Elizabeth Scharpf reporting live from Rwanda….You make maxi pads out of banana trees? Yeah right. Check out our investment in the overlooked, the taboo, the small things, that have a huge multiplier effect! The whole SHE-bang is here!
Guest post by Tyson Huffman, Acting Chief of Production
I’m proud to introduce to you go! pads, our pilot product. We just distributed them to 43 girls and women at our partner institution, IPRC in Kibungo, Rwanda. Our production lead, Marie Louise, led a discussion about menstruation, hygiene, and how to use our product. I was blown away! Marie Louise is destined for great things within our organization. She is one of the best public speakers I have ever seen. We then gave the students 2 months worth of go! Pads. We are anxiously awaiting their feedback so that we can improve our product.
What a ride! To get here we had to take a substandard facility and make it not only useable but hygienic. We installed electricity and water to the building. Electricity was not easy. We installed fuses and breakers. Even with those safety mechanisms in place we burned 2 motors and a pump. We installed a direct ground. In the US the ground goes directly back to the source of power. We improvised a copper rod buried in salt.
For water we installed a large tank that we elevated so that we had good pressure. Water service is sporadic here so we needed a tank to ensure we were always supplied. Because we don’t use any harmful chemicals we use a lot of water. We added a second tank so that we could recycle our process water. We only use about 2 gallons of water a day.
A sealed room was necessary for final pad assembly. We knocked down some walls and created a sealed sliding door. We are installing a blower that will create positive pressure within the room. This will ensure that nothing like dust or bacteria can enter our assembly room.
There’s more to share – stay tuned for part two!
Here’s our latest Ngoma update from Tyson Huffman, our Acting Chief of Production:
We have made large strides in our goal of producing 30,000 pads a month for our pilot phase. To make the production site ready for inspection by the Bureau of Standards we fixed many sanitation issues. We patched our floors and ceilings. We painted inside and out. The color scheme has let’s everyone know in town that we are operating in our building. Bright and vibrant colors were used and the final results look fantastic. What do you think?
A completely sealed room was needed for pad assembly. We knocked down walls, replaced doors with windows and added a sliding glass door. Lights and electrical sockets were added. Stainless steel tables were manufactured to ensure that our assembly surface is as sanitary as possible. We put in our pad assembler, scales, arbor presses, sachet sealer, and heat stamp.
Only two things remain to put us in full pilot scale manufacturing. Our UV sanitation boxes have been manufactured and will be installed early this week. We also need to create positive pressure within the assembly room to ensure that no insects or dust can enter the room. We have this equipment and it will be up and going this week.
All of our equipment is tested and we’re ready to go!
Earlier this year, we set up shop for our large-scale production in the Ngoma district. In the past few months, we have built out our factory, added electricity and water, installed our machinery, and have successfully produced fluff! These are huge wins! Now, we are on our way to making pads, and we have built a great team at our Ngoma production site. Without further ado, meet our latest SHE Trailblazers that are part of Team SHE! Scroll below to learn more about Nadine, Gaudence, Sandrine, Marie Louise Umulisa, Ernestine, Marie Louise Murereyimana, Christine, and Sam!
Ernestine (first from left, top row): Before working with SHE, I was working with Tigo as a money transfer agent. I like being a part of SHE because it deals with menstruation and help people to have access to pads. I also enjoy that I am learning new things on the job.
Marie Louise, Production Team Leader (middle, top row): I am married and have two children, a daughter and a son. Prior to joining SHE, I had a small shop selling food. I am a local leader in charge of development in my village. Since joining SHE, my life has changed. I have made new friends among my colleagues and decided to return to school to learn English. When I tell my friends that I work at the factory that makes pads, they are impressed and this makes me feel proud. My dream is to pursue my studies in community development and launch an organization that assists people like SHE.
Gaudence (at left, third photo, top row): My name is Gaudence but everyone calls me Mimi. I studied literature and linguistics at secondary school. Prior to joining SHE, I was working as a matron in at a boarding school in Matimba. I am glad that I am learning how to make pads, since it’s a very useful product that I can’t live without each month. I like that SHE is making pads at an affordable price. In my free time, I like to pray, help my parents with house work, and to sing in a choir. My dream is to have a happy family and be able to provide all things that my children need.
Sandrine (right of Gaudence): My name is Sandrine. I am married with 3 children – I have 1 boy and 2 girls. At school, I studied electricity. I am very excited to be a SHE employee because I want to pursue my career in the technical field.
Many people still lack access to the right information about menstruation so it’s important that SHE continue to take the lead and inform people. In the future, I would like to build a nice house for my parents and pursue my studies.
Marie Louise (right, bottom row): I am married and have one son. What I liked about SHE is that it employs women to work in a factory. It is unusual for women to be working in a factory since many bosses fear that when a woman become pregnant, she will not work as hard as a man.