Projects: Collaborate.Health

A Business Approach to Sustainable Menstrual Hygiene in Rural Ethiopia

Making biodegradable menstrual pads from the false banana plant in rural Ethiopia

Agency Partner
Program Design for Global Health
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Ethiopian women and girls, like the more than 1.8 billion peers worldwide, suffer from inequitable access to menstrual hygiene products. On any given day, nearly 300 million women and girls are menstruating worldwide. In Ethiopia, there are 24.1 million women and girls of reproductive age (WRA 15-50 years), but only 28% report having sufficient products for their menses. With 80% of expensive commercially available sanitary pads only being available within the urban areas, many rural and low income Ethiopians are left to make unhygienic makeshift pads from cloth or plants.

Binypharma hopes to provide women access to vital sanitary products through an innovative program that leverages existing natural resources, employs women in rural communities in the southern region to harvest the false banana plant, and trains urban women to work in factories to produce biodegradable pads. Binypharma ultimately aims to create a self-sustaining partnership with local farms and urban pad production facilities that can supply every woman and girl in Ethiopia with affordable and accessible biodegradable sanitary pads.


Binypharma partners with low-income communities in Ethiopia’s southern region to purchase excess banana leaves, normally wasted, for production of biodegradable pads. With a machine in urban Addis Abba that produces 200-300 pads per minute from the false banana leaves, Binypharma is currently producing 25,000 packs of 8 pads per month.

Women already run the farms where the banana leaves are purchased and eight female workers are currently producing these pads in a factory in Addis Ababa. Pads are then distributed back to partner communities at a price of $0.50 for an 8 pack.


How can we solve menstrual hygiene inaccessibility in southern Ethiopia that is sustainable but also fits the context of the environment?


Our program focuses on creating a sustainable business partnership with rural communities that transforms unused natural resources into a processed product that can be cycled back to the community to meet an important social need. In creating local partnerships, Binypharma is laying the groundwork for long-term business success and menstrual empowerment. The main components of the program are:

  • Provide new machinery to pulp and juice the false banana in each community and  transform the leaves into fibers before they are shipped to Addis Ababa.
  • Purchase excess banana leaves from women-led farms, providing an income and partnership basis
  • Create leadership and employment opportunities at sanitary pad factory in Addis for local women
  • Provide partner communities and employees with environmentally friendly sanitary pads at a cost $0.10 per pad.


Our program, much like any business model, utilizes cost benefit analysis to determine when the supply and demand necessitate a scale up. Sales of the pads, increased communities partnering with Binypharma, and increased average income of factory employees will be the indicators of the success of our program.

Project Timeline

This project took four months to complete from kick-off meeting to presentation of final deliverables. Click the button below for a detailed timeline.

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Saidat Akanbi, Nekailah Goncalves Andrade, Jenna LaFleur, Steffi Siebert, and Val Castrillon worked with Hanna Tsegaye from Binypharma on this project.