Meet the SHE Interns!

Meet our intern, Ariana Agyemang.

I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biological Anthropology at Binghamton University. My parents are Ghanaian immigrants who came to the United States seeking a better future for their children. As a child, my mother told her stories about the sick and poor who do not receive adequate care. As a result, this sparked an interest in global affairs and international health. I am interested in public health, environmental effects, and the social gradient of health. I want to be able to explain why preventable diseases have the opportunity to affect socially disadvantaged communities and populations. Oftentimes, people overlook the socially disadvantaged.

SHE’s mission of investing in self-sustainable methods that not only build communities but also create entrepreneurs is what drew me into the organization. Menstrual health should be very important to everyone especially in countries where taboo and stigma plague women. I personally believe that although we are individuals we are all interconnected. The welfare of our family, community, nation, and world is our welfare. A crucial part of stabilizing International Health comes from every individual realizing that we all play a role in bettering the world. I have always had a strong commitment to international health and improving the health of those whose basic rights have been overlooked.





Meet our intern, Sophia Lothrop.

As a soon to be graduate of St. Lawrence University with a degree in political science, I can confidently say that my education has broadened my understanding of the world. From studying in Ghana, Israel/West Bank and Jordan to working in the non-profit sector for multiple years, my college career has provided me with a  perspective the classroom cannot. Over my four month stay in Amman, Jordan, I knew that I wanted to focus my research on the current refugee crisis. Though there is so much need among refugees in Jordan, namely Syrian, Somali and Sudanese, there is an especially large and growing need for women’s sexual and reproductive health. With this topic at the forefront of my research, I knew that I wanted to continue working in this field upon my return to the United States.

SHE caught my attention after looking into international women’s health NGOs. Immediately after reading their mission statement I knew this organization aligned with my ethos.  As someone who passionately believes women’s sexual and reproductive health rights are human rights, I knew that while working with SHE I would be working towards the greater goal of increasing women’s access to necessary menstrual products and education while also spreading awareness of this global issue. It can feel overwhelming trying to tackle such a big problem, but I work for SHE because I know that it is a step in the right direction of women’s equality on a global scale.

The UN Takes Some Tips from SHE

 

 

 

The go! pads and banana fiber were front and center at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. SHE was honored to speak during the Global Sustainable Technology & Innovation Conference, or G-STIC Forum, besides UN Women, VITO, and technology and innovation from around the world. This year’s forum focused on showcasing market-ready, innovative integrated tech solutions that will help make the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) a reality worldwide. SHE Director of Strategy, Connie Lewin, spoke on the role of women behind the innovation process.

 

 

 

Connie shared SHE’s approach towards pursuing gender equity throughout its model and work:

  •  Be Inclusive. Apply a gender lens across the business that involves women in every aspect of your operations.
  • Collaborate. Partner with organizations and businesses that serve and support women to develop solutions to incorporate more women.
  • Advocate. Join a network with a strong gender lens agenda that supports women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Special thanks to Engineering for Change for inviting us to speak on the role of women in science, technology, and innovation.

 

 

SHE Stands Up for SRH

Last November, SHE participated in the International Conference for Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali to join the conversation about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) concerns in Rwanda. Unlike in the U.S. where city and state-funded health clinics have an abundant supply of SRH information, services, and products free of charge to adolescents who need them, this is not the case in Rwanda. According to Article 7 of Rwandan reproductive health law, minors can only benefit from SRH information and services with a parent’s approval. Could you imagine not being able to access important reproductive health information without your mom’s permission?

 

SHE, along with other NGO’s, social enterprises, and the Rwandan youth have banded together to advocate for greater accessibility to SRH resources. The first order of business was to send a request letter to the Ministry of Health (MOH). To see the full request letter, click here: MOH Request Letter

 

SHE continued its advocacy efforts when we were invited to attend a high-level meeting with the MOH at the Rwandan Parliament. SHE’s Health and Hygiene Manager Ariane Dusenge spoke on how talking about menstruation could be the gateway to later discussions about SRH between a parent and child, which could also reduce the high teen pregnancy rate in the country. Other SRH experts spoke about the recent advocacy around removing barriers to SRH services for adolescents. At SHE, we strive to address overlooked and taboo issues and SRH is one area where we see the potential for large scale social change. This meeting at Parliament was a great opportunity to share SHE’s work at a national level. In line with our model, we’re advocating for social change, one policy at a time.

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2019!

What’s a #SHEro anyway?

Click here for your blank #SHEro sign!

International Women’s Day is Friday, March 8th!

In honor of International Women’s Day (IWD) we’re celebrating phenomenal women worldwide! Giving to SHE this IWD means investing in the SHEroes we work with everyday. But we want to know who your #SHEro is! Follow these three steps to join the movement:

SHE’s Refugee Ambassador Program

 At SHE, we believe that access to menstrual pads is a basic health necessity. So why are there communities that still lack access to them? Women and girls living in Rwanda’s refugee camps struggle to obtain affordable pads on a daily basis. Income opportunities are sparse within the camps and allocation of this basic necessity is inconsistent.

Donated pads haven’t proven to be sustainable for women and girls who need them most. So we’ve partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Rwanda to launch our Refugee Ambassador Program to provide a solution to this issue. Starting with the Nyabiheke Refugee Camp, we’ve trained 49 refugee women ambassadors who have educated 4,603 women, girls, and community members on healthy menstrual hygiene practices. Ambassadors have already started earning income from hosting community education sessions and can better provide for themselves and their families. In 2019, ambassadors will start selling go! pads within the camp community to expand access to affordable go! pads to more girls and women in need.

Women ambassadors of the Nyabiheke Refugee Camp in Rwanda.
Photos courtesy of Jonathan Wallen.

What’s the Big Deal with Menstrual Pads?

Did you know that drones are now delivering blood and medical supplies to hospitals in Rwanda? While we haven’t mastered aerial distribution of go! pads, we’ve got some accomplishments that we think are a big deal. We’ve reached over a million people to date through education and advocacy, our go! pads are currently featured in the latest Smithsonian exhibit at the Gates Foundation, and we’re working with refugee camps in Rwanda to improve girls’ and women’s menstrual hygiene. Our productivity this quarter is thanks to SHEroes like you who support our mission!

 

go! Got a New Look

We make go! pads for girls so they should be designed by girls, right? Earlier this year we started a new go! pad packaging pilot supported by Johnson & Johnson’s Sustainability team to get girls’ feedback on the pad’s size, educational brochures, sales appeal, and overall look. Girls shared that they like the discrete brown paper backing of the go! pads, how easily they fit inside of pockets, and being able to purchase a 3-pack of pads if they can’t afford a whole pack. We’re wrapping up our pilot program to finalize any changes and making sure that girls have a say in the design of their menstrual pads. Stay tuned!

 

 

What’s the Real Price of Periods?

In 2009, we calculated the cost of periods to be a GDP loss of $115 million in Rwanda from women missing work. SHE28 is our solution to the global period poverty issue and we’ve already tested the waters on expansion in Zimbabwe. CNN’s latest article, When pads are a luxury, getting your period means missing out on lifereports on period poverty’s impact on school girls and working women in Tanzania. Read what SHE CEO and Founder Elizabeth Scharpf had to say about the issue in the article. If you’ve never thought about missing out on daily activities due to your period, use CNN’s period poverty calculator to find out.

Our Impact To Date

 

SHE Goes to Zimbabwe

We’ve made 520,698 go! pads to date and we’re not stopping there!

To keep the momentum going, we traveled to Zimbabwe in May to explore how we could turn what’s typically seen as plant waste into go! pads. We conducted initial fiber testing led by our very own engineer and Technical Director, Leah!

 

To kick off day one, we met with twenty-nine eager women farmers at the beautiful Magadzire Centre site to test out some new fibers. The farmers made sure to wear goggles to prepare for the messy extraction process ahead. We realized that unlike banana plants in Rwanda, Zimbabwean banana plants are full of water. This means that these varieties can be left out for up to two weeks before extraction. Immediately after extracting the fibers from the banana stems, they were placed in water to prevent discoloration. We then hung them out on a line and later stored them in dry place called a hozi, the word for storage room in the Shona language.

 

 

On the second day, our group of farmers grew by ten. They even brought with them five different banana plant varieties that we successful extracted fibers from.

Stay tuned to find out if these new fibers will be suitable for go! pads!

 

 

 

 

There is still work to be done to make SHE28 possible in Zimbabwe. Repairing the road to the site and building a centrally located banana fiber collection depot are top priorities. Our training could not have been possible without our partners in Zimbabwe. Siyabonga! Maita Basa! (Thank you!)

 

Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018

SHE celebrates Menstrual Hygiene Day every May 28th, and this year we held our biggest celebration yet.

Boys, girls, and their parents took a spot on the field to learn and break the silence around menstruation. Schools competed to put on the best menstrual hygiene drama skit in the hopes of winning money to improve their school’s girls room.

 

 

Miss Rwanda 2018 graced the stage to announce the winners of the competition and encourage girls to not shy away from asking questions about their periods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 11,000 people participated in SHE educational events for Menstrual Hygiene Day, with 4,000 gathering to celebrate on the day itself.  The Ministry of Education was present to support SHE Rwanda’s work in improving girls’ education. Thanks to coverage from Radio Rwanda, our message traveled across the country, reaching 90% of the population of Rwanda.