Collaborating across sectors to tackle period poverty in Covid times

Published on 6 August 2020

A new collaboration forged by IDS alumna, Tanjila Mazumder Drishti, is helping to support the menstrual health and wellbeing of more than 100,000 women and girls in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, Covid-19 has significantly reduced household income for many families in urban slums and rural villages across the country. Alongside impacting the daily food intake of people living in poverty, this financial shock has also pushed sanitary napkins out of the household necessity list. When one is struggling to arrange daily meals, sanitary napkins do seem like a luxury item to spend on. As a result, over the last few months many women and adolescent girls in poor households have gone back into the practice of using old unhygienic cloths during their menstruation, putting themselves at a risk of infection and disease. While many organisations are providing support with essential items for household- level relief, sanitary pads do not make it on most of those lists either.

Bringing business and development together

IDS alumna, Tanjila Mazumder Drishti recently led the formation of a partnership between BRAC (the world’s largest NGO) and Proctor and Gamble to support adolescent girls and women in poor households with sanitary pads for safe menstruation amid the pandemic. The sanitary pads were distributed through BRAC’s door-to-door network and local collaborations in urban slums, rural villages and remote indigenous communities across different parts of Bangladesh.

The initiative has brought together the best of business and development to support more than 100,000 adolescent girls and women across the country through BRAC’s nationwide community networks. This collaboration has also pointed out the importance of having a gender lens in designing household level relief baskets in various Covid response initiatives. This has further led to dialogues between NGOs, CSOs and various volunteer networks about the need of acknowledging sanitary pads as an essential item in household level relief in light of the economic shock caused by covid. Because, periods do not stop for a pandemic.

Drishti graduated from IDS in 2018 with a Master’s in Globalisation, Business and Development before re-joining BRAC as a senior manager. In 2018, she was the youngest senior manager in the organisation. Drishti was also recently named as a Women Deliver Young Leader for her prior work and commitment in pushing toward a gender equal world.

Reflecting on the collaboration Drishti said:

“IDS taught me that the lived realities of poverty could be different for different people within the same community or even within the same household. As a result of the pre-existing social structures and unequal power dynamics, the economic shock caused by the pandemic has affected women disproportionately in many ways. Hence, it is essential to put in a gender lens across all Covid response initiatives.”


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