How to Build a Production Process That Sticks

Building a sustainable social business comes with many challenges, but the quality of the product itself is one factor that can make or break success. How do we keep producing a high-quality product, and how do we ensure this production can be sustained in the future?

We’ve enlisted Leah Putman, an engineer who brings years of experience working in both American industries and low-resource environments to join our Rwanda team in tackling these challenges.


Quality is Key

In order to have a business that lasts, Leah knows we have to be “producing a stable and reliable product that girls can count on.”  To keep accomplishing this, Leah has begun to work on improving the consistency in our banana fiber supply chain. This can be difficult since rainy season in Rwanda can cause unpredictable downpours that extend fiber drying time by days. Our team will build a storage facility to dry the material at the supplier, which will reduce the amount of time spent on drying and washing of fiber.  In the meantime, 2017 is already on track to be our most productive year yet.


Eyes on replication

SHE is solving a global problem, and we never take our eyes off the big picture, which is the replication of SHE28’s model. With every minor and major step we take in production, we always keep replication and scale in consideration.

On a large scale, we recently implemented some new machinery (pictured above), which our staff affectionately refers to as “The Turbo King Machine.” This technology boosted our production capacity- we’ve made nearly 60,000 pads already this year! In order to recreate this technology, our staff will have an important challenge.

The SHE production team will recreate this technology with parts that are easy to find, replace, and repair locally within Rwanda. If we are able to rely on locally sourced parts, we ensure sustainability and prevent many of the common failures that traditional development projects often face.

But even on a smaller scale, Leah noticed that the adhesive that holds the pads together before they are sealed is currently imported, but could be made locally. She is experimenting with different formulas that would be “easy to use, stick well, cost-effective, and easy to make anywhere.”  Even in her free time, Leah is tinkering with different formulas at her kitchen table.

These incremental improvements will produce big returns. Local sourcing increases our impact on the local economy and lowers our unit costs so that we can reach as many women and girls as possible.

3 Things You Can Do To #beboldforchange This International Women’s Day

This Wednesday is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is Be Bold For Change. Even though we have seen real progress in the previous decades, it is estimated that we will not reach global gender parity for another 170 years at the rate we have been moving. Boldness is necessary to create change. Here are some actions you can take today to pick up the pace:


  1. Support women in the workplace. 170 years is too long! What policies could be put into place in your workplace to support female leadership? Reports that female engineers face serious challenges at work, even in places like progressive California, show us that we have to take action to change these policies. At SHE, female employees are in the majority and are encouraged to do jobs that break gender stereotypes. What can you do to bring a little boldness to your workplace?
  2. Invest in causes that lift women up. We have expanded access to menstrual pads that enable women to do their jobs and attend school without worry to over 13,000 women and girls, and we couldn’t have done it without the investment of hundreds of generous investors who share our vision. Invest in SHE today to accelerate the pace of positive change.
  3. Contribute your skills to the causes you care about. Make the most of whatever it is you excel at. Whether you have expertise in engineering or are a social butterfly who is great at getting their friends together for a fundraiser, think about where your skills could be used to fill a gap. An added side bonus is that using your skills to create positive change will make you feel great too!


P.S. We have a bonus action you can take, and it’s a quick one. Support PIMCO’s WomenForward partners on Thunderclap, which will post a one-time message in support of WomenForward to your Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr page on March 8th at noon.

It’s Easy Being Green – SHE selected as Katerva Category Winner!

Good news, SHE fans! SHE was honored by Katerva, dubbed by Reuters as “The Nobel Prize for Sustainability,” with its 2017 award for gender equality. Katerva chose SHE out of 500 applicants because of our positive social and environmental change, along with our high potential to scale.


It’s no secret that mainstream menstrual hygiene products are no friend to the environment. The average American woman produces 62,415 pounds of non-biodegradable menstruation related waste in her lifetime. We create go! pads in a way that reduces the environmental harm of traditional pads, using a process that transforms agro waste (e.g. banana fibers) into an absorbent core without using any chemicals or super absorbent polymers.


Thanks to our partnership with Johnson and Johnson, we now have new technology that has completely eliminated water from our production process and reduced our electricity use by 400%. We take these steps not only to protect the environment, but also because using few resources will enable us to scale in developing economies around the globe. With your support, we’ve been successful in reaching more people with fewer resources, an important goal for businesses in the 21st century.

Global Goals and Presidential Selfies

This September, our Chief Instigator Elizabeth Scharpf took on the United Nations General Assembly, speaking at a high-level panel for Every Woman Every Child at the UN Headquarters in New York. 2016 marks the adoption of new global development goals and strategies which bring into focus one of SHE’s greatest strengths- Sustainability.

SHE’s innovative work in scaling the production of sustainable sanitary pads was showcased amongst the ranks of technology powerhouses such as Huawei, GE Foundation, Philips, and Orange. Every Woman Every Child brings together partners from different sectors and encourages collaboration in achieving a common goal – improving the wellbeing of women and children across the world.

Founder and CEO Elizabeth Scharpf at 2016 UNGA Week Luncheon.Every Woman Every Child’s efforts to enhance collaboration between public and private sectors will increase the efficiency in achieving social impact, but we also have them to thank for this excellent selfie of Elizabeth and the President of Ghana. SHE is committed to serving 250,000 girls by 2017, in line with our plans for expansion of the SHE28 campaign within Rwanda and globally.

Join our commitment and invest in our market-based solution to improving the well-being of women and girls.

SHE makes ink on CNBC and Global Citizen

“We believe that SHE’s approach has significant potential for scalability and thus could be an important step towards making women’s healthcare more accessible in these regions.” – says Josh Ghaim, Chief Technology Officer, Johnson and Johnson

CNBC and Global Citizen featured our expanded production and growing social enterprise across East Africa, thanks to a technical partnership with Johnson and Johnson.

Everything we do — whether it’s training farmers to supply us banana fiber or providing girls access to our go! pads — is thanks to our amazing network of champions like you.

Together, we’ve already made and distributed almost 200,000 pads to 10,000 girls throughout Rwanda and have created new income opportunities for 630 enterprising people.

And we’re just getting started. Read on.

SHE on CNBC: Why this Harvard grad has spent a decade making maxi pads out of banana fiber 




















SHE on Global Citizen: How Banana Fibers in Rwanda Are Helping Girls With Their Periods










Join SHE Rwanda as its Managing Director

Company Background

SHE is an award-winning social enterprise, with our first business operating in Rwanda. Our goal for SHE Rwanda is to increase access (for at least 250,000 girls) to affordable sanitary pads. We’re doing that by using an innovative manufacturing process that sources banana fiber from local banana co-operatives. We then use that banana fiber to make and produce affordable disposable sanitary pads (they are at least 30% more affordable than comparable imported brands). Our pads, branded as go!, are sold to schools and NGOs, and also directly to underserved consumers across Rwanda, primarily in the Eastern Province.

In Rwanda, SHE is rapidly scaling, and our revenue is incrementally growing as we meet customer demand for affordable sanitary pads. In Rwanda, SHE is a social business with a social mission of local sourcing of banana fiber, job creation, affordable products, and access to essential menstrual health education at the school level.

Our social venture has been recognized by New Times Rwanda. We are proud to have received global recognition for our work from Echoing Green, The Tech Museum, Curry Stone Design Prize, among others. Learn more about our work here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4365hpsxVIw

Job Background

We are in an exciting time of growth given our new partnership with Johnson & Johnson, a multi-national conglomerate, and are looking to hire a Managing Director to lead our Rwanda-based entity to profitability and scale.

The Managing Director role in Rwanda is integral to shaping the direction of SHE Rwanda’s approach and vision. It is imperative that the Managing Director can continue to build upon our track record and trust within the Rwandan business community.

We are seeking an original, resilient, self–starter who sees opportunities (not challenges), and inspires and manages a team to scale our short, but proven track record.  Our Managing Director should bring fresh ideas to the table that can challenge our assumptions and principles.

Reporting and Relationships

The Managing Director, Rwanda will report to the Founder and CEO of SHE Global based in the U.S. and will work at the time with the Global team in New York City. S/he will oversee the staff in Rwanda.

Location and Time Requirements

The Managing Director, Rwanda will be based at the SHE Rwanda office located in Kigali. There will be significant in-country travel, including into rural areas.


Overall, we are seeking someone who can lead our Rwanda-based entity to profitability and scale.  In doing so, she/he will manage all staff, administration, and operations of SHE in Rwanda and take ownership of all country-specific projects and deliverables. The following things will be important in doing that:

  • Revenue Generation & Cost Containment
    • Lead the conversion of significant new customers
    • Work with the business development team to identify and cultivate new customers and retain existing customers
    • Deliver on cost reduction and increased efficiencies through continuous operational improvements and supply chain management as we scale.
  • Financial Oversight (in partnership with Business Operations Manager)
    • Work with Business Operations Manager to oversee country-level budgeting and audit
    • Work with Business Operations Manager to assure that accounts are up to date and that taxes are paid on time
  • Operations
    • Develop evidence-driven implementation plans and execute those plans for production, sales, distribution, and supply chain management;
    • Lead implementation plan roll-out while working with a diverse set of actors including Rwandan stakeholders, U.S. team members, international funders and partners;
  • Strategic Planning and Execution
    • Guide the scaling of SHE Rwanda from a fiscal perspective;
  • Test and evaluate all aspects of business model to ensure quality, sustainability and replicability by measuring success criteria against SHE’s business model and its assumptions; Human Resources
    • Build a culture of high performance for SHE Rwanda;
    • Recruit and provide line management, mentorship, and support to team;
    • Ensure that SHE Rwanda is compliant with labor laws.
  • External Engagement
    • Represent SHE Rwanda to senior government officials and other major partners
    • Develop strong district and national government relationships;
    • Represent SHE Rwanda when liaising with SHE’s funders and investors
  • General Administration
    • Manage change and support others to do so – support the team to deal with ambiguity.
    • Take ownership of all country-specific projects and deliverables.
  • Lead with integrity. The Managing Director would be an inspirational figure for the staff and international community to look to as highly-skilled, passionate, and ethical.


We are looking for outstanding candidates who fit the following criteria:

  • 7-10 years work experience, ideally in business development or sales;
  • Experience in managing a profit and loss statement to drive and inform strategy;
  • Strategic thinker and planner who has built and managed teams that successfully execute on plans for impact and scale;
  • Demonstrated ability to work with funders and investors;
  • Experience of working in the East African, preferably Rwanda-specific, context
  • Building and maintaining truly collaborative and learning-driven relationships with Government – at all level of seniority; as well as the ability to maintain strong partnerships with stakeholders as diverse as global funders; NGO leaders; individual investors, and academics.
  • Experience mentoring and managing people and helping them to develop as leaders.
  • Ability to effectively collaborate with and across a global team, proven capacity to work across cultural lines; and the ability to operate independently in complex situations.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel & Google Apps.

Characteristics Required:

  • A strong listener: You have exceptional relationship and interpersonal skills, and demonstrate patience, tact, and authenticity.
  • Detail oriented: You have a strong implementation focus.
  • Motivator: The ability to act with positivity and optimism such that you can motivate others during challenging times.
  • Language: English required. + Kinyarwanda preferred.

Please note:

  • References will be taken up before a final offer of employment is made.

Recruitment Process:

Provisional dates for the process are as follows:

  • Long-listing will take place in July 2017 and those candidates selected will be informed and invited for a preliminary interview. Preliminary interviews will take the form of face-to-face or Skype interviews with SHE Global team.
  • The second phase of interview will be a Skype interview with the Founder and CEO of SHE. Short-listing will take place before the end of August 2017 and candidates selected for interviews with the Founder and CEO will be informed.
  • The third and final phase of the interview process with our top candidates will be an in-person interview with our SHE Rwanda team in Kigali. It will consist of a panel interview with 5 people. It is anticipated that interviews with the SHE Rwanda staff will take place during the last 2 weeks of August 2017.

Job Location:  Kigali, Rwanda

Duration:  Minimum 2+ years commitment, full-time job

Preferred Start Date:  September/October 2017

Compensation:  A competitive salary and benefits package commensurate with experience including health insurance and bonus opportunity.

How to Apply: Only electronic applications will be accepted. To apply you should submit a copy of your CV, alongside a thoughtful cover letter, indicating why you are the right fit for SHE Rwanda and this Managing Director position to hresources@sheinnovates.com

If you have questions:

If, after reading this material, you have further questions about any aspect of this search, you can contact:

Connie Lewin

Director of Strategy, SHE Global


Girl Talk

Below, girls share their experience with SHE28 and the impact it is having in Rwanda. How can you break the silence? By investing and sharing the experience of Justine, Jessica, and Jackie, you can activate girls and women to continue challenging the status quo.

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SHE Selected as Semi-Finalist for the 2016 Fuller Challenge

SHE has been announced as a 2016 Semi-Finalist in the Fuller Challenge, a prestigious annual competition named “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award”. Each year, The Buckminster Fuller Institute invites scientists, designers, architects, activists, entrepreneurs, artists and planners from all over the world to submit their innovative solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing problems. A $100,000 prize is awarded to support the development and implementation of one outstanding strategy.

Nineteen proposals, including ours, have been selected as Semi-finalists after rigorous review for adherence to the seven-point Challenge criteria: Visionary, Comprehensive, Ecologically Responsible, Feasible, Verifiable, and Replicable. Our application has been through three rounds of vetting by the members of the Challenge Review Committee, including analysis and evaluation by an interdisciplinary team of experts and advisors.

“Each of these projects deserve the attention of the world for their commitment to ‘solving for system’ – an approach that takes an unusual degree of insight, patience, tenacity and courage”, said Elizabeth Thompson, The Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Executive Director. “The teams behind these initiatives have made extraordinary efforts to define the systemic context underlying the problem they are seeking to solve, and have designed strategies that provide enduring and sustainable solutions. Each is a remarkable example of the transformative power of individual initiative and provide much needed hope by demonstrating that solutions to our most entrenched problems are indeed at hand.”

We’re honored to make the cut in this prestigious human-centered design competition. Stay tuned for the winners’ announcement in September.

Add to your bucket list: Kilimanjaro Climb for SHE 2017

Join the #climbforSHE team, July 1 – 11, 2017 across the Rongai Crater Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

This is your chance to close the gender gap for thousands of girls and create new jobs for the women in her community in Rwanda. SHE is equipping school girls with the pads they need to thrive at school by building a sustainable business that trains local women to make and sell these pads in their communities.

You can be a part of changing of Rwanda’s economy by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro July 2017. The Rongai Crater Route starts from the north side of Kilimanjaro at the village of Nalemoru near the Kenya border. This less traveled trail allows discriminating trekkers to distance themselves from the busier routes on the lower elevations, offers a great variety of fabulous vistas that most climbers never get to see. The route passes through lush farmland and pine and cypress forests before ascending into the rainforest where you may see troupes of black and white colobus monkeys. In the higher moorland zone enjoy views of the Kenyan plains rich with game.

Stay tuned for more info about how to sign up. In the meantime, watch the video below to learn more about SHE and last year’s inaugural climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Download a brochure

See photos and read testimonials’ from last year’s adventure