In many societies around the world, taboos associated with menstruation, combined with an overall culture of silence around the topic, limit the ability of women and girls to fully and equally participate in society, undermining their overall social status and self-esteem. Menstrual Hygiene Day is an annual awareness day on May 28 to help break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential. According to UNICEF, menstrual and hygiene needs remain unchecked due to gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, and poverty. Girls face stigma, harassment, and social exclusion during menstruation. This compels girls and women to adopt traditional feminine hygiene products or completely avoid using them. For example, girls in Bolivia were reported carrying around used sanitary napkins because they believe the blood could cause disease if it comes in contact with other garbage. In many societies, tampons are reserved for married women in fear that they can rupture the hymen.
Feminine hygiene products are personal care products used during menstruation, vaginal discharge, and other bodily functions related to the vulva and vagina. The Global Feminine Hygiene Overview 2020-26, report by Actual Market Research is segmented by product type into sanitary pads/napkins, tampons, menstrual cups, panty liners, and others. By distribution channel, the market is segmented into supermarket/hypermarket, convenience stores, drug stores/pharmacies, online retail stores, and others. By geography, the market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East, and Africa. The report also offers market size and forecasts for feminine hygiene products across the major regions.
Due to the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the governments around the world announced strict lockdown measures for consumer goods manufacturing companies, such that either most of the factories were directed to be either shut down or operate with a limited workforce. This created massive disruptions in the supply and distribution chain for sanitary napkins during the lockdown, thus hampering the sales of the products studied in the market. However, as feminine hygiene products are being categorized under essential items, their production and sales were soon normalized, thus stabilizing the market studied during the 2020 period.
Globally, access to menstrual products and education about menstruation varies substantially. Developed countries tend to have a wide availability of feminine hygiene products such as tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and pantiliners. In other areas, particularly in parts of Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, access to menstrual products, especially disposable ones, is highly limited. Women in these areas typically use a reusable cloth to absorb menstrual blood but do not always have facilities or proper cleaning products to adequately clean soiled cloths. In countries where products are widely available, access to products may still be a struggle for some women, particularly those living in poverty or who are homeless. Homeless shelters tend to focus on providing meals and clothing, and feminine hygiene is not presented as a priority to donors.
Increasing access to menstrual products in both developed and developing countries is a problem to which greater attention and resources need to be devoted. Improving women’s experience of menstruation globally will require a coordinated effort of policymakers in each country, the private sector, and women’s rights activists. Currently, the issue of the non-biodegradability of feminine hygiene products is a serious environmental concern. However, the development of eco-friendly products such as sanitary napkins from natural fiber is a sustainable option to advance in this market. The naturally available absorbent fibers such as organic cotton, banana fiber, jute, and bamboo, etc are widely available, are biodegradable, and have a low carbon footprint. The use of these fibers also reduces the manufacturing cost of sanitary napkins.