it challenging to have a long-term impact.

Cultural and Social Stigmas

Cultural and social stigmas surrounding menstruation present a substantial barrier. In many Tanzanian communities, menstruation is still considered a taboo subject, leading to misinformation and reluctance to discuss menstrual health openly. This cultural mindset not only hampers the distribution of sanitary products but also affects the effectiveness of educational programs aimed at breaking these stigmas.

Logistical Challenges

Delivering sanitary products and educational materials to remote or rural areas in Tanzania poses logistical challenges. The lack of well-established distribution networks and infrastructure difficulties, such as poor road conditions, make it hard to reach these communities consistently.

Gender Inequality

Period poverty is deeply intertwined with broader issues of gender inequality. In many Tanzanian societies, women and girls often have less access to education and economic opportunities, which directly impacts their ability to manage menstruation healthily and with dignity. Overcoming period poverty, therefore, requires addressing these deeper systemic gender issues.

Inadequate Government Support

While there are government initiatives aimed at improving menstrual health, these efforts are often inadequate. The lack of comprehensive government policies and insufficient implementation of existing ones limits the effectiveness of interventions. A more robust governmental commitment is needed to create sustainable change.

Education and Awareness Challenges

There is a significant gap in education and awareness about menstrual health, not only among girls and women but also among boys, men, and community leaders. Comprehensive education is necessary to change perceptions and practices related to menstruation, which is a challenge due to existing educational curricula and societal norms.

Health Risks and Misinformation

The use of inadequate menstrual hygiene products due to period poverty leads to health risks, including infections. Moreover, there’s a lot of misinformation about menstruation and menstrual health, exacerbating these health risks. Addressing these requires not only the provision of sanitary products but also comprehensive health education.

Sustainability of Solutions

Many solutions to period poverty, like the distribution of sanitary products, are not sustainable in the long term without continuous external support. Finding and implementing solutions that are sustainable and self-sufficient within communities is a significant challenge.

FAQ: Understanding Period Poverty in Tanzania

What is period poverty?

Period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities, and waste management for people who menstruate. In Tanzania, this issue is compounded by cultural stigmas and economic barriers, making it difficult for many women and girls to manage their menstrual health in a safe and dignified manner.

Why is period poverty a critical issue in Tanzania?

Period poverty is critical in Tanzania as it affects women’s and girls’ health, education, and equality. Lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene products can lead to health risks like infections. It also impacts girls’ education, as they often miss school during their periods, leading to higher dropout rates. Addressing period poverty is essential for promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls.

How does period poverty affect girls’ education in Tanzania?

Many girls in Tanzania miss school during their menstrual periods due to a lack of access to sanitary products and adequate sanitation facilities at schools. This absenteeism can lead to significant gaps in education, lower grades, and increased dropout rates, ultimately impacting their future opportunities.

What are the common alternatives used when sanitary products are unavailable?

In the absence of sanitary products, girls and women in Tanzania often resort to using materials like rags, leaves, newspaper, or mattress stuffing. These alternatives are not only ineffective but also pose significant health risks.

What is being done to combat period poverty in Tanzania?

Organizations like Maji Safi Group are working to combat period poverty through the distribution of sanitary products, educational programs, and advocacy. They also work on breaking cultural stigmas and increasing awareness about menstrual health.