Project Everest

Customer Segment

[CUSTOMER SEGMENT]: Female Sanitation and Hygiene Malawi, July 2019

LEAN phase: Customer Segment


The July 2019 Female Sanitation Team have been researching and analysing information gathered from Malawian women and girls regarding their experiences and struggles with menstruation. The team have obtained an understanding of the thoughts, concerns and desires of Malawian women in relation to their current methods of menstrual hygiene management (hereby MHM). Through conducting surveys, facilitating focus group discussions and meeting with local female leaders and chiefs, the Female Sanitation team has been able to develop the founding key characteristics of the early adopter customer segment and a basic understanding of how to tailor a MHM solution to their wants and needs. 

Customer Archetype: 

MHM poses as a significant barrier to the social / economic participation and livelihoods of all menstruating women in Malawi. The identified struggles (see problem definition) are particularly experienced by young to middle-aged women (between 11 - 55 years) who live in rural regions, however a number of urban-region women and older demographics also expressed dissatisfaction with their current method of MHM. 

The occupation of the customer segment varies greatly across ages and regions, including school students (age ranging from 11 - 22 years), business women, farmers and mothers. 

Access to sanitary MHM materials (such as disposable pads) are minimal and often unaffordable, increasingly so the more rural and isolated the community. This compromises women’s ability to travel, attend work and school, and carry out their day without regular disruption and discomfort. 

The impact of an accessible, adequate MHM material in relation to female empowerment and realising women’s aspirations is immense. Should access to MHM materials no longer present a hindrance to female participation and capability, it is anticipated that school and work attendance and thereby social and economic activity of menstruating women will increase significantly. 

Understanding of Menstruation:

Understanding of menstruation and how to manage it varies and is subjective to individual women. In Malawi it is tradition for girls to learn about menstruation only upon reaching menses, however knowledge of menstruation prior is becoming increasingly common as schools and youth programs begin implementing menstruation and reproductive health programs. Despite this, in the Blantyre region majority of women and girls still do not know about menstruation upon getting their first period, with lack of awareness increasing in rural and remote regions.

It is important to note the cultural significance surrounding this, upon reaching menses girls are traditionally taught to stop spending time with their non-menstruating friends and not to speak about menstruation. This is understood to be a control measure for the passing down of culture, as it ensures that when a girl gets her first period, in not knowing what it is she will tell a family member. This alerts the family that their daughter has reached puberty and means they can take steps to put their daughter through the cultural initiation ceremony. More information on this can be made available upon request (see below) however in brief the ceremony acts as a passing down of culture, teaching girls how to behave as a woman in their community and how to manage menstruation using rags. 

The cause of menstruation is widely understood to symbolise readiness for womanhood and childbearing. Having said that, it is integral to be wary of generalising in relation to individuals knowledge and understanding of menstruation, as traditions and practices vary between communities and families. 

External Factors Impacting Women:

As previously mentioned, women living in urban and peri-urban regions have significantly greater access, and often affordability, when it comes to alternate MHM materials. However the more rural and isolated the community, the more access to such materials decreases - along with awareness of their existence. Rurally, women’s awareness of options for MHM largely consist of the materials readily available to them; including rags, cotton and old blankets. Of those who are aware of options such as disposable and reusable pads, vast majority identify the block preventing using them being cost and access (81% of women using rags identified this as the block). Note that this frustration is largely felt by the younger percentile of the customer segment, and that a number of older women have expressed satisfaction with the use of rags for MHM. 

MHM behaviors:

Majority of women and girls (66%) use rags to manage their menstruation. They source this material from old clothes, blankets and chitenjes and reuse them until they are worn out.  This material is washed periodically throughout menstruation, up to 5 times a day for 5-10 minutes at a time. Due to the sensitive and private nature of menstruation, most women dry their material away from the public and even familial eye, often inside in the dark (37%), inside in sunlight (32%) or hanging from a rope tied under their clothes around their waist (18%). Lack of facilities to wash and dry materials outside of the home presents a significant barrier to women using rags, both to travel to and attend school and work. Some respondents that use disposable pads identified that they were not always able to afford them, however when they could they would typically buy them from local stores near and around Blantyre. A number of women in focus group discussions expressed that they would only be comfortable buying MHM products from a female shop teller. 

Women commonly wash their body two to three times a day while menstruating, and follow cultural restrictions such as not passing behind a man and not adding salt to food. 

A further cultural factor surrounding this is when a girl reaching menses, it is tradition to move out of their direct families home for a period of time and live with a grandmother or aunt. This can impact money and resources available to them for MHM materials, as indirect family can be less willing to provide them with financial means and resources. 

As previously mentioned, the particulars and extent to which such cultural traditions are practiced varies greatly and should not be generalised across the customer segment. Behaviors and values are constantly changing in different regions and assumptions and bias should be apprised of and avoided constantly. 

Emotions Associated With MHM:

Struggles and problems women face with their current MHM methods and materials (see problem definition) have been found to hinder social participation and ability to menstruate with dignity and comfort. Women commonly feel frustrated when they are unable to attend work and other daily activities due to menstruation. furthermore, women and schoolgirls identified feelings heartbreak, sadness and frustration when menstruation prevented them attending school. Many women feel sad and upset around the lack of affordability of materials such as disposable pads. 

Upon getting their first period, common emotions expressed include fear, confusion and embarrassment. In relation to experience with their most recent periods, women commonly felt frustration, indifference or happiness. 


The customer segment of the sanitation project encompasses all menstruating women. The consensus across almost all women involved in the primary research is that barriers to adequate MHM are a significant issue, particularly felt by younger generations, and that a change is both welcome and desired. The team have identified the early adopter customer segment as the younger demographic; women between the age of 11 and 35, who are unsatisfied with their current method of MHM. Not only does this demographic fit the criteria of problem awareness and actively seeking a solution (see Offer Test Results), but they have a strong drive to improve their communities access to products and reduce the discomfort associated with menstruation. This a strong and passionate customer segment that clarifies the extent of the problem and how much pain it is causing in hindering women’s capabilities and aspirations. The Female sanitation project is thankful to the women who agreed to contribute and are humbled by their openness in addressing their concerns in order to improve both their own and other women’s experience with menstruation.

Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, not all information and research conducted by the Female Sanitation Team will be made available on Crowdicity. Further context and information can be made available upon request.  

edited on 22nd July 2019, 12:07 by Jemima Crawford

Gabriel Raubenheimer 6 months ago

Status label added: Customer Segment

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raichad0 5 months ago

That's gorgeous. happy wheels

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Bonnie Perry 2 months ago

A very informative and required article about women sanitation and hygiene. Every woman has to keep herself neat and clean to remain free from the diseases. Like this informative topic, if you want more such information see this page. Here are available the best writing services on important topics.

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