Learning by doing something else: experience with alternatives and adoption of a high-barrier menstrual hygiene technology

The market for menstrual hygiene products in developing countries is expanding rapidly, driven both by private demand and by public efforts to improve girls’ educational outcomes as well as women’s health and dignity. However, many girls and women cannot consistently afford the monthly cost of disposable menstrual products and revert to less hygienic solutions when facing cash constraints. Reusable technologies such as menstrual cups are much less expensive over the lifetime of their use, but are characterised by barriers to adoption, including a higher initial cost of purchase, learning costs, and psychological barriers to insertion. Two menstrual hygiene technologies, one with low barriers to adoption (disposable sanitary pads) and one with higher adoption barriers (reusable menstrual cups) were distributed free of charge to 960 women across 60 rural villages in the state of Bihar, India. The findings suggest that in this context, demonstration of the returns to adoption through experimentation with a substitute technology outweighs any preference or demand formation effect specific to the first technology used.

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