Women + Income= Benefits for All

Eastern Province, Rwanda
March 19, 2009

Numerous studies provide data on why assisting women in generating income benefits the community at large, but actually meeting the women behind those statistics is the best part of my job. Last week I had the opportunity to visit a banana wine cooperative in the East who we are hoping to work with in procuring banana fibres. The coop goes through 7 to 10 tons of banana trees a week meaning that the part we need for our sanitary pad project is being thrown out. Christine, the president of the Coop understood this as a terrific way for village women to earn more money and as she is already a successful business woman she was concerned about spreading wealth to others in her community. She invited women from her village to come talk to me about the need for low cost sanitary pads and then asked one of her coop members to demonstrate how to extract and prepare banana fibres. She also invited the Chief of Police and the Executive Secretary of the district to come watch and give their support for SHE and banana fibre extraction. What a day!


When A Period Ends More Than A Sentence.

"Menstruation matters? Yeah, so let's talk about it."

This phrase, my blogger friends, is not the status quo email in my inbox. But I was more than happy to respond to and meet with Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, author of My Little Red Book, not too long ago. Twenty emails, five phone calls, and one tea at the Tick Tock Diner later, Rachel and I co-wrote the following OpEd that landed on the front page of the Huffington Post on International Women's Day. Check it out if you want to learn about why menstruation matters in the global economy and what you can do about it!


Hannah's Excellent Eastern Adventure

Doing business in Rwanda is certainly an education in linguistics, and I learned this during my visit to the Urugero Women’s Cooperative in Rwamagama yesterday. In hopes of procuring banana fibre for our research in the United States, I went to the East of Rwanda to meet with the women’s cooperative who had been trained in extraction and to try to bargain with them for the price of fibre which had been rapidly increasing as both the banana farmers and the women’s coop realized there was money to be made.

The conversation over the price of fibre switched between a terrible hybrid of French, English and Kinyarwanda. Jokes were made that then had to be passed from one language to the next like some ridiculous form of the telephone game, and business transactions were interpreted over and over again until everyone was confident that their sentiments had been properly articulated to the other party. However, despite the language barriers and the potential for misunderstandings, the interaction was remarkably amiable and everyone ultimately wanted the best for the business. In the end there were smiles all around, and I was presented with a beautiful piece of artwork made from banana leaves which I cherish. The visit was not just a great excuse to get out of Kigali but an opportunity to connect with some of the women whose lives SHE is hoping to have a positive impact on as our business grows.