SHE Stories: Discreet Design

Aimee Sealfon Kassana is a Design Director living in Kigali, Rwanda. She started working closely together with the SHE team and Johnson & Johnson two years ago as both a designer and a design strategist. The SHE Team and Johnson & Johnson design partnership created sustainable design concepts together with key stakeholders, in order to develop more sustainable go! packaging and readily accessible health education. During the decade that she worked for Johnson & Johnson, Aimee says that designing for SHE is the project she is most passionate about and invested in.

1. How did you start designing such culturally sensitive and work? How did you test your designs to make sure they communicated the right messages?

All designers need to be culturally sensitive in order to create materials that are successful. I began working with Johnson & Johnson more than a decade ago as the design director for the Women’s Health franchise. I managed the design and creative direction of the consumer packaging for all of their global women’s health care brands and feminine hygiene brands. Some products play an intimate role in women’s lives, and understanding the appropriate cultural sensitivities and how they differed from region to region — and even country to country — was incredibly important to understand from a consumer insights perspective.

As a designer, I have to gather insights on cultural norms, customs, practices, taboos; how and where she shopped; how she lived, trying to better understand her desires and dreams; mapping her journey and how she interacted with these products throughout her life. These insights were then embedded into the design concepts that were developed, in order to create products that added delight, meaning, or in some ways, improved or positively impacted her life.

To test them, we would create prototypes and share them directly with our target audiences in both qualitative and quantitative groups to gather critical feedback and / or co-create together.

2. What did you learn from this work and how did those lessons affect the final product?

Women around the world ultimately have very similar feelings and frustrations around their intimate health needs. Women are women. Regardless of where they live or their socio-economic status, women struggle with issues of self-confidence and wish they knew more about what was happening to them. Being aware of this has allowed me to create consumer experiences that are more approachable and delightful, more meaningful and authentic.

3. Why does design matter on this project? How does it lead to social impact?

People are inherently visual beings, so I would like to think that good design is important for all projects. However, in this specific case with the development of more sustainable packaging for SHE, we needed to figure out how to create more sustainable packaging that also fit within the consumers’ lives in a seamless manner.

It is really hard to change existing behaviors — for example, trying to get the girls to dispose of their used pads and wrappers in a manner other than throwing them down the latrine would be challenging. Recognizing this need led to the development of PET coated paper for the pad wrappers, which will biodegrade.

4. Tell us about the educational pamphlet you’ve been making for SHE.

As we gathered insights from the girls and women, to gain more perspective around how to create more sustainable packaging, we also learned that the girls had SO MANY questions that were not fully answered from what was taught in a classroom setting. They were intimate questions that they did not feel comfortable asking their teachers or their aunts or older sisters. Thus, the idea to create a pocket-sized, educational pamphlet that could be updated in different versions, was born, as it allowed the girls easy access to all of their most pertinent sexual and reproductive health queries, in a format that was discreet (easy to hide from nosy boy classmates and brothers) but that was also easily shareable with their friends and younger sisters.

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.

Nadia Hitimana selected as inaugural Young African Leader Fellow

We’re proud to announce that Nadia Hitimana (3rd from right), our Health and Hygiene Officer, has been selected as an inaugural Young African Leader Fellow. The Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is U.S. President Barack Obama’s month-long exchange program to bring 500 young leaders to the United States each year, for leadership training, academic coursework and mentoring.

Three cheers for Nadia, and let’s see if she can get the President to start talking about menstruation too!

You can learn more about the program here: http://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/

It’s time to celebrate the #smallthings!

At SHE, we believe the #smallthings, like a menstrual pad, can make big changes in the lives of girls in Rwanda.

You believe us too, so YOU Are invited to tell the world what #smallthings has helped give you the confidence to stand tall – whether it was in the classroom, the board room, or in your community.

Take a #smallthingselfie with your favorite small thing – dare 5 of your friends to do it and tag them in the photo!

Write your #smallthings message on a poster, a notecard or even your hand and take a picture.

Share how girls win back 5 years of school and wages when they have access to menstrual pads by instagramming, tweeting or posting our infographic (see below!) on Facebook.

We are also looking for SHE Champions – smart, connected and passionate global citizens that are willing to lend their voices to the #smallthings campaign throughout 2014! You can sign up by emailing Connie Lewin at connie@sheinnovates.com

Learn more about the campaign at sheinnovates.com/smallthings

smallthings campaign infographic

There’s a New SHE in Town!

Today, we are launching our updated brand on our redesigned website! This new brand identity is more than a design makeover; it reflects who we are today, and where we’re going. 

Six years after launching SHE, we’ve learned is that it takes tenacity to disrupt the status quo and create change.

Debunking stereotypes

Reclaiming local resources

Investing in new ideas and people

Launching entrepreneurs to improve lives

Our four words, along with our mission statement, are a living and accurate reflection of who we are and how we work today.

2014 will be a major year for SHE as we move forward with our industrial-scale pilot to produce pads for 3,000 schoolgirls attending our ten partners schools and youth centers in the Kayonza district of Rwanda. As SHE continues to evolve, we will look to our brand to stay true to our approach.

Finally, we’ve changed our identity to mark this new chapter. We worked with Blok Design to create a brand identity that needed to capture the heart and soul of a brand that strengthens women and girls to stand tall and proud. Therefore the wordmark “stands tall,” emphasized by the bold underscore and color palette.

Our photos were also taken by two superb photographers and friends of SHE:

  • Finnish photographer Perttu Saralampi, whose photos are featured in the carousel on our homepage as well as throughout the site. Check out more of his work here:  http://perttusaralampi.tumblr.com/
  • New Zealander Tash McCarroll who spent a lot of time with our staff at our Ngoma production site to capture our progress. View more of her work here: http://tashmccarroll.com/

Please explore our redesigned website, and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Ain’t no stopping us now – SHE’s on the move!

Elizabeth and the SHE Team

Happy National Inventors’ Day!

You don’t have to celebrate only Valentine’s Day this week, because today is National Inventor’s Day!While the most famous of inventors and makers in history is Thomas Edison, there are thousands of unknown inventors and makers that are improving lives, health and incomes. Did you know who invented the toilet? Believe it or not, it’s not Thomas Crapper, but Sir John Harington.

In honor of the day, let’s share the love with the maker types among us and spread the word about our patent-pending innovation of transforming banana fiber into fluff!

#SHEReclaims Holiday Campaign has Launched!

Photo Credit: Perttu Saralampi
Art Design: Tash McCarroll

Today is the launch of our SHE RECLAIMS Holiday Campaign.

What does SHE RECLAIMS mean? It means much more than transforming leftover banana fiber into SHE LaunchPad.

It means that for the 3,000 Rwandan school girls who will receive our pads next year, the SHE LaunchPad will help them RECLAIM their education, productivity, health, and dignity.

Here are a few ways that you can trailblaze with us:


1. Investing today in our large-scale production pilot to deliver SHE LaunchPads to 3,000 Rwandan schoolgirls for the 2014 school year.


Become a SHE Pioneer

2. Introducing us to your friends, family, and your 7th grade teacher by sharing our SHE28 campaign video 


3. Tweeting your friends to take action. Here are our favorites:
  • A 3-cent maxi-pad can change the world. I am helping girls reclaim their place in the classroom by joining @SHEnterprises #SHERECLAIMS (click to tweet)
  • Investing in girls’ hygiene is KEY to reclaiming education, health, productivity & dignity #SHERECLAIMS (click to tweet)
  • Girls should not miss out because they lack access to maxi-pads & menstrual education! Join me in helping #SHERECLAIM her right to dignity (click to tweet)
  • I’m helping girls RECLAIM their full potential at school with access to maxi-pads @SHEnterprises. Together, #SHERECLAIM dignity for all (click to tweet)
4. Sharing our SHE RECLAIMS campaign images on Facebook:

Download here
Download here

Photo Credit and Design: Tash McCarroll Photography

Together, we can #SHERECLAIM dignity for all.

I’ll be sharing more about the SHE Reclaims Holiday Campaign over the coming weeks. In the meantime, please join us this holiday season.

Stay tuned!

Elizabeth and the entire SHE team

Large-scale fluff production has begun!

Editor Note: Have you been dying to know what’s been happening at our Ngoma production site? The wait is over! You can learn first-hand from Tyson Huffman, MacGyver-in-Residence, in our mini blog series in three parts. Read today’s final post out of our mini series.  Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2!

Come meet our production team: Gaudance, Ernestine, Sandrine, Louise, Christine, Nadine, and Daniel, along with Sylvere, our Business Development Officer (in red shirt).

As I write this, we are in full fluff production at our facility! We have hired eight employees and a manager and they are performing above expectations. We ran our machines all day for three days and produced copious amounts of high quality fluff that are ready to become LaunchPads.

Again, how did we get to the point where we are producing fluff? We have the tools, we have the people, and now we have the fluff. Even though we were still working out the kinks we produced a lot of fluff. As I write this I have been watching our manager, Daniel, work out some bugs the refiner is having. I’ve only had to help him once. He is currently teaching a team member to troubleshoot problems. As a restaurant manager, I found the two hardest things to find in a manager are someone who can quickly troubleshoot and train his colleagues. We have hitched our wagon to a star here with Daniel.

From banana fiber to fluff: our team and facility in action!

We will soon have more fluff than we know what to do with. Maybe we could manufacture pillows on the side? I have a few more ideas that I may be able to get done before I leave. They will speed up some of the process.

For all of our supporters, followers, and team members I have one last message: WE DID IT GUYS, THANKS TO YOU!

From Four Walls to Up and Running

Editor Note: Have you been dying to know what’s been happening at our Ngoma production site? You can learn first-hand from Tyson Huffman, MacGyver-in-Residence, in our mini blog series in three parts. Today is Part 2 of 3. Missed Part 1? Read it here.

Sylvere, Julian, and Tyson at our Ngoma production facility

How did we get there? Sweat, determination, patience, and a little savvy thrown in for good measure. There were road bumps and unexpected issues but Marines know how to adapt and overcome. This is the mindset I brought to SHE.

We faced some initial challenges when I arrived to the production site. The first concrete we installed for the floor was unstable, like mud. We had to replace a motor. We then had to replace said motor because our electrician wired it incorrectly. Our initial water plan had to be revamped into a recycled water system. We’ve had to learn and improve the refiner. Our Fitz mill clogged every time we used it.

Newly installed water system

Some were easy and others were tough fixes. The water system was my favorite design of the project. We initially planned to let the water flow onto the floor and then outside into a 9 meter sump. (The guy dug this by hand. He must have the strongest back in the world.) It proved to be too much water and was just too messy. We dug a 1 meter deep sump at the base of the refiner, then built a grate over top of it and put a pump with a float inside. It required us to install another smaller tank to hold recycled water. I piped it in such a way that our team members never have to turn a valve or turn on a pump for it to work. Water rarely flows in Ngoma. This system ensures that we will never have to stop the process for lack of water.

Other problems proved to be easy fixes. We had no washers, so we used bottle tops. Our motor burned so we replaced it. We slightly altered the refiner to adapt it to fibers rather than wood pulp. When the Fitz Mill became clogged, we cut out two bars and it worked perfectly. Much of the equipment we use here does not exist so we manufactured it. We made steps and a platform for workers to stand on. A box was manufactured to catch pulp. The crates that the machine came in were used to make a large table for fiber cutting and a desk for our manager. We even used the nails.

We started this project with four walls and a plan. We have installed electricity, wired our machines, and placed them on concrete. In order to place the machines on concrete, we used 15 men and 2” x 4”. That was a feat. We have installed plumbing to the building, plumbed our machines, and installed two large tanks. A mission well accomplished!

Tune in tomorrow to learn about the successful replication of our fluff-making technology on an industrial-scale and meet our new SHE team members that work at our production facility!

Greetings from the Land of Thousand Hills!

Editor Note: Have you been dying to know what’s been happening at our Ngoma production site? You can learn first-hand from Tyson Huffman, MacGyver-in-Residence, in our mini blog series in three parts. Read Part 1 of 3 today and stay tuned for the rest of the series!

Greetings from the Land of a Thousand Hills or as Rwandans say, the Land of a Thousand Beautiful People!

So how did I get here? It’s because Sustainable Health Enterprises realized that lack of access to affordable pads while menstruating is a big problem for girls and women in developing countries.  Women miss school and work for nearly 50 days a year.  This causes them to fall behind.  SHE decided that this was a major setback for women and decided to do something about it.

SHE came up with a plan to produce pads from banana fiber.  Banana fiber is a waste product of agriculture and therefore affordable to buy.  SHE enlisted the help of MIT and NC State who came up with a process to turn the banana fiber into a highly absorbent fluff using paper-making equipment.  The most amazing thing is that this patent-pending process uses no chemicals.  SHE proved they could make pads on a small-scale at both NCSU and Kigali Institute of Technology, but wanted to bring large-scale production so millions of girls and women in Rwanda can have access to its pads. So, it sent over equipment to Rwanda and were ready to set up shop.  This was no small task.  Now where could they find a guy that is bold enough to join and help SHE pull it off? 

Tyson, second from right, with Sylvere, second from left (in red)
That would be me, Tyson.  I seem to attract unique situations and people.  I’ve had a wild ride so far.  I am a former Marine, restaurant manager, and apple farmer. I’ve done a little construction, was a security guard, and worked as process engineer at a large paper mill.  I am currently a student at NC State in their Paper Science & Engineering and Chemical Engineering programs. 

I would be remiss if I did not also give a shout out to my right hand man, Sylvere, SHE’s Business Development Officer.  He has been my interpreter, guide, and friend since I first arrived in Kigali.  For the most part, we have been together every waking hour.  He taught me how to navigate the landscape of Rwanda, and I couldn’t have done it without him.  He is one of the most interesting and capable people I have ever met.  I have no doubt that we will be lifelong friends.

Stay tuned tomorrow to learn more from Tyson about our production site!