The Power of Three: Scaling SHE28 with our Partner, JNJ

Guest Post by Dany Karemera, Production Manager


Production Manager feeding the fiber into new Phase 1 machineryI just returned from a week in Skillman, New Jersey. It was my first time in the US – what a beautiful country! I was there for a training with Johnson and Johnson, who assists my organization (SHE) on the development of appropriate technology of manufacturing of sanitary pads out of banana fibers in Rwanda. During my 5 days in New Jersey, I worked with Michael Moscherosch and Ken Pelley, who are J&J engineers. They trained me on assembly, operation, maintenance and repair of the Phase 1 machine that will take banana fibers and convert them directly into fluff (absorbent material) as well as test method training.

Our technical collaboration with J&J has allowed us to develop a revamped manufacturing process with three phases of implementation:

Phase 1 is the new equipment which will streamline our pulping process. It takes banana fiber and converts it directly into fluff.

Phase 2 will convert the fluff into a tissue wrapped absorbent pad that then can be converted into menstrual pads.

Phase 3 will convert the menstrual pads into fully assembled pads.

We presented SHE’s patented innovation and technical collaboration work to senior leaders at Johnson and Johnson, including Michael Sneed, Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs.

Photo Mar 02, 2 21 00 PM

We presented our technical innovation and collaboration to senior leaders at J&J including Chief Scientific Officer Josh Ghaim and VP, Global Corporate Affairs Michael Sneed.


IMG_0467Every night after training, I was hanging out with different J&J people, having dinner together and getting questioned about life in Rwanda and how we make pads out of banana fibers. They were very happy to be with me and get different knowledge from my experience. I also experienced different foods in the US. They were very good but it was hard to eat noodles using chopsticks for my first time! Before I started my training in New Jersey, I had an amazing time with my teammates Connie and Melissa in New York and visited different places such as Top of the Rock where you see an amazing view of New York City, saw dinosaur skeletons which lived thousands years ago at the American Museum of Natural History, and visited beautiful places such as Times Square, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and many more. It was very exciting! I am not scared of changes but to live between -3 degrees and -4 degrees Celsius (about 30 degrees Fahrenheit) was very hard for me. When I woke up and saw snow outside, I was very happy to see the snow for my first time and this was on my list of things to see in United States. I was very happy to see everything in white and Michael taught me how to throw snowballs (very funny). I have returned to Rwanda, and I am now at work with Michael and the J&J team to make our scale-up production process a reality.

Rwanda’s Minister of Education visits SHE in Ngoma

Guest Post by Dany Karemera, Production Manager

The Ministry of Education is very supportive of SHE’s innovation and production of affordable menstrual pads out of banana fibers and liked that SHE provides our go! pads to girls in schools in order to keep them performing.

Minister of Education Dr. Musafiri Papias Malimba recently visited our production site in Ngoma.

On his visit, the Minister of Education in Rwanda, Dr. Musafiri Papias Malimba, appreciated our initiative and our mission in Rwanda of keeping girls in school accompanied by supporting the Rwanda’s economy. Dr. Papias also appreciated the local production of our products and collaboration with the women farmers in rural areas.

He believes that this local collaboration will be among the best system of improving and changing girls and women’s lives. He wishes to increase knowledge of SHE’s efforts so that go! pads can be used in every Rwandan school and demonstrated that he is very supportive of our mission.

 

Cultivating a New Industry

Smallholder farming plays an integral role in Rwanda’s economic development, and women contribute up to 70% of agricultural labor. Despite women’s major role in farming, they have significantly limited access to financing, technologies, credit, and education. SHE is working to bridge that gender gap with our reliance on local materials, including our local sourcing of banana fiber as the absorbent core of our go! pads.

SHE’s reliance on local sourced of our banana fiber enables farmers to receive additional income from the leftover and renewable banana fiber that remains after a banana tree is fully harvested. Local sourcing of banana fiber also stabilizes farmers’ income fluctuation that happens during the dry season and for the Umunezero co-op, contributes more than 33% of their annual income.

Our recent visit to the Umunezero co-op gives you an behind-the-scenes look at how banana fiber is one of many natural resources used to fuel Rwanda’s economic growth.

The power of word of mouth marketing: Girls are spreading the news about go! pads after first trial use.

Making go! pads sticky in consumers’ mind

Flora Ufitinema profile photo_square

 

by Flora Ufitinema, Marketing and Research Associate, Rwanda

 

We had our first major go! presentation and sales week in August at the 7th Annual Eastern Province Expo in Ngoma. We both presented our go! pads to the business community while also having our pads available for purchase for local consumers! We had a lot of foot traffic thanks to a recent feature of our Production Staff Leader Marie Louise Umulisa in Ni Nyampinga magazine, a national magazine produced by Girl Effect Rwanda. This was really amazing and represented how important this magazine will be in our future efforts to inform girls about go! pads.

We also enjoyed explaining the process of constructing our go! pads with banana tree fibers. People really responded well to the go! pads, especially the bold colors of our brand. The girls and women were most attracted to our product because of how absorbent and inexpensive it is compared to imported pads.

We also connected with local kiosks owners who were also interested in stocking go! pads in their stores. One kiosk owner bought a few go! pads to put her in store, and later that week, she brought other local kiosks owners to purchase and stock go! pads in their shops too.

Another girl who received our go! pads while at the Peace Corps camp in the Eastern Province, came to purchase her own pack of go! pads and brought her friends with her to check out our pads too. She mentioned how go! pads are very absorbent and comfortable. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool for brand awareness, and we’re excited that the word on the street is good to go!

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We’re just getting started with sales and are looking for customers in Rwanda, so please reach out to us at supportshe@sheinnovates.com to get some go! pads in your hands today.

Ngoma team with 3S Award in 2015

Sustainability is more than a buzzword with the 3S Awards

This September, the Global Sourcing Council met in the United Nations headquarters to present the GSC 3S Awards. The GSC, and its partnership with the UN Global Compact, strives for equitable economic distribution within vulnerable populations through sustainable business practices. The 3S Award is based on the 3 pillars – Sustainable, Socially Responsible, Sourcing practices for global businesses.

3S Award with go! pads at Ngoma production siteWe are pleased to win the 2015 3S Award in the category of ‘Women Engagement.’ This award recognizes an organization that has taken great strides in empowering women that are part of a global supply chain in their local community. Specifically, it is awarded to an organization that embodies the 3S mission statement.

Founder and CEO Elizabeth Scharpf sees the 3S Awards as a greater acknowledgement of our commitment to sustainability. “Sustainability should be more than a meaningless buzzword. And GSC 3SAwards is reminding us of what it truly is to be sustainable. Our partners and team at Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) are honored to help exemplify this and be a leader that can inspire others.”

 

Meet Assistant Production Manager Eric Ndayishimiye

Assistant Production Manager Eric Derrick NDAYISHIMIYE Headshot

Eric Ndayishimiye joins SHE, Rwanda as its Assistant Production Manager.

What is your role at SHE and what are some of your current projects?

My role is Assistant Production Manager. Currently, my projects are continuous product improvements of our go! pads to maintain its high-quality and maintenance of our machines.

How did you first connect with SHE?

One day a friend of me told that “Man, they doing some cool innovation in Ngoma. Let’s go and see what is going on!!” After I visited the production site, and learned more about the patented process of producing pads out of banana fibers, I applied for an internship to work as a production intern.  

Why did you join SHE?

I joined SHE to contribute my technical skills to a greater mission of valuing our sisters and mothers so they no longer miss work or school.

What have you learned about grit, innovation, and trust since joining the team?

I learned how the use of banana fibers is highly innovative and unique. I also am inspired that everyone at SHE can play be a part of addressing this problem; that each one of us have skills that we can use to improve our communities.

What is your goal for expanding go!’s pad production?

My goals is to learn the technology updates needed so we can quickly implement in our pad production.

When you’re not working at SHE, what are your passions and hobbies?

I am passionate about solving practical problems (DIY). I enjoy watching movies and swimming.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

They be surprised to know that I am flexible and kind.

What words best describe you?

Quiet, Wise, and Hard Worker

What’s the most recent book you read / TV or movie you watched / song you danced to?

The recent book I’ve read is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and my favorite TV show is SHAMELESS.

Why We Celebrate Labor Day

 

 

We love to celebrate Labor Day here at SHE, and it’s not just because it’s the last weekend before school begins. It’s one of our favorite holidays because with every job created to produce our go! pads in Rwanda, we get closer to earning back the $115M estimated loss in GDP simply because 18% of girls we surveyed miss school when they can’t afford pads.

Thanks to your generous support, we’ve been able to boost the incomes of 600+ smallholder farmers, and create 15 new jobs at our production site so enterprising folks like Sandrine (meet her) and Marie Louise (meet her) can improve their livelihoods and their communities.

Together, we aspire to create 1200+ jobs across the entire value chain – from farmer to franchise owner to pad assembler as we reach 250,000 girls by 2017.

You can help us reach that goal by sharing our video today!

WATCH AND SHARE

Meet the Maker: Sandrine

Introducing our Meet the Maker Series: a behind-the-scene look at the women who assemble our pads from start to finish at our Ngoma production site. Meet Sandrine, a former small shop owner who purchased her first small home since joining SHE.

Sandrine and her children
Sandrine MUKANDUTIYE, a mother of one son and two daughters, is one of SHE’s employees. She works at our production site and makes our go! pads. One of her daily responsibilities is to cut the cover sheet, which is used to wrap and seal our fluff into a solid pad.

Before she joined SHE, Sandrine owned a small boutique. Since working at SHE, Sandrine has been able to save enough money to buy a new home. She will rent out the extra room in her home to bring in more income so she can meet her family’s needs.

Sandrine has also learned to no longer feel ashamed about menstruation. She has received health education from SHE and no longer considers menstruation as a taboo. Moreover, Sandrine recognizes the social benefits of working at SHE for her two daughters. Sandrine has also shared SHE’s health education with her daughters. She is confident that her daughters will no longer experience the shame and discomfort as Sandrine did.

As a result of working at SHE, Sandrine has not only increased her income, but has also become more respected in her family and in her community.

Sandrine’s plans are to continue working at SHE so she can build another small home that she can rent out. She is most proud of being part of a team of women that are working to provide affordable pads to the young girls in her community. She is proud of being one person among many who are improving her country’s economy.

Celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day

 

SHE celebrated the second annual Menstrual Hygiene Day, founded by WASH United, nationwide in Rwanda. An estimated 2.5 million people were buzzing with new menstrual health information during our live Q&A on Radio Rwanda. We also led local celebrations with 703 boys and girls from The Akilah Institute for Women, Riviera School, and the Rukara sector. They celebrated Menstrual Hygiene Day with skits, awareness sessions, and a soccer match!

And the world is taking notice of Menstrual Hygiene Day too! Forbes and Ashoka named us 1 of 5 Amazing Companies in Menstrual Hygiene. NPR acknowledged our pioneering approach of using business solutions to keep girls in school and women working.

Our friends at The Akilah Institute of Women gave some encouraging messages to the younger girls of Rwanda:

 

Moms Know Best

This year, we celebrated Mother’s Day at our Ngoma production site by inviting our team’s children to tour the facility and enjoy in some special treats. We asked their children what they most appreciate about their mothers, and their responses (and photos) are too charming not to share!

Barbara, age 4

Barbara, age 4

“I like my mother because she buys me puppets and a bicycle.”

Igor, age 8

Igor, age 8

“I am proud of my foster mother (Aunty) because she continuously helps me to improve my class scores and because of her efforts this term I was ranked the third of my class.”

Bella, age 6

Bella, age 6

"I am proud of my mother and my family because they respect me."

Our mothers had their turn too to share what is most meaningful to them about working at SHE.

Nadine and her daughter Barbara, age 4

Nadine and her daughter Barbara, age 4

"I am inspired to go to work everyday because I am producing something helpful for girls and women."

Marie Louise Umulisa with her children

Marie Louise Umulisa with her children

" I didn’t feel comfortable to talk about menstruation and pads, but now that I produce them I feel comfortable and confident to talk about both menstruation and using pads."

Sandrine and her children

Sandrine and her children

"The most meaningful part of my work is that I proudly use the product that I have produced myself!"

Thanks to our working moms are doing to make a lasting impact for their children and for their communities! Happy Mother’s Day!