BELA: Be A Lady Vending

Bringing convenient sanitary pads to young girls in Dar es Salaam


The main consumers of disposable sanitary pads in Tanzania are urban women, with only 2% of schoolgirls across Tanzania (also mostly urban) using disposable pads. Many rural schoolgirls have never even seen a disposable sanitary pad. Instead, in Tanzania’s rural primary and secondary schools, most girls who have reached puberty use sanitary pads made from rags, raw cotton, and maize cobs. Although some have access to reusable pads, most rural schools lack water to wash them out during the school day. To circumvent these problems, many girls opt to stay home from school during their menses.


A recent study in East Africa revealed that many girls miss school due to lack of access to sanitary pads, the embarrassment of leaks, and the pain and discomfort from using rags for menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Validating the results of this study through their own focus groups and interviews, the Be A Lady (BELA) team asked students to share their experiences with MHM and to propose solutions for the challenges they face. This process
revealed that both accessibility to and affordability of sanitary pads pose challenges to female students. Tackling this problem by providing individual sanitary pads for purchase in school restrooms, the BELA team hopes to make MHM easier for adolescent girls and young women in order to reduce school absenteeism due to menstruation.


Through observations, discussions, and focus groups, the Be A Lady Project settled on an automated sanitary pad dispenser as a viable solution to the MHM challenges faced by many schoolgirls. The project aims to improve the accessibility, availability and affordability of sanitary pads to the schoolgirls through the use of an automated sanitary pad dispenser.
These dispensers will be installed at Tambaza Secondary School in the Ilala district and Chang’ombe Secondary School in the Temeke District and will dispense pads for a nominal fee (200-400 Tsh) in the privacy of a restroom. By providing individual sanitary pads for sale in a school setting, the BELA team is both increasing the accessibility of the pads to schoolgirls who may not be able to purchase them elsewhere and providing them at a price that is affordable when the alternative – buying an entire package – may not be feasible. The sanitary pad dispenser contains a GSM chip card that can relay information from the machine to a central database to provide real-time information on the dispenser, allowing the team to collect data on sales and to ensure that the machine is kept stocked.


The main outcome that the BELA team hopes to see is the introduction of automated sanitary pad dispensers in as many schools possible in Dar es Salaam – and eventually beyond – to help young girls stay in school and focus on their studies rather than managing their menstrual cycle. The team’s outreach has also revealed a high demand for these machines in university settings, especially on the University of Dar es Salaam campus. They are currently looking for more support from the local government and will be providing data collected from the machines that shows the usage of sanitary pads among schoolgirls in support of their cause.


The Be A Lady team is composed of five members, including the team leader Lulu Ameir, a project coordinator, a technician, and two data collectors. The Be A Lady Project received a grant from the Data for Local Impact Innovation Challenge (DLIIC) in the amount of $25,000 in March 2017 as well as mentorship for the project.


DLI is fostering data-driven innovations through small grant challenges for youth and entrepreneurs. DLI Identifies, networks and supports youth and entrepreneurs to create data-driven innovations for real life problems. To learn more, visit


DCLI, a partnership between MCC and PEPFAR is enabling the use of data for better policies, programs, greater accountability and progress towards sustainable development goals.