A consumer insights report that could change the lives of millions of girls and women
Innovations created in products, programs and services - are they really serving the people they are created for?
Are those voices being heard?
Every month, over 525 million women and girls worldwide do not have everything they need to manage menstruation.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through their Growth for Growth Private Partnerships strategy, wanted to identify opportunities to provide better access to affordable high-quality menstrual hygiene solutions for Nigerian women in the low-middle-income and low-income levels. It could make a significant difference in their lives, especially when it comes to accessing education, by some estimates, this equals as much as twenty percent of a given school year.
ThinkPlace was engaged as the consumer intelligence and co-design experts to lead a deep ethnographic study of women in Nigeria - what shapes and influences their menstrual health and hygiene experience and behaviours, identify opportunities to address barriers to the access and adoption of menstrual hygiene solutions.
In Nigeria, 60% of women, or more than 60 million women, cannot access or afford existing menstrual hygiene solutions such as sanitary pads. Nigeria is a rapidly emerging market yet there are significant barriers for these women finding solutions that work for her and her context.
As part of this research six cities were selected to provide different regional and cultural perspectives across Nigeria including the North, South West and South East. The unique approach taken to understand these women’s experiences was to actively engage them in a co-design process, which extended over a series of months allowing sharing their experiences, offering ideas and providing feedback on concepts.
The research line of inquiry included four focus areas –
Lifestyle, knowledge, and behaviors
Lived experience of menstrual health and hygiene
Decision-making and purchasing considerations
About the research
The global COVID-19 pandemic presented a significant challenge to the design and delivery of the research. This required a creative and empathetic way to conduct the research safely and remotely. Nigeria has a significantly large young population. Data indicates there are approximately 60 million Nigerian girls under the age of 24. The country also has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in the world. With the help of our global research team who worked around the world — and around the clock, we decided to conduct the research on mobile devices. This method involved creating a community of women who engaged in the research via their mobile phone.
We used ThinkPlace's leading-edge engagement platform called EnGauge. EnGauge is designed to send quests, ask questions, and then receive information back in real time from the participants. It allowed for a progressive story-telling process. As humans we gravitate towards stories, moments and snapshots. Over a month, each week participants received a new quest that gave her an opportunity to tell her everyday experience about her period, her life and the challenges she faces in menstrual hygiene management.
The information we received from the women was rich in imagery, stories and comments about her life, her world and what menstrual management means to her. To uncover the insights for the project we applied the Social Ecological Model (SEM). The SEM provided framing to understand factors affecting menstrual hygiene management behavior and helped present the dynamic interrelations among environmental factors, social, personal, and intrinsic factors.
The insights generated emphasizes multiple levels of influence (such as individual, interpersonal, organizational, community and public policy), and the idea that behaviors both shape and are shaped by the social environment.
As the insights were generated these informed early identification of innovation opportunities. The findings were curated into empathy building tools such as consumer personas and journey maps to build a richer understanding of the consumer whom we are designing for, sharing and synthesising insights iteratively and in real time with the entire project team.
By building communities of participants and activating responses with quests and missions, we were able to allow women who are often overlooked to have their say, using tools and platforms they feel comfortable with.
These women could take their phones into situations and places she might never allow a researcher to follow. She could share a reflection that she might never reveal in a formal interview.
“A period product that is affordable. A period product that can be reused and rewashed.
A period product that absorbs well and makes one dry.
A period product that will avoid smelling.
A period product that is light and will allow one to wear any clothes of her choice.
It will be so that everyone, rich and poor can afford it.
And it will be as nothing is happening when you’re having your period.”
- 22, D consumer, Urban, Enugu
The findings of this research are now helping the Growth for Growth private partnerships to develop product solutions that will go beyond the product and address the real needs of their consumers and aim to provide safe, affordable, and quality menstrual hygiene solutions.
We do not just harvest insights from the participants rather involve them in an ongoing, generative partnership, empowering them to be an active part of shaping their future and their world. We are moving them beyond research subjects to become true co-creators.
This blend of qualitative and quantitative insights acts as a roadmap for authentic change.