Acceptability of menstrual products interventions for menstrual hygiene management among women and girls in Malawi

Kambala, Christabel and Chinangwa, Angela and Chipeta, Effie and Torondel, Belen and Morse, Tracy (2020) Acceptability of menstrual products interventions for menstrual hygiene management among women and girls in Malawi. BMC Reproductive Health, 17. 185. ISSN 1742-4755

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    Background A key challenge for menstruating girls and women in low-resource countries is the inadequate and unreliable supply of menstrual products. Although development partners are implementing menstrual product interventions to address this challenge in Malawi, there is a paucity of information on the distribution of menstrual products and the acceptability of these interventions among users. Methods We conducted in-depth interviews with girls (n = 20) and women (n = 26) and 4 focus group discussions (FGDs) with women (n = 35) and 7 FGDs with girls (n = 60) to explore the acceptability of menstrual products interventions in 8 districts. Teachers (n = 12), community leaders (n = 6), community health workers (n = 8) and service providers (n = 9) were also interviewed to explore implementation issues and their views regarding the effect of menstrual products interventions on girls and women. Data were analyzed using content analysis. Results Common menstrual products being promoted include locally made reusable pads, commercially made disposable pads and menstrual cups. Overall, adult women preferred reusable pads and young girls preferred disposable pads. Reported benefits of using any type of material distributed included enhanced cleanliness and reduced school absenteeism for girls. While community leaders and teachers applauded the use of disposable menstrual products they expressed concern that they are not affordable for an average Malawian and bemoaned the indiscriminate disposal of used disposable pads. Women and girls highlighted their lack of facilities to effectively wash and dry reusable pads. Service providers bemoaned poor coordination and the lack of national standards to regulate the quality of menstrual products distributed at national level. Improved inclusion of males and health workers could enhance the sustainability of programmes. Conclusion While the available menstrual products interventions are acceptable among participants, we note several challenges including affordability, poor disposal methods, lack of attention on sanitation facilities and the lack of standard protocols to regulate the quality of menstrual products. Recommendations to address these issues are reported.

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