Promoting Climate and Gender SDGs, One Vending Machine at a Time

By Mavra Bari

Pad hai?

Do you have a pad?

Is an oft-heard hushed question women ask each other in Pakistan’s public spaces and in fact, South Asia. Sanitary napkins are stealthily handed over at shops, shrouded in brown paper bags with – eyes averted. The transaction is akin to the illicit and is met with equal parts shame and discomfort for the customer and the salesperson.

One can only imagine, then, that having a sanitary napkin dispensing machine smack in the middle of a mixed-gender public space might be a bit shocking within this cultural context.

Davaam Life (Pvt) Ltd. is on a mission to make this sight not only less rare and jarring but accepted and celebrated in spaces such as offices, hostels, universities, schools, hospitals, etc. The Circular Economy SME is installing smart machines that avoid single-use plastic through its refill stations, making consumer product retailing more cost-effective and environmentally friendly as it removes single-use packaging from the equation which constitutes up to 50% of the price.


Tackling Multiple Sustainable Development Goals on Gender and Climate


The climate mandate was clear for Davaam Life, they wanted to work towards SDG 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption); SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 15 (Life on Land).

However, with the eureka moment of also installing sanitary napkin vending machines, the SME is making strides towards SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality) as well.


Due to the nexus of climate and gender impacts summarized below, Davaam Life was a shoo-in to the Pakistan Private Sector Energy Project’s (PPSE) pipeline of cleantech SMEs vying for business development and investment facilitation support. The project offers clean energy and climate companies with business advisory services and investment facilitation to bolster their business. PPSE is funded by USAID Pakistan, implemented by the Private Financing Advisory Network and jointly hosted by UNIDO and REEEP.




You pay for the product, not the packaging.

You pay for the product, not the packaging.


PFAN Support and the Gender Lens Investment




The circularity SME is currently in PFAN’s Call-Off 2 stage whereby companies are matched with PFAN advisor who helps with business model refinement and feasibility studies. The advisor for Davaam Life is Saad Reaz, who brings over seventeen years of experience in investment banking and is a whiz at structured finance. What excites Saad most about working with the company is that they are already in the production phase and are seeing real-time results.


In addition to multipurpose liquid dispensing, Davaam Life is focused on sanitary napkin dispensing machines to increase inclusivity of a basic need. They have installed 12 liquid refill stations and 18 sanitary napkin dispensers thus far in Karachi and have their sights set on scaling up in other cities as well.


As of February 2024, they have sold 13,809 Litres worth of liquid goods and 2900 napkins to 3000 beneficiaries, saving approximately 1493 co2 (kg) per kg plastic. “As Davaam is not just selling machines but products as well, it was very important to have the right off-take strategy and certifications for each product to ensure quality. With the sanitary napkin dispensers, they really had to get in to consumer’s heads and interaction with the machine, keeping in mind that they may require some privacy in public spaces,” shared Saad.


In just 5 months since Davaam Life has joined the PFAN pipeline, Saad has helped share the company’s debt structure, refined numbers and projections as well as advising on stakeholder strategies and business plan modeling.


“PFAN has been instrumental in providing facilitation to Davaam. Particularly through the financial model audit and making the business model more investor ready has helped us reach out to potential investors. PFAN also brings an added layer of credibility to us along with constant availability of its advisors during negotiations, which recently bore fruit in closing one round of financing,” beamed Salman Tariq, Co-Founder Davaam Life.


PFAN has been committed to promoting gender lens investing within its pipeline, to increase gender inclusion within each company’s business model and impact, as well as, be more attractive to investment portfolios with gender and diversity metrics and evaluation. SMEs within the pipeline are evaluated and advised on gender inclusion on four gender lenses:


  1. Women-Led Business
  2. Women in the Workforce
  3. Women as Customers/Beneficiaries
  4. Women in the Value Chain


Davaam inculcates three of the gender lenses (1-3) and is one of the most proactive gender project in PFAN’s pipeline in Pakistan. While, Davaam is founded by two men – Salman Tariq and Omer Ghaznavi, they are committed to foster female leadership and have displayed real allyship by giving the reigns of the Sanitary Napkin Dispenser vertical of the business to a woman – Urooj Joyo. Currently, the Sanitary Napkin vending machines are the most widely established and used product for the company. Davaam also boasts relative gender balance in its workforce compared to other circularity companies in the market. Through additional Gender Action Advisory from PFAN, Davaam will be able to fine-tune their gender lens further.


Most notably, Davaam’s gender impact lies in the utility provided to end-users and customers, that are exclusively women, especially for its Sanitary Napkin Vending machines. They are not only providing an essential good for women across Karachi but also doing good by helping women’s access to menstrual hygiene and creating an equitable urban environment, at work and in public spaces.


Reshaping ‘Corporate Inclusion’ and Destigmatizing Menstruation


IBEX Pakistan is one such office that has gotten Davaam Life’s sanitary napkin machine installed and decided to place the machine in the common waiting room area rather than the women’s washroom, which is the usual choice for most companies.


The choice was deliberate by the team.


“We want to help destigmatize menstruation at our workplace and society. That’s why it was important to have the machine in a common area in plain sight. This is also one of the first place’s people see when they come here, so its like announcing that we are an inclusive building and workplace,” shared Syeda Kanza Ali, 25, Marketing and Content Strategy at IBEX Pakistan, an IT-BPO Company.


While the resounding reaction to the sanitary dispenser has been positive and consumer uptake has been high, some resistance is peppered in responses from relatively “conservative” colleagues who have been uncomfortable in using the machines publicly rather than at the privacy of a washroom.


Consideration to intersectionality while initiating inclusive measures is imperative as women come from varied educational, religious, class and ethnic backgrounds with differential attitudes and perceptions that should be equally valued. Thus, IBEX’s management will be installing dispensers in women’s washrooms as well soon.


Kanza is actually one of the employees who took the initiative for the installation, as the company has the highest number of female night shift workers in the city and she felt that the leadership have a responsibility to safeguard female colleagues’ safety and health.


She could have had her pick of the litter but Kanza chose Davaam Life due to their environmental commitment and that they were working with a preferred local sanitary napkin company, Butterfly.  She and her colleagues also find the Davaam app and payment method user-friendly and convenient.




Leading by Example: Intersectional and Inclusive Product Development


WhileKarachi’s urbane creative class have no problem operating Davaam’s app, co-founder Salman Tariq shared that the team is anticipating and preparing for the gender digital and financial divide at other dispensing sites such as shops and hospitals.


“Not every woman has access to a phone or a bank account, so we want to make our dispensers more inclusive to the needs of every woman as women do most of the shopping, they are a key demographic for our business model and the market need we aim to fill,” commented Salman.


In order to tune in to women’s differential needs for their sanitary napkin dispensers they have put a woman at the helm who straddles their target demographic in various ways. Urooj Mumtaz Joyo is a Business Development Manager at Davaam Life leading this initiative and is herself a university student in her final semester at Karachi’s premier Institute of Business Administration (IBA).

While Urooj has been pleasantly surprised at the rollicking success of the dispensers at her Alma Mater, in just the first 2 weeks, over fifty sanitary napkins were purchased at the main IBA Campus. Her biggest surprise was during the product testing phase.

“Men and women in our team had to work together to ensure the smooth functioning of the dispensers. Male colleagues who were initially shy about working with pads, quickly became much more comfortable and really tried getting in to the mindset of the female consumer. Their behavior completely changed and that was amazing to witness” beamed Urooj.

The behavior change towards dispelling menstrual taboos is then not just happening at the consumer and societal level but within Davaam Life’s own work culture as well.

Menstruation Education: Improving Students Access to Tools and Knowledge

Urooj’s dream is to install a dispenser at the middle school she attended as she understands the trauma young girls go through when they get their period at school, sometimes for the first time, without access to a sanitary napkin. Many girls do not even know what menstruation is when their first period hits.

The presence of such dispensers at the school level could help destigmatize menstruation and normalize sexual and reproductive health and rights of women from an early age, while reducing girl’s trauma and pain by equipping them with the knowledge and tools needed to deal with this pivotal life change.

While not available at schools, yet, Davaam Life is transforming the hostel experience for young women.

Roshna Rizvi, 20, is IBA Freshperson studying Accounting and Finance. She shared that her hostel living experience has improved due to the sanitary napkin dispenser as she no-longer has to worry about ‘hoarding’ pads.

“Transport is very limited at the hostel so we would have to ask each other for a pad and if that wasn’t an option then wait for a Foodpanda delivery service to drop them which would end up being more expensive as well,” said Roshna.

Mobility remains a huge accessibility barrier to women in Pakistan, especially female students, so the dispensers are tackling this through inclusive city and building design which is much-needed in the ever-sprawling city of Karachi.

Thanks to the dispenser, Roshna and her hostel-mates have access to sanitary napkins at a discounted rate but most importantly, they have peace of mind, and no one can put a price on that!