Navigating Menstrual Health Challenges in Pakistan

Ideate Innovation researches menstrual hygiene challenges for Pakistani women to improve awareness and affordability.

The Challenge

Around 33 million girls aged 10-19, with the number increasing when considering older women, struggle with menstrual hygiene in Pakistan.

Ideate Innovation, in collaboration with BOPinc and Hystra, conducted research in Karachi and Kasur on the challenges faced by low-income women regarding menstrual hygiene. The project aimed to explore various factors such as product usage, economic constraints, purchasing behaviors, cultural influences, and the importance of water and sanitation infrastructure in menstrual health management.

The goal of the research was to offer actionable insights to improve awareness, affordability, and overall menstrual health for women in marginalized communities.

Our objective is to address one of the most critical health issues for a significant portion of any country’s population. By learning about cultural contexts and financial decisions of women in low-income communities, we are confident we can promote better-suited menstrual solutions for them.

Tessa Fiji, Impact Manager, BOPinc

The Work

Understanding Menstrual Hygiene Norms & Beliefs

“Despite the pain, I have to continue working anyway, especially with the kids. Women are not fated to take breaks and rest.”
- Menstruating Woman, 37

In Pakistan, menstruation is often associated with impurity, leading women to conceal it from male family members due to beliefs regarding menstrual blood's association with shame and religious values. Some women also fear black magic or consider it sinful for men to see used pads, prompting them to ensure thorough and private washing and disposal methods. Consequently, women employ various strategies such as burning used pads, washing them before discarding, or altering their mobility and dressing to conceal menstruation.

During the research, menstruating women were segmented into 4 different kinds of personas, based on product usage preferences and behaviours.

Another set of interviews was also conducted with influencers who played a role in the menstruating women’s lives, in terms of practices and decisions. These included mothers, husbands, mother-in-laws, lady health workers and sisters:

Interviews with store owners in Karachi and Kasur were also conducted, exploring purchasing decisions of menstruating women, mapping product awareness, perception, and affordability. Research also examined affordability and budgeting, revealing insights into spending on menstrual hygiene products.

The Outcome

At Ideate Innovation, we believe that design choices can transform lives. Recognizing that insights alone were not enough, we transformed research findings into actionable design principles for menstrual hygiene products tailored to low-income women in Karachi and Kasur.