Machines

Vending machines on campus offering sanitary napkins to students

Maintaining menstrual hygiene is not easy in Bangladesh, where people often don’t even say her name due to the stigma and taboo associated with it. While young adults and teens associate it with something negative, even dirty, parents aren’t too keen on talking about menstruation with their daughters either.

Menstrual myths have a long history in this subcontinent, but small changes are underway to help break the taboo and raise awareness of the need for hygiene for girls and women.

ACI Ltd, one of the largest conglomerates in Bangladesh, has taken an initiative for this purpose: the installation of vending machines for sanitary napkins on the campuses of different educational institutions so that female students can easily buy sanitary napkins in when needed without any hassle.

The group has so far installed 50 vending machines across Bangladesh, offering sanitary napkins at below market price to make menstrual hygiene more accessible.

Start of change?

Initially, in December 2019, ACI Ltd installed 10 vending machines on the campus of Dhaka University (DU), offering its Freedom brand sanitary napkins to around 12,000 students, taking into account that university students spend a lot time on campus.

They have been installed in all women’s dormitories, the Teacher-Student Center (TSC) women’s washrooms and a few college faculties.

DU student Sayma Akter Promee, who is housed in Ruqayyah Hall, said she no longer worried about carrying a sanitary napkin because vending machines offered instant service.

“There were a lot of days at the end of the months when I didn’t have enough money on hand and I didn’t know when my menstrual cycle would start. The machines came in handy during those tough times. don’t have a lot of flow at the end of the cycle, so it’s not necessary to buy a whole pack at that time. For the last few days, it’s wiser to buy three to four individual pads at the vending machine,” she said.

Echoing Promee’s sentiments, DU criminology student Dalia Yousuf said students could buy tampons from machines in an emergency, even when the hall market was closed.

“TSC’s is much more beneficial. In our hallways, almost everyone keeps towels in their room, but we use it the most when we’re on campus,” she added.

Satisfied with the service but feeling the need for more, students said vending machines should be installed in all educational institutions, markets and other places frequented by girls and women to ensure access to towels in case of emergency.

“There is a vending machine for sanitary napkins in our hall, but there was no need to install it here,” Jahangirnagar University student Nabila Noor Mumu said, adding that the students had desperately needed the vending machines in their departments as they were spending the most. of their time there.

“We are now attending in-person classes and I had a horrible experience on campus a few days ago. I was in our department building when suddenly my menstrual cycle started. Fortunately, one of my friends had a tampon in her purse and let me use it,” she said.

Mumu said the only other option she had was to return to her dorm by rickshaw, which would have taken at least 15 minutes, and by then she would likely have had blood on her clothes.

Meanwhile, some said the machines continued to reject money if the notes were old or used coins, calling for an immediate solution.

Scaling

Md Qamrul Hassan, Commercial Director of ACI Consumer Brands, acknowledged that there were some constraints and said that this was the first initiative of its kind and there were some issues, but it was a work in progress.

“We imported 100 vending machines from China in 2019 but could not install them all due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

But he assured that installation work will continue soon.

He said ACI Ltd had no intention of making a profit from the service, which is why they were selling the pads at a lower price.

The service, which started at the University of Dhaka in December 2019, was later added to all female dormitories at Jahangirnagar University, Jagannath University, Eden College, Lalmatia Govt Mohila College, from Central Women’s College and Bangladesh University of Textiles (Butex).

Among private universities, the service is available at American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB) and Daffodil University, and only BAF Shaheen College among colleges.

Outside of Dhaka, it is available to students of University of Chittagong and University of Rajshahi.

ACI Ltd plans to install 500 sanitary napkin vending machines in the next 5 years across the country.