Focus: Consumer Goods
Location: Ngoma, Rwanda
As they say, one (wo)man’s discarded banana fibers are another (wo)man’s sanitary pads. Considering 18% of girls and women missed school and work last year because they could not afford to buy menstrual pads, it’s fair to say this is an issue worth tackling. Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), founded by Harvard Kennedy School graduate Elizabeth Scharpf, has taken on this challenge in a way that not only benefits women by providing a sanitary solution, but also by providing them with employment opportunities. Furthermore, the patented process employed to manufacture the pads is environmentally sustainable.
SHE has partnered with two women-led banana farming co-operatives, providing them with equipment, education, and skills-training to help increase their incomes. In turn, the 600+ farmers use SHE’s machines to extract fiber from the tons of banana tree trunks that they would otherwise throw away each year. SHE buys the fiber and then has women in a community factory cut, wash, fluff, and solar-dry it so that it can be made into pads that are sold at an affordable price to women and schools. Thus, the “farmers are helping to boost girls’ futures, while [SHE’s] business helps to boost their income.”
SHE’s menstrual pads help prevent girls from missing up to 50 school days per year, but that’s not the end of it. SHE also provides health and hygiene education in schools and communities, advocates for waiving of value-added taxes on pads, and is in the process of devising a global franchise model. As SHE notes, “it’s a sustainable system that can be rolled out anywhere.”
Environmental Impact: Reduced landfills, environmentally-friendly production processes
Measurement: Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE)
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