Anja Tolonen headshot

On March 14, 2022, Anja Benshaul-Tolonen, assistant professor of economics, published a new article in PLOS Global Public Health, alongside several co-authors, including Barnard graduate Dani Stoilova ’21. The paper, titled “Biological, material and socio-cultural constraints to effective menstrual hygiene management among secondary school students in Tanzania,” examines menstrual hygiene management as an important determinant for girls’ educational outcomes. 

Benshaul-Tolonen and Stoilova ’21, alongside their colleagues, used a cross-sectional analysis that quantifies the importance of four mechanisms: material, biological, social and informational constraints; and four schooling outcomes: absenteeism, early departure, concentration and participation. The study sampled 524 female students enrolled in four co-educational secondary schools in Northern Tanzania. Participants were asked to complete a survey, which reported that information is the least binding constraint while biological constraints, socio-cultural constraints, and lack of sanitary infrastructure have significant effects on absenteeism. The results showed several implications, including sanitary pad interventions. Educators should consider participation, concentration, and absenteeism as the main outcomes when providing necessary resources; and that biological and socio-cultural constraints affect absenteeism and participation in the classroom.