Automatic sanitary napkin dispensers and menstrual hygiene awareness in Bangladesh

As students, girls often face unexpected hassles if their periods suddenly start at school. So begins the whispering – ask friends for a notebook, and if none are found, quietly ask school cleaners to get one quickly from nearby stores. Even after going to college, it’s still a concern for many young women if they forget to keep an extra pad in their bag. Many wondered if there was a solution to this common experience.

Easy access to and availability of sanitary napkins is the biggest barrier to maintaining menstrual hygiene outside the home for thousands of women. In schools, colleges, universities or other places, where most of the day is spent studying or working, most of them are at risk due to the lack of availability of sanitary napkins. Also, most women in the country are unaware of the dangers of unhealthy habits like using cloth rags during their period.

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Freedom Vending Machine, an initiative of Freedom, one of the leading sanitary napkin brands in Bangladesh, has been playing a leading role in raising awareness about menstrual health for the past few years. As part of this initiative, the country’s first sanitary napkin vending machine was installed at the University of Dhaka campus free of charge in 2019. The initial installation of 10 vending machines ensured the availability of affordable sanitary napkins for 15,000 university students. In addition, vending machines have also been installed at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, BAF Shaheen College, Eden Women’s College, North South University, BRAC University, Jagannath University, Jahangirnagar University, Rajshahi University and other such educational institutions.

Gradually, Freedom vending machines are spreading to various schools, colleges and universities across the country and have already crossed over 100 locations, creating access to affordable sanitary napkins for 3.5 million women at any one time.

Today, from schools to colleges to universities, Freedom vending machines bring relief to girls. Girls can now buy towels from vending machines anytime for just 10 Tk. With the insertion of a single 10 Tk note, the machine releases a single sanitary napkin. There’s no need to whisper, stress or feel embarrassed about having to ask favors or talk uncomfortably to shopkeepers for such a basic hygiene item. This wonderful initiative by Freedom has brought endless convenience for girls to access affordable sanitary napkins.

Freedom’s goal is to ensure that the period does not become a barrier to women’s lives, celebrations, dream fulfillment or empowerment. The initiative that started with “Freedom Vending Machines” with the simple goal of making pads easily available in educational institutions, is now moving forward to ensure women’s menstrual hygiene by creating the “Freedom Hygiene Network”, by installing more vending machines.