SHE commits to a three-year project to accomplish its goals. Specifically, SHE will concentrate on three main areas: health and hygiene education, business skill training, and international advocacy.
- First, SHE will lead the roll-out of a feminine hygiene education program for girls and women with existing relations (e.g., community health workers, youth centers).
- SHE will then select local women as partners to launch a sanitary pad business. SHE will conduct business skill trainings with the women through careful curriculum development, key messaging, and workshops. SHE will also facilitate the opportunity for its partners to borrow from local banks to cost-share with SHE in the launch of the business.
- SHE will couple this with research and development on a low-cost, eco-friendly technology applied to sanitary pads that makes use of local agrowaste (e.g., banana stem fibers, bamboo). SHE will continue to manage the existing experiments conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kigali Institute of Science & Technology and other partner institutions (e.g., PATH).
- Lastly, SHE will promote international advocacy efforts to make sanitary pads more accessible to girls and women by targeting and convincing key stakeholders of a policy response (e.g., abolition of VAT on sanitary pads).
SHE will follow the timeline below:
- Year 1: Establish businesses in Rwanda
- Year 2: Replicate businesses in Rwanda (x3) to reach entire country; feasibility assessments in additional African countries such as Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya
- Year 3: Roll-out of additional businesses in Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya
Girls and women are the most disempowered economic actor in the global formal economy, especially in the later-stage and higher-return segments of the economic value chain. Girls and women make up 3.3 billion people, approximately 2.8 billion in the developing economies and growing; and this phenomenon not only severely limits their income-generating potential, but also fails to tap into a vehicle of development as girls' and women's economic success improves familial welfare overall. Many development practitioners point to girls' educational inequities as the main reason girls and women do not lead economic endeavors.
A simple, common, and yet largely ignored reason that girls are frequently absent from school in developing countries is that they lack sustained access to affordable, high-quality, sanitary pads for menstruation. Currently, girls in this setting--if they have an option at all--turn to either premium priced international brands which are generally costly or to cheaper alternative methods such as rags which, in combination with the lack of a clean and accessible water supply, are unhygienic and potentially harmful to the girls' health. For example, girls in Kenya report that a one month supply of internationally branded pads would cost more than a day's worth of wages. The more commonly used rags, on the other hand, are strongly correlated with pelvic infections and do not effectively contain blood flow. As a result of girls' and women's unmet need for affordable, high-quality sanitary pads, girls are often absent from school and women from work-missing up to 50 days per year-and thereby, thwarting their educational and professional potential.
Failure to address the menstrual needs of girls, as well as women, in an affordable and sanitary fashion has a significant negative financial impact to these developing economies-the 'blood cost'. Not only do girls and women experience health problems due to the lack of availability of affordable sanitary pads, but the economic consequences of missed school and work resulting from using suboptimal solutions for menstruation are immense. First, a girl who misses school an average of 50 days a year is less likely to successfully advance and complete the highest levels of education. As a result, this girl is more likely to secure a lower paying job than if she did not miss school. SHE estimates the cost of girls missing school in Africa because of menstrual hygiene problems in foregone GDP is approximately billion dollars over the next 30 years in Africa alone. Secondly, a woman who misses work is, on average, less productive. This harms her income-earning potential as well as the employer's overall performance. In addition, employers may also develop a bias against hiring women in their communities because they miss more work than the men.
While the donation of premium-priced sanitary pads may temporarily patch this situation in isolated places, this is not a sustainable solution. In addition, the premium products that are marketed or donated contain plastic materials that are expected to overburden the already scarce sanitation facilities in most developing countries. For these reasons, SHE believes that new approaches must be taken to increase access, sustainable access, to affordable, eco-friendly sanitary pads and the health and hygiene associated with them.
SHE is looking for scaling partners:
People to invest in our scaling. People to technically help us scale. People to help us structure our organization to scale (with a hybrid model and patent). People to help advocate for our efforts and others looking to highlight the overlooked.