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  3. CSR Key Topic 2: Supporting Women's Independence and Improving Hygiene

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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.

Social issues recognized

Social issues Our activities

・Hygiene problems in developing nations

・Loss of educational opportunities for schoolgirls due to constraints on school attendance affecting them during their periods

・Economic stagnation due to restrictions on female employment opportunities

・Work-life balance issues affecting women

・Reducing the burden of childcare by promoting the widespread use of baby diapers

・Organizing menarche and menstruation education activities to strengthen knowledge and promote the widespread use of sanitary products, thereby encouraging women to become more active outside the home

・Raising income levels by providing a good working environment for women

Contributing to the realization of the SDGs

Unicharm's “Supporting women's independence and improving hygiene” activities are in conformity with the objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) Goal-1 “End poverty in all its forms everywhere ”, Goal-3 “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, Goal-4 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”, Goal-5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, Goal-8 “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” and Goal-10 “Reduce inequality within and among countries”. In the future, we will continue to leverage our company's unique strengths with the aim of making an even greater contribution towards the solving of the world's shared problems.

Social impact

With regard to “Supporting women's independence and improving hygiene,” we are taking the number of participants in our “Menarche education in developing nations” classes, which are described below, as a “social impact” indicator.

Since 2014, a total of 756,333 people have participated in our “Menarche education in developing nations” classes.

Social impact
Number of people in emerging economies attending menarche education activities

Background

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 that we have accumulated in our business activities, 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.

Our activities

Launching the Sofy “#NoBagForMe” project to realize a world in which people can talk about menstruation and sanitary products without feeling uncomfortable

When people are buying sanitary products, it has become the norm for the products to be handed over in a paper bag or dark-colored carrier bag so that the product packaging is not visible. This is because people throughout the world tend to think of menstruation as being “shameful” or as something that should be “kept hidden.” Unicharm launched the “#NoBagForMe” project in June 2019 with the aim of helping to ensure that as many women as possible are able to learn about and choose the type of sanitary care that is right for them.

The “#NoBagForMe” project logo The “#NoBagForMe” project logo

The “#NoBagForMe” project logo

The project members include five women who are leaders in their respective fields and who support the project's goals. For the first project activity, which aims to cultivate an atmosphere in which it is possible to talk freely about menstruation as something that occurs naturally in the female body and to strengthen understanding of menstruation throughout the world, Unicharm has developed new packaging design which seeks to “eliminate the perceived need to secrete sanitary products in paper bags when buying them.” Following on from the project's initial kick-off meeting in June 2019, after intensive discussions and the implementation of consumer voting activities using social media and street interviews, in December 2019, Unicharm launched the new “#NoBagForMe limited-edition packaging design” for sanitary products, which has been introduced for three categories of sanitary products: tampons, sanitary napkins and pantyliners.

Sofy “#NoBagForMe” limited-edition packaging design Sofy “#NoBagForMe” limited-edition packaging design

Sofy “#NoBagForMe” limited-edition packaging design

By implementing activities to enhance understanding of menstruation as something that occurs naturally in women's bodies, Unicharm aims to transform existing attitudes to menstruation and help build a society in which women can participate more fully and play a more active role.

Menarche and maternity education in Myanmar

In Myanmar, only around 46% of women are using hygienic sanitary products.* In rural areas, it is not uncommon for women to use pieces of rag to absorb the flow of menstrual blood, which can lead to infection, sometimes with fatal consequences. Since 2017, Unicharm has been conducting menarche education activities at junior high schools in Myanmar. Working together with NGOs and local government agencies, Unicharm distributes pamphlets that provide information about menstruation and explain correct menstrual care methods and implements education that covers topics such as how to use sanitary napkins. When female students tell their mothers and friends about the knowledge that they have learned at school, the scope of the awareness-raising expands still further; this education also provides an important opportunity for female students to develop self-awareness of their own identity as a woman. In FY2019, this educational program was implemented at 203 schools. By providing consumers with “safety and peace of mind,” this program has helped to build ties between Unicharm and local communities.

* Based on a survey conducted by Unicharm

Unicharm has also visited around 150 hospitals in Myanmar to provide opportunities for expectant mothers to acquire useful knowledge relating to health management while pregnant and diaper use.

The “MamyPoko” diapers that are sold in Myanmar are all imported and do not bear product-use explanations in local languages, so Unicharm has compiled explanatory pamphlets written in local languages. The pamphlets not only provide information about proper nutrition during pregnancy and explanations of how to choose the right diapers for children at different stages of growth and how to use them properly, but are also designed to keep a record of each child's growth, by including “parent and child health record” type content. In addition, following suggestions from expectant mothers, Unicharm is currently working on producing related video content. In the future, Unicharm will continue to expand the scope of these measures to contribute towards safeguarding the health of mothers and children in Myanmar.

Progress on menarche and menstruation 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 all women 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 FY2019, the program was implemented at 1,021 schools in 15 regions, with a total of 129,671 school-girls aged 9 - 17 taking part. In addition, starting from FY2019, special sessions have been introduced at which mothers and daughters can learn together, with the aim of realizing more widespread diffusion of menarche education content. In FY2019, a total of five sessions were held in Delhi and Jaipur, with around 500 mother and daughter pairs 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 2019, 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. With “Sofy Sahayogi” ladies (“Sahayogi” means “ambassador”) who have been trained to act as sanitary product awareness-raisers playing a key role, a total of 96 menstruation education sessions have been held in 24 rural districts in regions that include Kolkata and Neemrana, with more than 5,000 women learning correct menstruation knowledge and being encouraged to use sanitary napkins.

Expanding support for female employment in Saudi Arabia

In the past, for cultural and religious reasons, women in Saudi Arabia were not permitted to be in the same room with, or speak to, men from outside their own family and there were 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 has been in full operation ever since.

Unicharm has sought to create an environment which is convenient for the women working there; the plant features a day-care center, a first-aid room and a cafeteria and rest area, and there is also a production line optimized for people with disabilities to work on it. Currently, around 90 women are working at this factory.

Since this factory was first established, opportunities for women's advancement have been expanding outside the factory as well. In June 2018, when the law in Saudi Arabia was changed so that women could obtain driver's licenses, Unicharm became one of the first companies to start employing female sales promoters to visit stores and retail outlets to give product presentations and provide product recommendations.

In addition, the female marketers assigned to the sales planning team have been implementing product demonstrations for women of different generations with differing social backgrounds and speaking different languages, honing marketing skills through direct communication with customers and helping Unicharm to develop even better products.

Currently, around half of the personnel working at Unicharm's product development division in Saudi Arabia are women. Working in collaboration with male employees, they are dedicated to the development of sanitary products and diapers that will benefit women and mothers in Saudi Arabia.

In August 2019, a number of legal reforms were introduced in Saudi Arabia aimed at realizing greater equality between men and women, which have helped to expand the scope of women's rights. It can be anticipated that, in the future, women in Saudi Arabia will be able to participate even more actively in society. By promoting women's employment and improving the working environment for women, Unicharm is providing support for women to achieve greater autonomy and contributing towards the realization of the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs): Goal-4 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”, Goal-5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and Goal-10 “Reduce inequality in and among countries.”

Baby diapers specially designed for underweight new-born babies, to help safeguard these tiny lives

Japan's low birth rate is a matter of great concern. Currently, around one in ten of all babies born in Japan are underweight new-borns weighing less than 2,500g and the number of new-borns with a “very low birthweight(VLBW)” of less than 1,500g is rising. Babies who are born underweight can be cared for in incubators in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU); however, because babies this small should ideally have still been inside the mother's body, their health can be very delicate. When looking after underweight babies, the slightest shock can cause severe stress, so NICU personnel have to be very careful when providing care.

Previously, there were no disposable diapers specially designed for use by babies smaller than regular newborns, so the staff at NICUs normally had the time-consuming task of either cutting regular diapers down to size or converting sanitary napkins for use as substitute diapers. One of the key concepts which Unicharm espouses is that of providing diapers appropriate to each growth stage that a child experiences. With the growth in the number of babies born underweight, Unicharm recognized the need to create disposable diapers that are just right for these babies and 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, so 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 the future, Unicharm will continue to provide support to help safeguard these tiny lives, by providing even better products.

The new diaper product has perforations that make it possible to change diapers when the baby is lying in the fetal position.

Having perforations on the side means that the diaper can also be used as a pad.

The diaper has an indicator showing when the baby has peed, which can reduce the frequency of unnecessary diaper changes.

Tiny Lives Support Project

The aim of the “Tiny Lives Support Project” that Unicharm has been promoting awareness of the issues affecting underweight new-born babies and to provide babies who need to be looked after in an NICU with the support they need. 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 by Unicharm each time. These donations help to safeguard the tiny lives in NICUs. When the Tiny Lives Support Project was first implemented in August - September 2018, it attracted widespread support; within the space of just two months, the Project collected 3,484,800 yen in donations. In the second round of implementation, November - December 2019, a total of 4,333,090 yen was donated and 1,021 comments were received expressing support for the Project.

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