Lucknow boy invents India’s most affordable sanitary pad vending machine

India, boy from Lucknow designs India’s most affordable and an alternate solution to electric sanitary pad vending machine in Rs. 2500.

Aashraya Seth who founded The Intelligent Indian NGO and the Menstrual Hygiene Friendly Spaces initiative, was one of the selected Goalkeepers by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to showcase his work in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in India, at the Goalkeepers Event in New York in September 2023. He also attended the UN General Assembly 2023 and was part of UN Women’s Generation Equality delegation on climate justice.

After working at the prestigious IIT Bombay and advising state governments to improve the state of quality education in classrooms using EdTech and 21st century skills, Aashraya identified gaps in gender equity in STEM and high drop out of girls in classroom. He advocated for mandatory sanitary pad vending machines at all public schools, which went in vain due to the high cost of machines (Rs. 8000-10,000).

Aashraya says that, “I decided to develop an alternate, affordable, and easy solution that would help improve tribal and underserved girls’ participation in classroom. Girls must practice bodily autonomy and must have right on their sexual, reproductive and menstrual health.” Explaining how the machine works, he says, “The machines are non-electric, sustainable, compact sized and are installed in the washrooms. Girls can just press a button and can have access to biodegradable sanitary pad at no cost.”

Computer Science and Physics graduate from the University of Lucknow, Aashraya studied Public Policy through full-funded fellowship programs at Churchill College, University of Cambridge; Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago; and Korean Development Institute, South Korea. He also received a United Nations fellowship for his work in gender justice. Alongside building the vending machine, he has also designed an affordable cloth-pad in Rs. 80 and a sustainable menstrual curriculum to sensitise young people on menstrual hygiene, especially boys to become champions and male allies.

According to the recent National Family Health Survey-5, almost 50% of young women continued to use cloth during their periods, especially in rural regions, even though nearly 78% of them used sanitary pads or other period products. More than 150 million Indian girls were among the nearly a billion children whose schooling was disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic. Menstrual problems account for 1 in 4 of the absences from school among females aged 10 to 19, according to new research on this topic.

The Intelligent Indian NGO has been working in this area for over three years now and they have installed these vending machines across 150 government and Kasturba Gandhi schools in Uttar Pradesh and continue to support 70,000+ girls with free ecofriendly sanitary products and menstrual education.

For his work, Aashraya was placed among the top-80 social innovators in India in NITI Aayog and UNDP India’s accelerator programme, a fellowship from Watson Institute, Colorado, a scholarship to attend the One Young World Summit in Munich, and was also felicitated by the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, UK last year, where he now leads their inclusion portfolio. Last year, his work was mentioned in Ministry for Tribal Affairs’ newsletter. Beyond menstrual hygiene, his team is also working on empowering young girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and taking feminist actions for climate justice.

As the Government of India has released the draft National Menstrual Hygiene Policy, his team is now looking for governments to adopt the vending machines and menstrual curriculum to sustainably end period poverty in India.

For queries regarding vending machines and the curriculum, Aashraya can be reached at or visit NGO website

Source name: The Intelligent Indian NGO

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