- Our basic approach and strategy
- Our activities
- Progress of “menarche education program” in Myanmar
- Progress on menarche education in India
- Expanding support for female employment in Saudi Arabia
- Baby diapers specially designed for underweight new-born babies, to help safeguard these tiny lives
Our basic approach and strategy
Unicharm has pursued manufacturing and selling of sanitary products and disposable diapers in the emerging markets in fast-growing Asia since the 1980s. Our never-changing hope is that we continue to deliver products and services to more women in the world that change their “discomfort” into “comfort.” We aim to make a contribution unique to Unicharm through helping women living in all regions to shine even more.
Contributing to the realization of the SDGs
Unicharm's activities are in conformity with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) objectives shown below. In the future, we will continue to leverage our company's unique strengths to make an even greater contribution towards the solving of the world's shared problems.
Number of people in emerging economies attending menarche education activities
Aiming to provide continued support for women's autonomy and to expand opportunities for them to develop their full potential.
In South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, women's opportunities to receive an education and to work are restricted because of cultural and social background. Although some progress has been made in this area in recent years, there are still many challenges affecting the social advancement of women. There are also some countries and regions where women's activities are limited during their menstruation because of deeply-entrenched customs.
Overcoming these issues in each country and region so that women can participate more actively in society is important not only from the perspective of achieving a gender equal society, but also in order to eliminate poverty and support regional economic development.
Utilizing the know-how developed in our business in Japan, we are pursuing various awareness-raising activities and the creation of work sites while expanding products and services suited to each country and region's characteristics, with the aim of helping women all over the world to enjoy more fulfilling lives.
Progress of “menarche education program” in Myanmar
Efforts to eliminate “I can't go to school because I am menstruating”
In Myanmar, menstruation education is relatively undeveloped and people tend not to have a good understanding of menstruation. The rate of sanitary pad usage is about 30% in Myanmar as a whole and about 20% in the non-urban areas. As a result, many schoolchildren miss classes while menstruating. This has become a significant social problem, with educators commenting that: “Many schoolgirls suffer from lower academic achievement because they miss classes during menstruation and this negatively impacts women's empowerment.”
To create a solid foundation for these students so that they can actively participate in society in the future, it is imperative that we continue to spread knowledge about how to appropriately care for themselves during menstruation so that they can understand their bodily changes during adolescence in a positive light and confidently engage with their studies even during menstruation.
The menarche education to be approved by the Myanmar government for the first time in collaboration with NGOs
In collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP) and working with the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports as the partner for local implementation, we have developed menarche educational materials (for use in specific regions) that have officially been approved by the government of Myanmar for the first time. These educational materials are based on materials written for Japanese schoolgirls, but we have changed the illustrations and expressions used to make them locally relatable and have made adjustments that take into account local cultural factors. We provided training in using the menarche teaching materials to local educators who then conducted menarche education for a total of 6,100 schoolgirls in five test regions and also distributed Unicharm sanitary pads to them so that they could try using them and experience appropriate care. According to the results obtained in a survey conducted after this educational activity, many schoolgirls who received the menarche education made comments along the lines of: “I learned many things that I had not known before and I was able to gain correct knowledge of menstruation,” and “I was able to have a positive conversation about menstruation with my mother.” We also found out that more than 70% wanted to keep using sanitary pads.
After carefully reviewing the content while referencing the feedback received from the participating schoolgirls, their parents/guardians, educators, etc., we completed the final version of the menarche educational materials which has been approved by Myanmar's Ministry of Health and Sports.
Implementation of measures aimed at expanding the scope of menarche education
In 2018, menarche education activities were implemented in 224 schools within Myanmar, reaching a total of approximately 262,150 schoolgirls; the results achieved included an increase in the overall level of knowledge regarding sanitary products and how to use them and an increase in the percentage of girls using sanitary pads. However, by comparison with neighboring countries, Myanmar has relatively few retail stores per head of population; there are few grocery stores or other stores in rural areas and those stores that do exist tend to be very small and do not carry sanitary products. This situation led to the development of a business model whereby sanitary pads would be sold at schools which schoolgirls would be going to on a daily basis. Some schools have already begun selling sanitary pads specially designed for schoolchildren in the 13 - 17 age range. Efforts are being made to expand the network of schools and retail outlets that sell sanitary pads, so that as many schoolgirls as possible (and their family members) will be able to use sanitary pads.
Progress on menarche education in India
Expanding the implementation of menarche education programs throughout India
Unicharm's vision is that women throughout the world should be able to live happily, with pride and self-confidence, no matter what changes the future brings. We aim to help in making this vision a reality through our products and services. The ideal that our company seeks to live up to is that, by spreading awareness of knowledge relating to menstruation, which can be a major obstacle preventing women from realizing their dreams, we can provide support that enables women in all socioeconomic groups to live life the way they want to.
In India, most women in both urban and rural communities lack sufficient access to the information that they need to enable them to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A major focus of Unicharm's activities is on providing women with adequate information about health issues that can have a negative impact on their lives. Menstruation is an issue of direct personal relevance to women, and plays an important role in relation to women's ability to give birth. As a company that manufactures and sells feminine hygiene products and baby products, Unicharm hopes that women will be able to experience menstruation safely and with peace of mind.
In 2013, in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and local NGOs, Unicharm began promoting an educational program on the menstrual cycle mechanism and appropriate care in relation to the menstrual cycle called “Managing Menstruation: My Pride” for children, especially schoolgirls, in India.
This program aims to help teenage girls in India maintain sanitary well-being and remain active with confidence during their menstrual cycle. In FY2018, the program was implemented at 35 schools, with a total of 3,513 schoolgirls taking part.
Comments from schoolchildren who received the menarche education included: “The content of the teaching was very good and a lot of useful information was presented. It brought home just how important it is to use sanitary pads. I want to try using Sofy sanitary pads.” Teachers commented that “This is an issue that we had not been addressing in schools. This kind of program offers great potential and is something that definitely needs doing.”
Expanding the roll-out of menstruation education
In 2018, in addition to our existing menarche education activities for schoolgirls, we also launched awareness-raising activities to spread correct knowledge about menstruation among women in rural areas.
“Mahila Sahayogi” ladies have been trained to act as sanitary product awareness-raisers, spreading accurate knowledge about menstruation within their local community; 3,575 rural women have already been encouraged to start using sanitary pads.
Unicharm has also collaborated with the Indian government on the implementation of menstruation workshops and activities to demonstrate how to use baby diapers (with the distribution of product samples) in 80 Anganwadi Centres. A total of 4,830 women including expectant mothers, women who are currently breast-feeding, and young girls entering puberty participated in these activities.
Menstruation workshops have also been held at child welfare institutions, police training institutes, prisons, nursing colleges, etc., with a total of 54,480 people taking part. The scope of this educational program, which was initially focused on schoolgirls, has been expanded to include rural women and adult women living in urban areas. Through these activities, Unicharm hopes to be able to contribute towards giving women in all age groups a better quality of life, and we will continue working towards this goal in the future.
Expanding support for female employment in Saudi Arabia
Creating further opportunities for women's advancement
For cultural and religious reasons, women in Saudi Arabia are not permitted to be in the same room with, or speak to, men from outside their own family, and there are many restrictions on women's activities, including their activities in the workplace. With the aim of providing women with employment opportunities while still respecting local cultural traditions, in May 2012, Unicharm established a women-only factory in Saudi Arabia which is in full operation up until now.
The employees include women of all ages and the factory employs many women with disabilities and single mothers. The factory's No. 3 plant, which was completed in 2017, features an improved working environment that includes a day-care center, a first-aid room and a cafeteria and rest area. Efforts have also been made to make production line work less onerous by implementing automation, etc., which also helps to enhance productivity.
Opportunities for women's advancement are expanding outside the factory as well. As of 2017, Unicharm already had two female marketers in Saudi Arabia, but in 2018, several female employees were assigned to the sales planning team. Undertaking activities such as distributing product samples on the streets, these female employees showed themselves to be highly motivated.
Unicharm has also begun using female sales promoters to boost sales of sanitary products in Saudi Arabia. In the past, it was illegal for women to work as sales promoters in Saudi Arabia, but recent reforms have expanded the permitted scope of women's employment and the use of female sales promoters at the country's largest hypermarket chain has been very well-received, encouraging Unicharm to employ female sales promoters on a large scale.
Saudi Arabia had been the only country in the world where women were prohibited from driving, but in June 2018, this restriction was finally lifted and opportunities for social participation by Saudi Arabian women have gradually been expanding. In the future, Unicharm will continue to contribute towards the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) No. 5 (Achieve gender equality) and No. 10 (Fill the gap within and among countries) by providing support for women to achieve greater autonomy through the employment of women and efforts to enhance their employment environment.
Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries Ltd.
I work for Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries (UGHI) selling Unicharm products. Initially, my motivation for taking on the job was simply to earn a salary, but now I have been able to become completely economically independent and the desire to do my best for the company and for the Middle East region gives me enhanced motivation in my work.
One thing that I particularly enjoy about my job is when women come over to the Unicharm booth at special events and learn about our products by listening to my explanations. I have also had a lot of people telling me how pleased they were to see a woman working as a sales specialist in Saudi Arabia.
As the changes that are taking place in society have continued, it has become possible to communicate more directly and more easily with customers. I feel that this can be of great benefit to UGHI. In the future, I will continue doing my best to encourage women in Saudi Arabia to use Unicharm's sanitary products and to encourage mothers to use Unicharm's baby diapers.
Unicharm Gulf Hygienic Industries Ltd.
I had wanted to work for an international corporation, so joining UGHI enabled me to achieve economic independence while also fulfilling my dream. My previous job had been in administration, so my new job as a member of the marketing team at UGHI was a challenge for me. However, I turned this change into a source of motivation and succeeded in strengthening my marketing skills and my ability to communicate with customers.
What I find really satisfying about this job is giving demonstrations of our company's products to women from different societies who speak different languages and belong to different generations. I am especially happy when, because I have helped them to learn about our company's products, women who had been using another company's products start using Unicharm products instead.
I believe that the changes taking place in society will also lead to even better products. In the future, I will continue to undertake my work in line with the goal of cultivating our sales team and raising awareness of Unicharm products within Saudi Arabia.
Baby diapers specially designed for underweight new-born babies, to help safeguard these tiny lives
Currently, around one in ten of all babies born in Japan are underweight new-borns weighing less than 2,500g who need to be cared for in incubators in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). As underweight new-born babies are very small and regular baby diapers are too big for them, the staff at NICUs had the time-consuming task of either cutting regular diapers down to size or converting sanitary napkins for use as substitute diapers. In order to help remedy this situation, in 2015, Unicharm launched a new type of baby diapers specially designed for use on underweight new-born babies.
It is vitally important for underweight new-borns that the environment inside an incubator resemble the inside of a mother's womb as much as possible. As unnecessary changes to the baby's posture can obstruct the circulation of blood and put the baby's life in danger, the baby is kept curled up in the fetal position when providing medical treatment or changing diapers. To make it possible to change the diaper when the baby is in the fetal position, Unicharm's special baby diapers for underweight new-born babies have been designed with perforations on the side and are molded in a shape that fits snugly on the body of a baby in the fetal position, reflecting suggestions from medical professionals. Since this new diaper product was first launched, additional improvements have been made every year, taking into account recommendations from physicians, nurses and other medical professionals working in NICUs. In 2016, Unicharm introduced a new version of the diaper that was designed so that it could be put on either way round and which also featured an indicator to show when the diaper needed changing, to avoid unnecessarily frequent diaper changes. Further improvements were made in 2017, with the absorbent material being made thinner and the tape softer, so that the diaper fits on the baby's body more naturally and more comfortably.
Tiny Lives Support Project
In 2018, Unicharm launched the Tiny Lives Support Project to spread awareness of the issues affecting underweight new-born babies and to provide them with a necessary support who need to be looked after in an NICU. Under this Project, customers who purchase Moony brand products and then register the purchase to collect points on Unicharm's Babytown website - which provides support for mothers and babies 365 days a year - have the option of clicking on a “Support this Project” button in which case 10 yen will be donated to the Project each time. Within the space of just two months, the Project collected 3,484,800 yen in donations which have made it possible to provide financial support for seminars for staff working at NICUs and to donate sound level meters (SLMs) to NICUs. The Project also received 945 messages of support which were a source of encouragement for mothers worried about their underweight babies and for the medical professionals working in NICUs. Unicharm intends to continue implementing this initiative in the future.
An NICU functions as more than just a place for providing medical treatment and saving lives; it is also a living space for babies. We try to ensure that every single baby receives appropriate care, by paying attention to the sounds that the baby hears, the lighting, what position the baby sleeps in, etc.
Besides providing painstaking care to help babies grow and develop, NICUs also provide mental care for babies' family members. Every day, when delivering medical care, we are aiming to ensure that when a baby leaves hospital, the baby will be happy and healthy and the family will be satisfied with the care that the baby has received.
My child was born four months premature, weighing just 502g. Although even Moony's smallest baby diapers were still a little too big, I was still very glad to have them. The staff at the NICU did so much for us and there were so many other underweight new-borns in the NICU fighting to survive and grow which makes me feel very grateful that this kind of project exists. The only reason my child is here today is because of the efforts of the medical professionals who were involved in looking after it. I hope that this “circle of care” will continue to expand even further in the future.
Global Baby Care Division
The key factor that led to the creation of Moony baby diapers for underweight new-born babies was the suggestions that we had received from frontline people working at NICUs, such as nurses. When we saw for ourselves these tiny babies fighting for life in an NICU, we really wanted to be able to do something to help protect them. As a company involved in providing baby care products, this initiative was definitely something that we felt we should be involved in and was definitely a very meaningful activity. I am very proud to have been involved with it.
We are continuing to make improvements to these products every year, thanks to the comments that we receive from frontline medical professionals. I hope that in the future we will be able to continue putting our heads together with them to improve these products still further.
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