Japanese academic develops disaster-friendly sanitary ware dispenser
A Japanese academic has developed a cardboard sanitary napkin and tampon dispenser that can be easily installed in public restrooms, after learning that some women are reluctant to receive free hygiene products from local governments.
The flat, easy-to-assemble dispensers could also be used in disaster evacuation centers, with creator Eri Sugita – associate professor of international cooperation studies at Osaka University – saying it can be used by “all who need it”.
Eri Sugita, associate professor of international cooperation studies at Osaka University, stands next to a cardboard dispenser of sanitary products she developed, in the toilets of the public university’s Suita campus from Osaka Prefecture in May 2022. (Kyodo)
Some local governments in Japan have started distributing free pads and tampons after the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the problem of “menstrual poverty” or difficulty buying menstrual products due to poverty.
However, some women are reluctant to ask for the products because the process often involves an official handing them out at the counter. “I wanted to leave discretion to women and make the products available in private salons,” Sugita said.
Menstruation is almost a taboo subject at work or school, and when a woman buys a sanitary product at a convenience store, the seller puts it in a non-transparent paper bag so that others cannot see it.
About 140 of the dispensers, bearing the message “Take one please” in English and Japanese, were set up in toilets at public university campuses in western Japan.
In an on-campus survey, students said they were happy to be able to receive the product “out of the public eye” and that it was helpful that they suddenly started menstruating.
The dispenser consists of three vertical boxes each containing two types of towels and a tampon, which can be received through the lower outlet without the user having to touch the surrounding area.
Eri Sugita, an associate professor of international cooperation studies at Osaka University, shows off a cardboard sanitary ware dispenser she developed, at the Suita campus of Osaka Prefectural Public University in May 2022. (Kyodo)
It is environmentally and disaster friendly as it requires no tools or electricity to install or use and it can be disposed of as recyclable waste.
The distributor provides tampons even though the vast majority of women use pads in Japan, with a 2014 online survey by employment information provider Mynavi Corp. involving 143 working women aged 22-34 showing that 90.9% only used pads.
“The use of tampons is common in some countries, and we will provide tampons from the perspective of multicultural coexistence,” Osaka University said when issuing a press release about the distributor in February.
In the same month, the Japanese government conducted a survey on menstrual poverty for the first time.
The online survey of 3,000 women aged 18-49 showed that 8.1% had encountered difficulties obtaining sanitary products since around February 2020, when the spread of COVID-19 began to increase. accelerate and weigh on the country’s economy.
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