Silly or sly?

Kigali, Rwanda
May 18, 2009

Yes, it is true! The core SHE Team is now reunited as I join Hannah in Rwanda. It's like when Laverne came back from that journey and joined Shirley. Or Ponch and Jon from "CHiPs"....or Sylvester and Tweety...or Bill and Ted! We've banded together again as the SHE Team plans to roll out its pilot to increase access to affordable sanitary pads in Rwanda and beyond!

As we plan, there are a number of decisions to make...including our legal organizational structure which leads me to ask: Is Rwanda going down the yellow brick road to find a pot of gold or a pot of manure with its new structural laws? Right now, Rwanda does not allow NGOs to have income generating activities that cover NGO operational costs. Did the country just not read the latest handbook on sustainability? Or is it that they are being more visionary than others? By driving ventures like us to the for-profit sector, the Rwandan govt aims to increase its tax revenue and wean its way off of development aid. Brilliant, huh?! That is if people follow suit and NGOs don't just flood the market with free products/services, thereby making it uncompetitive for those nascent, tax-paying businesses like SHE!

2 comments:

Alison said...

I think it is visionary. SHE and the Rwandan government that is. I am delighted to have found your blog, yet I am still intensely interested in understanding more about the construction of this pad. I use rags in the States, and used them when I lived two years in Tanzania. But I've always had access to water.
I like your premise, but I hope that you will be able to dedicate a blog more fully to the health risks of rags, and the technicalities of the new alternative.

And I am definitely a fan.

Nora said...

I passed along the questions to my brother, who had this to say:

My first thought is, "I'm not surprised this will be an issue."

However, they could work with it. I mean, if they do make a profit
and do pay taxes, the government will protect them, much like the govt in the US would protect such a small company.

Policy-wise, it kinda makes sense from their point of view. African
governments have lost a huge amount of power, money, oversight,
authority, and legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens because their job as welfare providers has been eliminated by structural adjustment and replaced by largely Western NGOs. Rwanda's stance is to use such policies (something they've been doing for decades - according to many, Rwanda was the last African country to accept any structural adjustment, and even then, it was very minor) to maintain their own power and authority over their citizens.

It does make sense from a certain point of view. They just don't want what you get in Kenya:
hundreds of thousands of mini-NGOs started and run by naive Western
neo-hippies trying to save the world that are completely off the
governments map and are doing all sorts of highly questionable and
often openly problematic things - like channeling corporate donor
money into development projects that completely circumvent the
government. Of course, SHE is not one of these groups.

So Rwanda might be a good place. Or
maybe too much of a pain.