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SaniMart: A cycle of success

It may seem hard to imagine, but menstrual hygiene awareness and support can play a key role in determining girls’ fates.

Recent national surveys in Bangladesh found that:

  • Over 80% of menstruating girls and women did not have proper hygiene products or practices, leaving them at risk of infection.
  • Of these girls, 40% reported they often miss school during menstruation, while more than 70% are kept from community activities.
  • Just 32% said they knew what menstruation was before it began – leaving the majority to assume a normal bodily function could actually be a troubling occurrence.

“Low-cost, hygienic napkins are not available here,” says Lucky, a local community member. “Many women are embarrassed and do not know proper menstrual hygiene care, which often causes illnesses.”


Thanks to you, this is changing for over 25,000 adolescent girls engaging in sanitation and hygiene activities across Bangladesh!


Your support has been helping women and girls (aged 14-18) kickstart their own hygiene-boosting businesses, like SaniMarts, which are now popping up across rural communities.

Initially proposed by these entrepreneurs themselves, and backed by your support, participants received training and materials to create effective, low-cost sanitary pads – and turn a profit.

“Plan International extended its support to us through the Because I am a Girl project,” explains Lucky. “They gave us all we need to start a sanitary pad business. Fifteen adolescent girls now work with me and we produce thousands of napkins a week. From each packet we make a profit.”

Like teenagers around the world, SaniMart members spend 1-2 hours per day at their afterschool job, successfully producing an average of 4,000 pads each month. Eager to expand, the ambitious group currently sell their products in 12 pharmacies, 5 shops, 2 clinics and 138 schools, and are spreading hygiene awareness wherever they go.

The benefits have been two-fold: the business serves as a source of income helping support financial independence, while the products provide the chance to stay healthy, in class and active within the community.

“Now I make an income and can spend a large portion of it on caring for my children and family,” says Lucky. “We are hopeful that one day our small initiatives will turn into a large enterprise.”

Today, the SaniMarts you support are opening up improved health, economic and educational opportunities. They’re also putting the decision-making power surrounding women’s health issues right where it should be: in the strong and capable hands of the women and girls themselves.

The SaniMart cycle of success

Step 1– Refining: Raw cotton materials are processed in a machine.

An adolescent girl in a safety mask feeds cotton into a machine.

Step 2 – Cutting & rolling materials: The refined cotton is rolled and layered with medical cotton, then covered with netting and cut to size.

Adolescent girls gather in a circle to cut and roll sheets of refined cotton.

Lucky (in blue, at centre) and SaniMart members cut material at left, and roll it at right.

Step 3 – Sewing: Each napkin is then sealed with a sewing machine.

An adolescent girl stiches sanitary pads using a sewing machine.

Step 4 – Sterilizing: Finished napkins are placed in an auto-clave machine for disinfection.

Lucky uses an autoclave to sterilize the pads.

Step 5 – Drying: After disinfection, the napkins are placed in a dryer to remove all moisture.

Pads line a special enclosed drying rack.

Step 6 – Packing: 8-10 napkins are then bundled together in a sealed package.

Girls seal the sanitary pad-filled packages.

Step 7 – Distribution: Napkins are sold either directly to customers or stocked within local pharmacies, shops, health centres and schools.

Lucky and an adolescent girl fill out paperwork within the SaniMart shop.

Lucky (at left) and fellow SaniMart members count stock and balance the books.

Step 8 – Sales: SaniMart napkins are sold at a low cost to community members.

A SaniMart member provides keen students with fresh supplies.

Step 9 – SUCCESS!

True to the possibility that lies within these small but mighty menstrual pads, the girls of the SaniMarts have fondly dubbed them “Shanti”, which translates as “peace”.

It’s a heartening idea: that something amazing can come from just one simple solution. And now – with your support – these girls are proving it isn’t impossible.

So there you have it: One girl. One pad. Endless possibilities.

And it all started with you.

Return to the Because I am a girl project