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How many girls don t have access to sanitary pads?

Access to sanitary pads and other menstrual hygiene products is a major issue affecting girls and women worldwide. It is estimated that approximately 500 million girls and women globally lack adequate facilities for managing their periods. This includes access to sanitary pads and other menstrual products, washing facilities, and education about menstrual hygiene. Lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene resources can have significant consequences for girls and women in terms of health, education, and empowerment.

Key Statistics

Here are some key statistics on access to sanitary pads globally:

  • At least 500 million girls and women worldwide do not have access to sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, or other menstrual hygiene products.
  • In many low-income countries, less than 50% of girls and women have access to sanitary pads and other menstrual products.
  • 1 in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their periods due to lack of menstrual products and facilities.
  • Women and girls in low-income countries on average spend about 2.3% of their income on menstrual products due to lack of access to affordable options.
  • Only 12% of women and girls in India have access to sanitary pads during their periods.
  • 23% of girls in India drop out of school after they start menstruating due to lack of menstrual hygiene management resources.

These statistics highlight the immense scale of the problem and how lack of access to sanitary pads significantly impacts girls’ education, health, and empowerment around the world. Providing adequate access to menstrual hygiene resources must be made a priority globally.

Reasons for Lack of Access

There are various interlinked reasons why so many girls and women lack access to sanitary pads and other menstrual hygiene products:


Menstrual hygiene products can be prohibitively expensive for girls and women living in extreme poverty. Even low-cost options may be unaffordable when incomes are less than $2 per day. The cost of commercial pads alone can add up to about 5-10% of monthly earnings. Many girls and women thus rely on old cloth, tissue paper, leaves, mud etc which are unsafe.

Stigma & Taboos

Menstruation is still a taboo topic in many societies. Myths, misconceptions and stigma result in a culture of silence around periods. Lack of awareness and open discussion contributes to lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources. Girls and women may be unaware of suitable products or be too embarrassed to ask.

Limited Access in Rural Areas

Commercial sanitary pads are often less available in remote rural locations where road connectivity is poor. Rural girls may have to travel long distances to buy pads sold only in urban shops. Lack of access and anonymity hinders use of proper menstrual hygiene products.

Lack of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Facilities

Managing menstrual hygiene requires access to clean water, sanitation facilities for changing pads, and private spaces for washing & drying reused cloth. However, billions lack access to basic WASH facilities globally, making menstrual hygiene difficult.

Lack of Women’s Participation & Empowerment

Women and girls often have little say in decisions about resource allocation and spending priorities, both at household and policy levels. Their menstrual needs may be overlooked or dismissed as non-essential, further limiting access to menstrual hygiene resources.

Weak Policy Focus & Public Spending

Most governments devote minimal policy attention and public spending towards menstrual health and hygiene. Menstrual hygiene management is rarely integrated into national policies or budgets in a strategic manner to enable affordable access for all.

Consequences of Inadequate Menstrual Hygiene Access

Lack of access to sanitary pads and proper menstrual hygiene facilities has significant consequences for girls and women:

Health Impacts

Use of unsafe menstrual absorbents and poor hygiene increases vulnerability to reproductive and urinary tract infections. It also exacerbates anemia among women and adolescent girls. This results in poor health outcomes and lost economic productivity.

Education Loss

Many girls miss school or drop out entirely after starting menstruation due to lack of sanitary products and menstrual-friendly WASH facilities in schools. This negatively impacts their academic and professional trajectories.

Limitations to Mobility & Opportunities

Women’s and girls’ physical mobility and access to opportunities get limited due to lack of menstrual hygiene resources for use outside the home. Many urban homeless women lack safe spaces and products for menstrual hygiene.


The stigma, humiliation and loss of agency experienced due to inadequate menstrual hygiene management disempowers women and girls in all spheres of life. It reinforces gender inequality and perceptions of periods as limiting.

Environmental Impacts

Inadequate disposal and waste management of used sanitary pads, rags and other absorbents causes environmental pollution. Open burning and unsafe disposal of used menstrual materials impacts public health too.

Clearly, not having access to sanitary pads or proper menstrual hygiene has far-reaching consequences beyond just the inconvenience during a period. It fundamentally impacts health, education, dignity and empowerment of girls and women on many levels.

Efforts to Improve Access

Global awareness of menstrual hygiene issues has grown significantly over the past decade. Various initiatives and innovations are underway to improve access to sanitary pads and menstrual health resources:

National Policies & Government Schemes

Some governments are instituting national menstrual hygiene policies and schemes, like India’s Menstrual Hygiene Scheme that funds pads provision in rural areas. Kenya removed taxes on menstrual products to make pads more affordable.

Low-Cost Sustainable Pads

Social entrepreneurs are pioneering eco-friendly, reusable and biodegradable pad innovations made of sustainable materials like bamboo fiber, banana fiber etc. These provide affordable options.

Free Pad Distribution Initiatives

NGOs, charities, social enterprises are directly distributing free or subsidized sanitary pads to girls and women in slums, schools and rural communities on a campaign basis.

Menstrual Hygiene Education

Awareness drives through schools, community groups and media campaigns educate girls about menstrual health and hygiene practices, reducing stigma and Taboos.

Improved WASH Facilities

Efforts to increase access to clean water, private spaces for changing, and gender-segregated toilets with facilities for pad disposal and menstrual waste management are underway.

Policy Advocacy

Research data and advocacy helps highlight the issue and spurs commitment from policymakers to invest in menstrual health and hygiene through national strategies.

However, there is still a long way to go before affordable access to sanitary pads and comprehensive menstrual hygiene is available to all girls and women globally. Sustained efforts across all sections of society are essential.

Key Data on Access to Sanitary Pads Globally

Here is some key data on access to sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene across different regions:

Region % girls/women lacking access to sanitary pads
Sub-Saharan Africa 65%
South Asia 56%
Middle East & North Africa 42%
East Asia & Pacific 21%
Latin America & Caribbean 17%
Eastern Europe & Central Asia 5%

This data shows that Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the highest percentage of girls and women lacking access to sanitary pads, with over 50% going without in these regions. The lowest access rates are in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. However, the issue remains relevant across geographies to varying degrees.

Here is some country-specific data on sanitary pad access:

Country % girls/women lacking access to sanitary pads
Ethiopia 95%
Uganda 65%
Nigeria 55%
India 88%
Bangladesh 73%
Afghanistan 91%

Ethiopia, India and Afghanistan have over 90% of girls and women lacking access to sanitary pads. Uganda, Nigeria and Bangladesh also face huge deficits in sanitary pad access. Ensuring last-mile availability across rural communities remains a key challenge.

Key Takeaways & Conclusion

Some key takeaways from the data:

  • At least 500 million girls and women worldwide still lack adequate access to sanitary pads and other menstrual hygiene products.
  • Poverty, stigma, lack of WASH facilities and weak policy focus drive this deficit in menstrual hygiene resources.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are the worst affected regions, with over 50% of girls and women going without pads.
  • Consequences include health issues, loss of education and empowerment for women and girls.
  • Innovations, government schemes, education efforts and advocacy campaigns are underway to improve access.
  • Significant gaps persist, and much more policy attention and investment is needed to ensure menstrual health and hygiene for all.

Inadequate access to sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene continues to be a critical issue impacting millions of girls and women globally. Closing these gaps by making sanitary pads available, affordable and accessible to all is essential for gender equality, women empowerment, health and education outcomes. This will require breaking taboos, strengthening policy measures and sustained multi-sectoral efforts spanning public, private and social sectors. Availability of robust data, ongoing research and advocacy are crucial to drive commitment and inform evidence-based investments towards improving access globally.