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:
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
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.