Kamusta (hello) Philippines!

As you probably know, SHE is shaking up the pad industry in Rwanda by making menstrual pads in part from banana fiber. BUT the Philippines have also found innovative ways to use our fiber cousin, the ABACA plant. SHE’s technical guru, Leah, headed there for two weeks to see exactly what the Philippines were up to and here is what she found!

Why is the Philippines the #1 exporter of abaca fiber?

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering why people even farm abaca fiber… well it turns out that abaca fiber has a long history of being used to make paper and rope due to its fiber strength!

Why is SHE interested in ABACA fiber??

We love our banana fiber menstrual pads and we are always looking for ways to improve our process. So, Leah (SHE’s technical director and in house engineer) visited the Philippines to learn more about the fiber extraction and supply processes from our fiber cousins (the abaca plant). Over her stay, Leah visited a host of different sites specializing in fiber production, quality standards, and extraction.

In short, our tech guru will use this information to hopefully enhance and expand our ability to process banana fiber in Rwanda so that more women and girls can have access to affordable menstrual pads!

SO what did SHE find?

Despite being fiber cousins, the process used is slightly different (due to the abaca plants’ fiber strength). In the Philippines, a specialized machine is used to process this fiber; though this exact process is not suitable for banana fiber, Leah is interested in using a similar technique with banana fibers!

machinery processing the abaca fiber

HOW THIS HELPS SHE:

In terms of $$$, both plants average a similar extraction cost, but Leah still learned different ways to potentially reduce our cost back in Rwanda. The farmers in the Philippines worked with smaller portions of the plant stem which can create an easier and more cost-effective supply chain. SHE is investigating this strategy in Rwanda!

From learning first-hand about how the Philippines process abaca fiber, SHE can hopefully make better use of banana fiber in Rwanda. Enhancing the production of go! pads means that more women and girls can have access to affordable menstrual pads. Thanks for your work in the Philippines Leah, now let’s make better go! pads at home!

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.

SHE Celebrates Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019

The host of the celebration

Welcome back to our annual coverage of Menstrual Hygiene Day! *Woo* *Woo* *Cheers* Yes, yes we are thrilled too. We have exciting news. This year SHE built a brand new girl’s room and we want to tell you all about it.

Let’s Get Into It!

For the first time, SHE partnered with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health to help promote their new national health campaign. The campaign is a pillar of support that focused on improving menstrual hygiene in schools through action and ending the stigma surrounding menstruation. This year’s theme, “Its time for action”, called for people to take action in their communities.

Following the theme, a brand new girls’ room was built in a primary school that serves over 1,200 girls. Not sure what girls’ rooms are? Well, girls’ rooms are safe havens that provide beds, sanitary products, menstrual pads, etc. For whom, you may ask? Yeah, you guessed it, for girls (Take notes, America)! Now more girls have daily access to pads, water, and other necessities so they can manage their periods while at school. What more could you want?

Well, we have more news! The celebration attracted over 10,000 people, which is double that of last year’s. Not to mention, an additional 3 million people listened and watched through radio talk shows and media coverage!

School Children watching performances

Let us give you some facts: Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) teaches women and girls how to manage their periods in a healthy and positive way so they can maintain full participation in school and work. Men and boys play essential roles in MHM and combating gender inequality. They can be allies in various ways, whether that be getting educated on menstruation or just giving moral support to their classmates.

During our festivities, girls and boys marched in solidarity against menstrual stigma and taboos. Soap opera actors graced the stage as they performed skits from their hit show.

Miss Rwanda 2019

Meghan Nimwiza’s Miss Rwanda, speech normalized menstruation and encouraged boys to support girls during their periods. We heard the testimony of a 15-year-old refugee from Tanzania who struggled with her period because her family could not afford to buy her pads. She struggled to play with her friends and focus in class until her teacher bought her a pad. One pad changed her life. The young lady calls for parents to take action and start conversations with their kids earlier rather than later.

John, SHE’s Managing Director; Ministry of Health Delegate; Director-General of Ngoma District; 15-year-old refugee girl from Tanzania (L to R)
Miss Rwanda 2019; John, SHE’s Managing Director; Ministry of Health Delegate; Director-General of Ngoma District (L to R)

The celebration was a clear success in breaking the silence around menstruation. We are grateful for all the support shown by the community including various media outlets, and organizations for helping spread the message. The active participation of organizations and outlets like Health Development and Performance (HDP), WHO, UFPA, Water Aid, BBC Rwanda, The New Times, and Radio Rwanda (just to name a few) make all the difference.

So, mark your calendars for May 28th next year because we’re hoping to see an even bigger turnout!

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, beside UN Women, VITO, and technology and innovation leaders 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 toward 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