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!
















We’re just getting started with sales and are looking for customers in Rwanda, so please reach out to us at 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.”


What does SHE and the Spice Girls have in common?

While there’s a shared love for 90s pop, SHE runs off girl power. The SHE28 campaign began with 500 girls. Each girl shared the social and physical obstacles they face to stay in school and work simply because they could not afford pads.

Since then, we do all we can to give girls the opportunity to drive local change. Girls co-designed our pads and go! brand. We also work with girl leaders at our partner schools to assess our health education. Our health education is also equipping girls to take a stand for what they need to grow in confidence and fearlessness.

We’re celebrating this brand of girl power on the International Day of the Girl Child (Day of the Girl), an annual day on October 11th.

Join us in getting the word out about International Day of the Girl by sharing our factographs using the #DayoftheGirl hashtag.

Upload the photos, copy the text, and paste it into your statuses on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

#dayofthegirl 5 cent pad









#dayofthegirl girls breaking taboos


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!


SHE is a Tech Awards 2015 Finalist

SHE is a finalist for The Tech Awards 2015.





We are excited to share that we have been selected as a finalist of The Tech Awards 2015 – we are amongst exceptional innovators.  SHE is a Top 5 finalist in the “Sobrato Organization Economic Development Award” category of The Tech Awards 2015! The Tech Awards honors international innovators who are applying technology to confront humanity’s most urgent challenges. Thank you to all of those who have supported us along the way so far!

Learn more about the awards here:


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.

From Saxapahaw to Buckingham Palace

Health and Hygiene Manager Nadia Hitimana has gone to both coasts of the Atlantic Ocean to break the silence and build awareness of our sustainable approach to get girls and women the affordable pads they need to stay at school/work:

Nadia Hitimana presented SHE's innovation at 2015 SwitchPoint Conference SwitchPoint is a world-renowned conference hosted by Intrahealth International that takes place in Saxapahaw, North Carolina focusing on innovations that can improve the world. I was invited to present on the work I do with SHE. Additionally, I touched upon the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) program, an initiative formed by President Obama to convene future leaders from all over sub-Saharan Africa, and which I participated in last summer as part of the inaugural class of leaders. Various different professionals attended SwitchPoint, namely health experts, entrepreneurs, and technologists, among so many others.

My speech was centered on how our health education program works in alignment with our business development. Currently we are working to increase MHM knowledge and skills among students with initial training of teachers. The audience was so captivated by the manufacturing of the pads. They asked questions relating to the functionality of the product, its cost effectiveness, and the challenges and opportunities we have faced as we try to scale. Additionally, they were curious about how SHE engages with girls and their communities. We further pondered possibilities as to whether our model can also work to meet women’s health needs, including those who suffer with obstetric fistula.

From our brainstorm about fistulas, I have learned how much poor MHM practices can not only lead to missing school or incomplete education, additionally, it can be a contributing factor that increases the risks of obstetric fistula. This conference has highlighted my ever existing conviction that proper MHM is a key to preventing many of the reproductive health complications women are likely to face while growing up.

Queen’s Young Leaders

Nadia Hitimana received the inaugural Queen's Young Leaders Award from H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth.

Nadia Hitimana received the inaugural Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Queen Elizabeth.

I then landed on the other side of the Atlantic Coast as one of the Queen’s Young Leaders, another youth leadership program based in the United Kingdom. The selection was based on my previous work achievements with refugees and my responsibilities in MHM education and advocacy at SHE.

As part of the program, I traveled to England for a week to meet other Queen’s Young Leaders, and Queen Elizabeth herself! I have learned so much from various young leaders doing extraordinary things and impacting their communities in ways that are so diverse but converge on the same goal: “leaving the world as a better place than we found it.”

I was inspired to involve community members and girls/women to participate in the development of our products and services, especially within my engagement with SHE. Empowering communities to participate in solving their own problems and take the lead in suggesting innovative solutions can contribute to the sustainable development of Rwanda.

Why I Give to SHE: Meet Molly Johnson

Molly Johnson_Donor and Volunteer_July 2015How did you first get involved with SHE?

I heard about SHE through the School of Visual Arts, where I was tasked with a logo design assignment for them.

What is unique about SHE?

SHE is unique because it is a sustainable, long-term solution. The go! pads help communities in reciprocal ways by empowering women and creating jobs.

What impact have you seen from your donation and volunteer work?

I have seen my designs featured on the website and social media including the 2014 holiday campaign.

Return on investment when you give to SHE

An example of Molly’s work for SHE’s 2014 Holiday Campaign.

What makes you excited about SHE’s future direction?

I am excited to see SHE really thrive in Rwanda, so that similar initiatives are carried out in other communities around the world.

What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a donor or volunteer to SHE? I would say that women can miss up to 50 days of work/school a year if they don’t have sanitary products. 

To discover more of Molly’s talents, check out her portfolio at 

If you want to use your talents for purpose to help further our mission, email us at