The Hidden Gender Barrier in Global Education (And How We Can Solve It)

Young girl, Africa, Blackboard, Education

Ever wondered how women and girls manage when they don’t have access to sanitary towels? If not, you’re far from alone. But luckily some people are on the case.  Claire Blackburn is the co-founder of Auntie Daisy, a new UK based social enterprise which helps girls get an education by selling tampons and sanitary towels to UK women – and sending all the profits to where they can help.  

For millions of girls around the world, education is something that doesn’t come without a fight. Girls often face major obstacles in going to school, from extreme poverty to general gender inequality to the monthly trial of getting their period. That’s right; their periods – the most natural thing in the world – are holding millions of girls back in their education.

The question of just what women and girls who can’t afford or simply don’t have access to sanitary products do when their period comes is not one which is widely talked about. Often lumped in with the more general and visible challenges touched on above, it’s a hidden, significant but completely solvable barrier to girls continuing their educations past a certain age.

Lack of access to sanitary products holds girls back

When their periods come, countless women and girls across Africa and Asia don’t have sanitary towels or tampons to see them through. It’s something which is easily taken for granted by women in the UK and many other countries, who can just pop to the shops without even thinking and buy what they need.

But for many girls around the world, they dread that time of the month when they have to resort to wearing rags, or worse – mud, which is uncomfortable, unreliable, embarrassing and unsanitary. And at school, there are rarely any proper toilet facilities or water to clean with, and so many are forced to avoid going to school completely.

This is how so many girls around the world end up missing up to a week of school every single term. Those girls who should have the opportunity to be the future doctors, teachers and politicians of their nations are unnecessarily held back from their studies and from reaching their full potential.

Breaking down the barriers

The obvious answer is to help these girls get access to sanitary products when they need them. We set up Auntie Daisy to help do just this.  By using our service, women in the UK can help educate and empower girls in Africa simply by switching where they buy their own sanitary towels and tampons.

Auntie Daisy is a subscription service, sending tampons and sanitary towels to women across the UK each month. Every single penny of profit goes to a charity called Camfed which directly helps thousands of girls across Africa get an education.  Part of this work involves supplying girls with sanitary products to ensure their period is no longer a barrier to going to school or doing what they want to do.

And we’re not the only organisation that sees the link between sanitary protection and educating girls. There are other amazing charitable businesses and individuals around the world who are making a huge difference – one sanitary towel at a time!

Local projects, global solutions

In Uganda AFRIpads manufacture and sell cloth and washable sanitary pads. These help girls fulfil their academic potential with the protection and peace of mind to attend school and manage their periods with comfort and dignity.

In Swahili ‘Huru’ means freedom. And Huru are giving girls just that. They provide hygienic, reusable sanitary pads to girls who are unable to afford them. As they are locally produced they also help create valuable jobs in the girls’ communities.

And we can’t begin to talk about innovation around sanitary protection and education without mentioning the Indian sanitary pad revolutionary. No really. This amazing guy saw for himself the problems women and girls, including his own wife, were facing because of their periods and decided to do something about it.

He invented a machine to make sanitary towels locally and cheaply and is now expanding to over 100 other countries. A truly amazing man and an incredible story.

Together with these inspiring organisations and individuals, we’re proud to be helping women across the UK make a difference to girls around the world.

Want to get involved?

Auntie Daisy is still early in its journey, but we’re already making an impact.  If you want to find out more or tell us what you think please do get in touch using Twitter or Facebook.

And calling all women: you can sign up today at

Photo: Copyright Camfed

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Claire Blackburn

Claire BlackburnClaire Blackburn is Co-Founder of Auntie Daisy, a social enterprise sending tampons and sanitary towels to women across the UK each month, giving 100% of profits to girls’ education.

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