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!

Girls Just Wanna Have…

SHE celebrated the second annual International Day of the Girl (October 11th) in Rwanda and in the U.S. by doing what we do best: making menstruation matter by instigating awareness.

We kicked off celebrations with a call-in show on Radio Rwanda. SHE Rwanda COO Julian was featured on Radio Rwanda to discuss how SHE go! Pads and our education and advocacy initiatives are help to advance girls’ improvement in education. The most popular segment of the program was when listeners called in with their own questions. Guess who called in with the most questions: men! Yes, men called in not only to ask questions, but to declare their support for SHE!

The celebrations continued in Rwanda when SHE’s Marketing Officer Gerardine attended at FAWE and UNFPA’s Day of the Girl event in Rubavu. Students performed poems, songs, artwork, and skits that focused on this year’s Day of the Girl theme, “Innovations in Girls’ Education”. The Executive Secretary of the Kanama sector also spoke and congratulated ongoing efforts by parents, teachers, and other stakeholders for investing in the girls’ and supporting efforts to end gender-based violence.

The SHE Global team celebrated Day of the Girl too. UNICEF gave us the opportunity to show the world our SHE go! Pad as an example of great innovation to improve girls’ education at their global event along with innovations from the Girl Scouts, Girls Who Code, and Intel/Stanford.

SHE’s Connie Lewin and Ali Sugarman, a SHE intern and all-round SHE advocate, showcased our go! Pad to an audience of 200+ that included Day of the Girl youth advocates, UN, UNICEF, and Plan International leaders, ABC News’s David Muir and actress Freida Pinto!

Ali and Connie at UNICEF’s Day of the Girl Celebration
Actress Freida Pinto (center, in white dress) was excited about the go! Pad!

International Day of the Girl may be over, but you can still keep celebrating! Sign the The Girl Declaration, a call to action to put girls at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.  You can also celebrate by shaking along to Beyonce’s “Who runs the world? Girls” too!

Viva SHE,Viva Girls We Serve and Viva One Young World!

Sylvere, SHE Rwanda Business Development Officer 

Ed Note: Business Development Officer Sylvere was selected by MTN Rwanda to represent the country of Rwanda at the global conference, One Young World Summit, a global gathering of young people from around the world, helping them make lasting connections to create positive change. Check out what happened!

Hello Everyone!

I know many of you have been dying to know what happened at the One Young World Summit I attended in Johannesburg a week ago.

First and foremost, I want to give a word of thanks to the whole SHE team, all of whom give me strength and help me to realize my full potential. Your love and your professionalism gives me the energy to keep moving forward. I also thank MTN Group for sponsoring me so I can attend the 2013 OYW Summit 2013.

All I can say is wow, wowwww! This is our time as young people to shake down the barriers to change within our countries and change what remains difficult. I learned that the word “impossible” doesn’t exist. I was excited to come back to Rwanda and get involved in every single aspect of development in Rwanda. Of course as a young person, I wanted to immediately come back and start!

The One Young World summit has become my #1 source of inspiration. Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the UN inspired me when he said that “when the leaders fail to lead, take a lead and make them follow.” For me, this was great to hear and I learned that I do have the ability to create positive change here in Rwanda. For example, it’s a girl’s right to not miss school due to the lack of access to affordable sanitary pads; it is a girl’s right to have a proper education around menstrual health; and SHE must continue to make these rights a reality. We are the solution!

We must spread the word until leaders of this country understand that girls are missing school between 4 to 6 days every month due to lack of menstrual health education and lack of access to the sanitation facilities/products and we should break the silence around menstruation.  SHE’s business development and market-based solution are what developing countries need to welcome and integrate them into their annual programs.

People should not only think about making money from communities. Instead, they should think of how we can improve our overall community, and that is what we at SHE are doing! That’s what SHE’s mission of investing into people and ideas that are typically overlooked (and often taboo) as vehicles of social and economic change is all about.

When I arrived at One Young World, I had a mission to talk about SHE28 and our initiative of addressing lack of access to affordable sanitary pads in Rwanda. I didn’t give up and One Young World’s organizers Kat Robertson and David Jones provided me the chance to take the mic and present SHE in one minute.

Following my short presentation, I received more than a hundred business cards from different people around the world and a special invitation to The B Team dinner on Saturday night that included Arianna Huffington, the President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, whom wanted to know more about SHE.

Everyone that I met wanted to get involved in helping SHE! Speaking about SHE on stage was an amazing opportunity.

I learned a lot at One Young World too. I did not know that in Swaziland over than 25% of the whole population lives with HIV/AIDS and it is our responsibility to help reduce that percentage. I learned a lot about international perception about the United States government decisions toward countries. I learned about the political climate in the U.S. when it comes to Obamacare. I didn’t really know at what extent that malaria is killing people in sub-Saharan Africa. But now I know and I am ready to provide any help I can.
In summary, I got to know that education is a powerful weapon that you can use to fight against poverty and entrepreneurship is a long-term solution than aid alone. I also learned that social enterprise are a solution to end extreme poverty and it is up to us young people to make it happen. It is my role to push Rwandan officials to support the social enterprises in my country!

Viva SHE, Viva girls we serve and Viva One Young World! 

SHE will be celebrating International Day of the Girl this Friday! Join us!

SHE is celebrating International Day of the Girl in Rwanda and globally! You can join us too!

SHE Rwanda kicked off celebrations by hosting a radio show in which callers asked questions about menstruation and the challenges girls and women face in accessing pads and health education. The celebrations will continue with SHE Rwanda next week too. Stay tuned!

We are so excited to be invited to showcase our go! Pads in celebration of International Day of the Girl!

To mark the International Day of the Girl Child and bring attention to this year’s theme, Innovating for Girls’ Education, UNICEF will present examples of innovation in the area of girls’ education and has invited SHE to showcase our SHE go! Pads, as an example of the importance and power of harnessing innovation to improve girls’ education.

We want you to join us too in the celebration! Here’s how:

    • Join the conversation on Twitter: Tweet your support of SHE and share this message:

How a 5-cent maxi-pad is a gamechanger: SHE go! Pads help girls RECLAIM their place in the classroom: #dayofthegirl

Don’t miss! Chief Instigating Officer Elizabeth Scharpf’s Op-Ed

No one is a fan of buzzwords – they are usually hard to decipher, and while saying the latest lingo can help you feel that you’re in the know, it can also have large, unintended consequences upon society and the economy.
Founder and Chief Instigating Officer Elizabeth Scharpf writes why sustainability should be more than a meaningless buzzword in Reuters.

What do you think? Let us know – tweet her @Scharpfie or us @SHEnterprises.

The HAHA Beat: Bringing Menstruation to the Table

While our industrial-scale manufacturing pilot is in motion, our HAHA team (Health and Hygiene Advocacy) team is also laying the groundwork to ensure long-term access to menstrual hygiene education and products (including our SHE go! Pad) .

Here’s our latest update on all things health and hygiene-related!

Nadia Hitimana (left) in a girl’s room with a headmistress
  • SHE is finalizing its menstrual hygiene management training guides, which will serve as a model for the Rwandan Ministry of Health. These guides will be used to train the 50 teachers at our pilot schools on menstrual hygiene management, which will thereby increase 6,000 students’ knowledge about menstruation and menstrual hygiene.
  • SHE presented its case study at UNESCO’s inaugural Menstrual Hygiene conference in Kenya.
  • SHE instigated the passing of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) resolution urging partner states to waive taxes on sanitary pads in the region to increase their availability and affordability, thanks to ongoing support by Rwandan parliamentarian Dr. Odette Nyiramilimo.
  • SHE presented on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) at the Girl Learning summit that was hosted by Girl Hub Rwanda and Nike Foundation. SHE’s presentation has garnered interest among several schools.
  • SHE continues to add new partners with its “Breaking the Silence” campaign. Local schools and organizations have invited us to lead MHM awareness.
  • SHE has also joined Girl Child Network, a Rwanda national network of fellow instigators advocating for policy changes to best support girls both in and out of the classroom.

Dispatch from SHE’s MacGyver: Getting Dirty for the Cause

Since our MacGyver-in-Residence Tyson Huffman has arrived at our production facility in Ngoma, SHE has been on the fast-track to mass production of our go! pads.

Tyson is applying his expertise in process engineering and operations management to set up our production site, test and validate our quality control and assurance manufacturing processes, and train our local technical team. And guess what? Tyson’s latest dispatch declares that “We are on a roll!”
In just 3 short weeks, Tyson has hired three technicians (2 of whom are women) from the local vocational school, has brought our machinery online, led the minor re-construction of our facility, the installation of our water tank and electricity, and has begin a test run of processing our fiber into fluff!
Building a production site means that you need to be ready to roll up your sleeves. Thankfully, SHE’s Tyson and Sylvere have no problem getting dirty for the cause!
Sylvere (left) and Tyson (right) testing one of our machines.
Tyson is making our production site ready for manufacturing action! Stay tuned for upcoming dispatches from him!

Are you SHE’s new Digital Marketing Fellow?

We’re looking for a highly motivated individual who wants to spur social and economic change and work with an innovative, international award winning social venture, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), and its first initiative, SHE28, a campaign that is addressing femalesʼ lack of access to affordable menstrual pads. SHE has been featured by Nick Kristof in The New York Times, NPR, and PBS Newshour. President Bill Clinton is even a fan of SHE and our LaunchPad – he got to see it firsthand at the Clinton Global Initiative!

Terms: A part-time fellowship with a minimum engagement of 4 months, with a possibility of extending the position into a long-term fellowship. Fellow will receive a stipend, commensurate with experience.
15-18 hours/week, and must be available to participate in office meetings in NYC at least twice a month. 
All applicants must be able to bring their own wifi enabled laptop. Photoshop experience is a plus but not required.

Do you want to spend time with us…
  • Crafting and editing content for SHE’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter account that is provocative and thought-provoking and addresses public health taboos (namely, menstruation)?
  • Populating all social media outlets with the content and measuring the effectiveness of our social media with Google Analytics and other tools?
  • Using your powers of hyper-organization to provide technical assistance to special projects?
  • Having a blast being a part of a kick-ass team and learning about the nuts and bolts of running a start-up social venture doing groundbreaking work?

Our ideal candidate has…
  • Exceptional writing and communications skills.
  • Strong understanding of digital marketing platforms and measurement tools (including Google Analytics) to provide reports on metrics
  • Passion for digital marketing and an instinct for creating content across multiple social media platform
  • The ability to gain a robust understanding of SHE’s core audience

A more detailed description of responsibilities:

Digital Marketing
  • To effectively maintain, update and develop SHE’s social presence on a global level, across all existing Social Media channels
  • Organize content into editorial calendar
  • Ensure content is engaging and provocative, supporting SHE’s mission and thought leadership in social enterprise
  • Working closely with the SHE Global team to build SHE’s thought leadership, engaging with and cultivating strong links with blogs and other media outlets
  • Research as requested: media or PR leads, communications content
If you answered YES to the questions listed above, please send along your resume and cover letter, with answers to the following questions within your cover letter.
1) Why do you want to join SHE?
2) Why should we choose you?
3) What do you hope to learn?
4) In 140 characters or fewer (no longer than a Tweet), tell us what makes you unique!

Please also include links to blog posts and social media content that you have authored.

Send along all of this info in an email with “Digital Marketing Fellow” in the email heading to by October 31, 2013.

Meet SHE Global Health Interns

Please welcome our four SHE Global Health Interns.  We’re incredibly excited to have such a diverse team working from a variety of geographic locations—New York City; Brunswick, Maine; Chicago, Illinois; and the Canadian Arctic— to support SHE Rwanda’s Health Education and Advocacy efforts as well as SHE’s Global Health projects. 
Meet Sereena, Del, Natalie and Natalie! Their perspectives are unique and their passion for global health is evident. You will get to learn more about each of our interns in the near future! 

Sereena Singh is currently an MPH student at New York University concentrating in Community and International Health. For her undergrad, she attended Rutgers University graduating with Bachelor’s in Public Health. Initially, her interest in Public Health began at Rutgers and her passion for women’s health peaked ever further throughout her studies.

Sereena has been working at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine as a clinical research coordinator for about 2 years now. She recently worked at UNICEF India on international development issues for local villages in Bhopal. In her free time, she enjoys arts and crafts, especially DIY projects. She also has a guilty pleasure for reality shows, and will watch almost anything!

Delaram Farshad recently completed her MPH focusing on Maternal & Child, at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Prior to joining the team, Delaram worked with UNICEF NY HQ- Nutrition & Health Unit and was involved in various community nutrition and rural health projects abroad in India, Swaziland and Bolivia. She is passionate about global health advocacy, women’s health and community empowerment. Currently, Delaram is living in the Arctic region of Canada, working to promote health, community development and learning traditional Indigenous culture. Delaram’s love for diversity and curiosity for travel, has afforded her opportunities to work in diverse rural and cross cultural settings, interacting with people from all walks of life. In her spare time, she loves to exercise her creativity, interact with people from different cultures and practice yoga.
Natalie Naculich grew up in Maine and graduated from Brunswick High School in June 2012. She took a gap year and spent seven months in East Africa, traveling and volunteering in schools and orphanages in Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Uganda. She will start her freshman year at the University of Chicago in September, where she plans to study public health and international development. She spends her free time directing musicals for children in a barn-turned-theater, reading about Africa (since she can’t be there), and visiting as many coffee shops as possible in the search of a perfect cup of coffee.

Natalie Smid is currently a junior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where she is majoring in Gender & Women’s Studies and Biochemistry. Natalie is one of the leaders of the Bowdoin Women’s Association and she volunteers at Maine’s Midcoast Hospital. Prior to Bowdoin, Natalie spent three summers volunteering at a health care clinic in Springfield, Missouri where she grew up. 

 Her experiences in the clinic established her passion for global health. Natalie loves to run, belt songs with her sister, and wishes that plant-eating dinosaurs still roamed the earth.

Meet one of our ten pilot schools: Gs Gikaya

Gs Gikaya is one of the 10 schools that will be buying our pads during our industrial-scale pilot.  It’s considered one of the model schools with girl-friendly sanitation facilities compared to many of the schools we have visited. This school is also renowned also for their warm welcoming.

A warm welcome from Gs Gikaya students!

When Nadia, Tash, and I arrived, we were welcomed by kids running towards you to receive you with a hug and sweet songs.

SHE will be providing Menstrual Health Management training at each of our ten pilot schools, but before we begin training, we needed to revisit the school campus so we can tailor our curriculum based on the school’s sanitation facilities. 

Gs Giyaka is equipped with a girls’ room that contains basic materials that a girl should use when she get her menses at school and is unprepared. Because this school is led by a woman, the issues of menstruation seem better well addressed than at other schools. The school teachers discuss the topic after class and instruct younger girls how to manage their menstruation, but challenges to fully support girls’ menstrual needs still exist. 

SHE’s Nadia with Gs Gikaya’s headmistress in the school’s girl’s room

The headmistress reported that even though they have pads in stock to give to a girl who is unprepared when her period arrives, many of girls still don’t have means to purchase a pack of pads by themselves. Therefore, they sometimes try to game the system by having their friends ask for pads on their behalf so they can have enough products. Painkillers are also not available at school, so sometimes the headmistress allow girls to return home if they have too much pain. 

Supporting girls’ menstrual needs at school will not be solved simply by providing access to more pads. That’s why SHE is instigating at the national level to ensure that budgets and resources are increased at the school level, so girls will be provided increased access to education, menstrual products, and services.

I wonder whether schools led by women care more about menstruation issues or if it’s just this school that makes an effort to support its girls and boys equally to help them stay in school. In any regard, we can’t wait to learn more from the girls of Gs Gikaya!

– Gerardine, Marketing and Research Officer