Elizabeth Scharpf, Founder and Chief Instigating Officer at SHE, is addressing a culturally taboo topic that affects half of the global population: Menstruation. Sanitary supplies allow girls and women to fully participate in school, sports, and the workforce. In Rwanda, 18% of girls and women missed out on school and work last year because they could not afford menstrual pads. Health and overall well-being concerns aside, it’s just bad business.
SHE (Sustainable Health Enterprises) seeks to change these facts. SHE pairs health education and advocacy with women-run businesses manufacturing and distributing affordable menstrual pads. Elizabeth came up with the idea to use blended banana fibers to make menstrual pads, a locally sourced process that would be patented years later. Women in Rwanda have been able to start up menstrual pad manufacturing businesses through SHE and distributing their products at an affordable rate to their communities. This ripple effect in many Rwandan communities results in more girls attending school and women growing the local workforce.
Elizabeth and her team at SHE have ambitious goals for the years to come. They plan to kick up their advocacy efforts by creating and distributing girls’ menstrual hygiene booklets for national adoption and selling pads to 9,000 Rwandan girls by the end of 2015. Check out how SHE turns banana fiber into affordable menstrual pads so girls have one less obstacle to stay in school.