Products Specifically Designed to Tackle Period Poverty
(Credit: Looop Can)
Health Innovation Sustainability

Products Specifically Designed to Tackle Period Poverty

Period poverty exists when females can’t afford sanitary products (pads and tampons) and don’t have access to safe, clean bathrooms during menstruation. The World Health Organization says that at least 500 million females lack sanitary products and hygienic facilities.

Because of this, girls skip school, and women work; they cannot attend due to the lack of resources and the stigma around menstruation. Unfortunately, period poverty can interfere with the quality of life, societal advancement, and earning a living. In addition, it can be a health hazard.

Yet, despite menstrual hygiene being a worldwide health and human rights concern, many underdeveloped nations still have period poverty. Thus, many inventors and designers have developed low-cost, sustainable period poverty solutions to remove the menstrual stigma and help females live decent lives. These solutions are being implemented by organizations and individuals worldwide. Below are a few of the most innovative period poverty products available today.

Looop Can

The Looop Can
(Credit: Looop Can)

Looop Can wash reusable menstrual pads to reduce period poverty. This solution is ideal for asylum seekers in financial trouble, refugees in water-scarce locations, and persons who want to menstruate sustainably. The device uses buoyancy force to reduce the water needed for washing.

Looop Can was the Design Educates Award 2022’s Gold Prize winner in Product Design.

The Designer’s Inspiration

Final year student Cheuk Laam from Central Saint Martins designed Loop as her final product design project. She had just learned of a fire that destroyed Moria Camp in Greece, leaving 130,000 people homeless. Kara Tepe Refugee Camp is the largest on Lesvos Island, exasperating resource shortage problems. At least 26 million people are compelled to leave due to resource constraints. Accelerating climate change is adding further to the burden. The refugee crisis is one of the worst humanitarian crises, and this location is proof of that.

Women are especially vulnerable due to gender-based violence in the camps and the disregard for period poverty. The latter hinders their capacity to travel freely and seek education, food, and water. Menstruators change pads in their shelter, even though there’s no privacy, rather than in a dirty, risky shared bathroom. They require seclusion, security, and water and soap to clean. Unfortunately, those without economic power can’t receive medication when they have an illness from wearing pads too long.

About the Design

Products Specifically Designed to Tackle Period Poverty
(Credit: Looop Can)

After thorough research, Cheuk Laam found bamboo is the ideal material for reusable pads that are less prone to induce skin allergies. In addition, she created the pad with several layers, so it dries faster. The quick-drying bamboo cloth takes half a day to dry indoors and is warm in winter and cool in summer.

A complete set, which includes injection-molded washing pieces and pads, costs approximately £3. The product’s lifespan is about five years, the minimum period a refugee lives in the camp awaiting identification approval.

Noble Cup

Products Specifically Designed to Tackle Period Poverty
(Credit: Noble Cup)

Three-fourths of the 30 million menstruating women in Ethiopia endure period poverty. In response, the NGO Every Queen Bleeds produced Noble Cup – a safe, hygienic, long-lasting menstrual cup. It is a flexible, eco-friendly, medical-grade silicone menstruation cup with a lifespan of up to ten years.

Noble Cup Inspiration

Noble Cup Menstruation Education Workshop. Malala participated in a  workshop and discussions with high school girls.
Noble Cup Menstruation Education Workshop. Malala participated in a workshop and discussions with high school girls. (Credit: Malin Fezehai/Malala Fund)

Females may use Noble Cup in regions with little water or inadequate sanitation. The NGO also delivers period education along with menstrual cups around the country to eradicate period stigma. Ethiopia sees high rates of female genital mutilation, which makes women feel especially “alone and ostracized” during their periods.


Products Specifically Designed to Tackle Period Poverty
(Credit: Thinx)

Thinx makes absorbent underwear that can replace pads and tampons. In addition, using reusable period-proof underwear saves money on monthly disposables. The only downside is this company only works in the United States and supplies consumers. However, the idea of period-proof underwear could help solve period poverty internationally.

Menstrual Man

Products Specifically Designed to Tackle Period Poverty
(Credit: Let’s Endorse)

Arunachalam Muruganantham invented the cheap machine to make sanitary pads for less money than imported technology after seeing his wife suffer from period poverty. Since then, he’s sold over 1700 machines to 27 states in India and aims to sell them to other developing nations. He was featured on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2014, and a biopic was released in 2018.


Award-Winning Sustainable Banana Fiber Tampons
(Credit: Maria)

Rafaella de Bona Gonçalves created banana-fiber tampons for homeless women. Dubbed Maria, these sustainable absorbents aid the needy suffering from period poverty and lack access to bathrooms.

The Designer’s Inspiration

Thirteen million Brazilians are hungry or poor. If they can’t afford food, how can they buy sanitary napkins? Gonçalves ruled out biodegradable absorbent pads and a collecting cup because homeless women can’t clean themselves and sterilize things without access to clean water or a restroom. Thus, she invented the biodegradable tampon – good for females and the planet. It is hygienic, disposable, and generic.

About the Design

Maria is made of banana fiber and rolls like toilet paper. To make a tampon, unroll, detach, and roll up the torn-off section. As such, the tampon can adjust to suit the lady’s menstrual flow. Tear off less for light days and more for heavy days.

Scotland Passed a Bill Making Pads and Tampons Free for All Females

And lastly, since we’re on the topic of accessible menstrual products for females, Scottish lawmakers authorized free sanitary goods on February 25, 2020. The law helps poor women. They can get pads or tampons from pharmacies or community centers at no cost. Now imagine if more countries took such a humane initiative?

In Conclusion

A world free of period poverty is within range if sustainable and low-cost solutions like these are implemented in every country. However, access to cheap sanitary products is just part of the solution to period poverty. Society reform is also necessary to eliminate prejudice associated with menstruation. With ongoing effort, we can eliminate period poverty worldwide for good.

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