Improving the Lives of African Women: Procter & Gamble “No Check No Stain” Campaign for Always Sanitary Pads
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Improving the Lives of African Women:
Procter & Gamble “No Check No Stain” Campaign for Always Sanitary Pads

Procter & Gamble’s growth strategy is about “touching and improving the lives of more consumers, in more parts of the world”.1 Africa, with one billion consumers2 is one of P&G’s focal points. Recently, P&G launched a campaign in Africa for its Always Sanitary Pad, “No Check No Stain.” The issue at hand for P&G is to explore the various ways that sanitary pads specifically can improve the lives of African women and to show women why sanitary pads are a healthful and economically feasible improvement over traditional methods of coping with menstruation.

Today, most of the women in Africa use traditional protection during menstruation namely, tissue and pieces of cloth instead of sanitary pads. This well established habit exists for three principal reasons:

  • • Cloth and tissue are usually readily available and cheap. Compared to sanitary pads, cloth and tissue are perceived as free or very low cost, especially given the need to change the tissue or cloth frequently, which women think will also be the case with the pad, suggesting to them that the cost of pads would be highly prohibitive. Pads are also not a typical retail item, and even the circumstances under which a woman can gain access to pads can be fraught with problems, as will be explained below.

  • • Using tissue/cloth is a tradition passed from generation to generation, from mother to daughter. For the women who use cloth and tissue, such a “choice” appears consistent with a social value system that stresses frugality by women, who may otherwise feel they are generating extra expense for the family and being selfish.

  • • Used tissue or cloth can be disposed of relatively easily, is not bulky, can be destroyed in pieces, and can be buried. The ability to keep evidence of one’s menstruation hidden is another strong motivation to use cloth or tissue. Menstruation, especially its onset among young women, is a social “marker” that can make many women uncomfortable and lead to a change in their status within the family and community (e.g., being marked as a “woman” capable of bearing children).

Studies show that sanitary pads, when replacing cloth or tissue, can improve the lives of women in two significant and specific ways.

First, the pads provide better protection against soiling and are more hygienic.3 It is important to note the lack of data from the developing world about the impact of indigenous menstrual hygiene practices on gynecological health. However, inadequate menstrual hygiene has been implicated as a risk factor for genital tract infection, particularly when cloth rags are used and washed in contaminated water.4 In addition, tissue does not protect well over time and likely to leak, consequently causing embarrassment. Cloth provides better protection than tissue but can be uncomfortable, can still cause soiling, and stays wet. A good quality sanitary pad, on the other hand, can significantly decrease the probability of soiling, does not need washing, and stays dry.

Second, it has been demonstrated that sanitary pads can improve the lives of African women by promoting better attendance among women at school during menstruation periods and also helping these women concentrate better while in the school, enhancing their chances at academic success.5 According to the Scott et al. study, girls drop out school for up to five days per month due to not having proper protection during their menstruation period. There are many reasons for such absenteeism, including cramping, the fear of soiling clothing, ridicule from other students, and unwanted attention from men, which may include their own teachers. The soiling of a uniform alone is a significant problem in a country that typically requires uniforms for school attendance and in which many families may find it financially impossible to buy a second uniform. The study documents that the provision of sanitary pad and puberty education to girls in Ghana reduced their rate of absenteeism by slightly more than half. The study also found that the girls who participated in the research reported: 1) an improved ability to concentrate in school; 2) higher...