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Sanitary napkin vending machine brings high marks for girls, revenue for womens groups in India

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A small sanitary napkin vending machine that was inspired by a young girl’s request at a 2007 UNICEF workshop is changing life dramatically for school girls in India, offering improved educational achievement to girls in 15 states while also providing an alternative source of income to thousands of women in Tamil Nadu whose Self Help Groups (SHGs) manufacture the napkins.

The Napivend, a coin-operated compact machine that automatically dispenses sanitary napkins, and a compact electric incinerator for disposal of used napkins, are manufactured by Faraday Instruments in Coimbatore and marketed through its subsidiary, Visaga Techno System.

The young girl whose suggestion inspired the idea had seen a machine at the railway station that showed her weight when she deposited a two rupee coin. She wondered if a similar machine could be developed to provide sanitary napkins. After extensive research, UNICEF Tamil Nadu contacted several companies about making a customised sanitary napkin vending machine. A prototype, installed at a government school in Kanchipuram, did not work very well because it did not have enough storage, did not show how many napkins were left, and did not work if the electricity was off.

Much further experimentation led to the creation of the Napivend, a wall mountable machine that has a day's battery back-up in case of a power failure and has a glass panel so girls can see if there are napkins left before they put in their two rupee coin. Depending on the model, it may have 20, 40, 60 or 100 napkins.

The machine costs around Rs 14,000 and, depending on the model, comes with a storage capacity of 20, 40, and 60 to 100 napkins. The incinerator, which costs Rs 18,000, can destroy 100 napkins per day or 15 napkins in half an hour. The machines currently are installed only in government-run girls' schools and colleges.

"We can supply machines as per specific requirements for different places such as government hospitals, primary health centres, schools, colleges, railway and bus stations, public toilets, highway petrol stations, hostels, and so on," Parimala, Marketing Coordinator for Visaga Techno System, told the Womens Feature Service. "I think it's a good idea to start with schools and colleges and later introduce it in public places. This will help girls, who are the primary users, to overcome their inhibition in walking up to one of these machines in a public space," she adds.

Following the success of the machines in Tamil Nadu, where they are installed in Coimbatore, Erode, Selam, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Cuddalore and Pondicherry, states like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala governments have also begun installing them, with Madhya Pradesh and Bihar also showing keen interest.

One class IX student of a Tamil Nadu school, who used to miss school at least five days a month as she was forced to stay in a solitary hut outside her tribal village during menstruation, is now one of the brightest students at her school. After the school principal squeezed the school’s meager budget in order to install the Napivend and incinerator at MC Palli secondary school in Krishnagiri district, 350-km southwest of Chennai, the girl was able to convince her parents not to keep her at home five days a month.

An analysis of attendance data in 30 schools by the District Education Office shows the link between the machines and higher attendance and enrolment rate of girls. “Absenteeism has reduced,” said M Bhaskaran, the district’s Education Officer.

As a result of the machines, the girls have been teaching their mothers about menstruation, once a topic that was never discussed. Murugambal, 14, a student of Government Girls' High School in Mekala Chinnampalli, regularly takes home sanitary napkins for herself and her mother. Observes Dr N. Shankar, who practices in Krishnagiri, "The vending machine and incinerator have certainly helped girls in a big way. And thanks to them, even their mothers are now aware of the ill effects of poor menstrual hygiene. They have started following clean habits and also take care to dispose of the soiled napkins properly."

Contact: Visaga Techno System

1373 - A, Jeya Shanthi Towers,

III Floor, Sathy Road, Ganapathy,

Coimbatore - 641 006, TN, India.

Tel: + 91 - 422 - 4376373


This story was prepared from several sources: A Revolution in Personal Hygiene in India, submitted to the Museum of Menstruation by Visagatech; information on the Napivend and Faraday websites; a story entitled

Unicef scheme vends girls’ education dreams, by Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, Krishnagiri (Tamil Nadu), September 21, 2008; and a story entitled India-Feminine Hygiene Supplies in Schools Reduce Teen Dropouts  by Alka Pande, datelined Coimbatore and distributed by the Women's Feature Service, New Delhi, India. The picture comes from the Napivend website.


Also see:

Talking about the 'unmentionable' - menstruation as a development opportunity  

Affordable menstrual pads keep girls in school, create jobs

Sanitary pad project changes lives of DRC refugees in Uganda

Making sanitary pads locally keeps northern Ugandan girls in school

Sanitary pads project provides income, keeps girls in school in Somalia

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