Why aren’t female condom markets working?
By Danielle Harris and Ashley Jackson
Photo credit is: © PSI/Gareth Bentley
Gloria dreams of a contraceptive and HIV prevention method that she can control.
As a university student in Zambia, Gloria goes on dates in between working and studying. Some of the men have potential. She could imagine marrying one of them and having children together someday. Gloria relies on her partners to use male condoms—but sometimes they don’t, leaving her frustrated and scared.
The female condom is currently the only woman-controlled contraceptive method that offers triple protection against unintended pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some research also shows that the female condom reaches women who are less likely to use other dual-protection methods, like the male condom. Yet many women like Gloria lack access to affordable female condoms or don’t use them because of stigma.
Led by WCG Cares (WCG), the USAID-funded Expanding Effective Contraceptive Options (EECO) project piloted the introduction of a new female condom in Malawi and Zambia. The Woman’s Condom was redesigned by PATH to be more comfortable and easy to use. Through EECO, PSI sold more than 130,000 Woman’s Condoms across both countries. EECO developed a case study to share lessons learned from this product introduction process, available here.
Building on EECO’s work in Malawi and Zambia, WCG applied a total market approach lens to assess the female condom markets in these countries, identifying key market failures and opportunities. Based on a review of available data and interviews with key stakeholders, EECO produced a list of recommendations for developing more robust female condom markets. The report is available here: Assessing the Total Market for Female Condoms in Malawi and Zambia.
In the countries with the greatest need for dual protection, strengthening female condom markets is essential. Sustainable supplies of the product should be coupled with ongoing outreach and demand creation, so that Gloria and others like her have options to protect their health and plan the futures and the families they desire.
 Vijayakumar, G., Mabude, Z., Smit, J., Beksinska, M., & Lurie, M. 2006. A review of female-condom effectiveness: patterns of use and impact on protected sex acts and STI incidence. International Journal of STD & AIDS, 17(10): 652-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17059633