SHE on the Hunt in Gacuriro
























November 5, 2010
Gacuriro School, Kigali, Rwanda

If you told me that I'd be preparing to build a factory a few years ago, I think I would've thought you fell off the wagon....and bumped your head. But, that's exactly what we're laying the groundwork for right now in Rwanda.

So how does one go about doing that you ask? Well, as I do with most things, I "googled it".....key words: factory, how-to, build. Hmmm, let me add the word "easy" to that search. Why did the screen go blank?

Our task ahead of us is not exactly easy, but that's part of the reason SHE has taken it on, right? Not being manufacturing gurus ourselves, we've decided to do 3 things: get the right people on board early, do our homework, and come up with a systematic game plan...which is exactly what we are doing now.















Our first homework assignment: check out existing manufacturing sites and potential SHE sites. And that's how we ended up at Gacuriro--Julian (our SHE Chief Operations Wizard), Peggy G (one of our savvy SHE-roes), and I poked around one of the technical schools overseen by the Workforce Development Authority, the division under the Ministry of Education with whom we have a partnership. About 6 different technical skill training modules were ongoing....melding, bricklaying, auto-mechanical...you get it. What were we looking for you ask? Consistent electricity, water access, waste disposal system, light, clean space, a passable road among other things.

What was striking was the range of conditions among the different workshops. For example, the first was dark and dirty, but the second was bright and immaculate. I guess not all workshops are created equal. What was also striking was that in the 6 workshops (about 80 people total), we only saw 1 woman. She was the tailoring teacher. Maybe we should have pulled up a stool and joined her?

Elizabeth

And the Campaign Marches On!

November 4, 2010
Gicumbi, Rwanda

Hello SHE Train,
On my last post I mentioned that the "Breaking the Silence" campaign will be kicked off in the northern part of Rwanda (Gicumbi) with distribution of
sanitary pads collected at the kick-off march in March. Well, kick-off we did!

In collaboration with FAWE (Forum for African Women Educationalists) and RAUW (Rwanda Association of University Women), we visited 3 schools with the aim of talking with the students about menstrual issues, raising awareness and
distributing pads among other things.



The team that took the campaign to this area comprised of a woman member of Parliament from this constituency (you know how we are trying to bring this to the attention of Policy makers so they can waive taxes off sanitary pads!), District
Education Officers and many women from different organizations, whose 2 hour bus drive talk was about menstruation and how we can manage.

During the ceremony, we had testimonies from both students and teachers, who confessed this was a pressing problem and now, I quote ‘at least we are going to have a whole term of girls’ presence in school with the pads we just received’. Most notable is the fact that the policy maker in our company promised to take this to the ‘House’.

Watch out for Julian taking the pad and running with it to Parliament!

Julian
SHE, Chief Operation Wizard

Cranes, Trains, and Automobiles
















November 2, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Bond issuance, consumer behavior, interest rates….ahh, love at first sight, or listen. That was my first thought in my first economics course. I know, geek central, or better yet, mild mannered policy wonk! There are a few things I remembered from that class, but a lot more I forgot. One thing that I did remember is Professor Ghilarducci’s “crane index”. It was 1997 and she had just come back from China and remarked that you can tell a country is growing rapidly not only by its GNP per capita, but by how many cranes there are in the sky. Her premise was that cranes signaled new construction which symbolized investor confidence and investment, job creation.




Well, Rwanda may not have cranes, but it does have scaffolding (see picture above of Kigali Institute of Ed with scaffolding)! And the scaffolding index is high these days. I returned to Rwanda recently after a stint in the US, recruiting an international technical partnership and raising venture philanthropic capital. Much has changed—there’s a new beer (Skol), a wider road, and lots of new scaffolding to symbolize what the cranes did in China... But is all growth good? What do you think? To be continued….

Elizabeth

Rwandans Celebrate with SHE

October 21, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda
















The Curry Stone Prize award that SHE won last week has generated a lot of excitement among Rwandan women as they look forward to new ventures in dealing with one of the most pressing issues for girls, women, and communities.








Congratulatory messages are flying through my inbox and phone from different women, especially those that have been following our activities, who have supported and believe in this cause. They were excited to get the news about the award, some wondering, what it means, why SHE, what we intend to do etc,














And you know what my answer to each question is? SHE has come a long way (Ref to previous blogs and website) and WATCH THIS SPACE.

Julian
SHE Chief Operations Wizard

Thanks to the Curry Stone Design Community

October 15, 2010
New York, NY

On behalf of our SHE team, thank you to the Curry Stone Design Community. And thank you to the Rwandan communities we work in, our Board, Advisors, pro-bono Consultants, Volunteers and She Supporters who believe that addressing girls' obstacles to schooling is vital to the well-being of our world. We are humbled by this social design award recognizing our work in health and hygiene education, advocacy, and our potential to drive economic change through local business development. This award will allow us to launch our first manufacturing facility in early 2011.

Check it out:


For more news please check out the latest news:

New York Times Highlights SHE's Eyes on the Prize | Design That Does Good October 13, 2010

Curry Stone Award Site: SHE wins Curry Stone Design Prize October 13, 2010

Design Observer: Sustainable Health Enterprises Wins Prestigious Curry Stone Design Prize
October 13, 2010

Are you the next SHE Fellow this Fall?

We’re looking for a highly-motivated, experienced, and passionate SHE Fellow who wants to work with an innovative, international award winning social venture, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), to change the world! This position is a full or part-time volunteer position working in NYC for 10 weeks.

What will you do? Everything from prepping for the Clinton Global Initiative, researching best practices in social entrepreneurship, helping roll out new intiative in Rwanda, spearheading, editing, laughing, changing the world!

Please send resume, cover letter, and answer to the questions, "Why SHE? and why you?" in an email with “SHE Fall Fellow” in the email heading to supportshe@SHEinnovates.com by midnight, September 6th.

About Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE): www.SHEinnovates.com

Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) is a social venture using market-based approaches to address social problems in developing countries. Its first initiative is addressing girls' and women's lack of access to affordable sanitary pads when they menstruate causing them to miss school and/or work--up to 50 days per year. SHE is helping women start up their own businesses to distribute and eventually manufacture affordable and eco-friendly sanitary pads made of local materials (e.g., banana fibers). Echoing Green, one of the premier seed funders of social enterprises, named SHE 1 of the 20 most innovative social ventures worldwide (out of 1,500 applicants), Harvard Business School named SHE founder, Elizabeth Scharpf, its first Social Enterprise Fellow, President Clinton recognized Elizabeth Scharpf at the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative, and Nicholas Kristof featured SHE in the most emailed Dec 2009 NYTimes article as one of a handful of innovative and meaningful organizations.

Election Day!

August 9, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Greetings to you all and welcome you back to this page, with the latest in the SHE political world. By the way, no business is without politics, unfortunately this revelation just came to me!!! and the reason for which am saying this is because i have taken leave from office (not that i did not need vacation), thanks to the presidential campaigns keeping all Rwandese on our toes, less work and more campaigning for presidential hopefuls.

However, the exception to this campaign is that no candidate is pulling the other down as it is in all campaigns i have seen, all the candidates are talking about their manifestos and what they are willing to do for the people of Rwanda. It's really about keeping the people together and not who is better than who, which makes this a unique one, am yet to analyze the reasons why this is so, might be a trend all future campaigns want to take-- BE AWARE OF RWANDA, THE TREND SETTER. HERE WE COME!!!

The campaign is a heated one, with mammouths of crowds pulling up behind their respective candidates, and thanks to the empowerment of women, we have a woman senator running for presidency, talk about Trend Setters!!! Ears and yes eyes are wide open to promises of increasing teachers salaries, a factor that has remained hitherto uncommon to most African teachers, so when one declares that teachers salaries will increase,and by how much by the way? Not sure, let's wait and see as I stand in awe!

This Monday, we all go to the polls, to choose our next president and trust us to choose wisely. So if you want to stay in business,promote health and sustainable development, please be with us that we use this opportunity to show the world that we can set trends even unknown to us. Meantime i will be enjoying my vacation,lying somewhere on a beach and reading some book and magazines! Wish me luck!

Julian, SHE COO

Dancing to the Tune of ‘Breaking Silence on Menstruation’

July 12, 2010
House of Parliament, Kigali, Rwanda



Hey if you thought women and men (including parliamentarians, Ministry permanent secretaries, school girls, Int’ NGOs staff) marching from one city centre to the another with the aim of ‘Breaking silence on Menstruation and advocating for abolition of taxes on Sanitary pads was up to no good, take a deep breath and read on:

-The Rwanda Government recently approved the 2011 budget, including a remarkable $35,000 towards the purchase of sanitary pads for the schools in the poorest districts around the country, not to mention that there is an ongoing exercise to construct separate latrines for both boys and girls.

-On the day of the march to present, over 10,000 packets of sanitary pads have been collected from community members (including Rwandan diaspora) to be distributed to rural school girls who lack them.

-The same group of women, men and girls who participated in the march, have organized a sanitary pad distribution exercise a few days from now where the collected sanitary pads will be distributed to schools that lack them most, in each region of the country. This will be coupled with health and hygiene sessions with the students and teachers and sharing best practices around menstrual health.

The Minister of Sports and Culture (who was the guest of honor at the march) has a famous saying in the local language ‘ibyiza Birimbere’ loosely translated as, ‘Greater things lie ahead.’ I totally agree with him.


Julian, SHE COO

Are you the next SHE Social Media Junkie?

Do you tweet and use Facebook every day, all day? Is building social community so ingrained you just can’t stop? Do you understand the social media universe including YouTube, Digg, Reddit, Twitter, Wikis, blogs, etc and how to create effective content through each of the channels?

We’re looking for a highly-motivated, experienced, and passionate social media addict who wants to work with an innovative, international award winning social venture, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), to change the world! This position is a full or part-time volunteer position working in NYC (or potentially remotely) for 10 weeks.

Do you want to spend the next 10 weeks...
• Interacting with our existing supporters and galvanizing them to proactively “do something” to support our mission?
• Instigating a new set of supporters to join the SHE train?
• Creating new content and edit existing content with the SHE voice?
• Populating all social media outlets with the content?
• Making recommendations to the SHE team on what works and what doesn’t? and providing a game plan for their social media strategy?
• Having a blast being a part of a kick-ass team and learning about the nuts and bolts of running a start-up social venture doing ground-breaking work?

Do you have experience and/or skills...

• Developing and/or editing social media content that is consistently “on message” and in the voice of the represented individual/group?
• Developing/editing aesthetically pleasing and creative graphic design, short videos?
• Researching social media best practices and applying them to your work?
• Navigating all older and newer social media outlets?
• Working independently, instigating, and taking the “pad” and running with it?

If you answered YES to these questions, please send resume, cover letter, and a sample of your social media (LINKS ONLY--no big attachments!) in an email with “Social Media Fanatic” in the email heading to supportshe@SHEinnovates.com by midnight, June 6th.


About Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE): www.SHEinnovates.com

Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) is a social venture using market-based approaches to address social problems in developing countries. Its first initiative is addressing girls' and women's lack of access to affordable sanitary pads when they menstruate causing them to miss school and/or work--up to 50 days per year. SHE is helping women start up their own businesses to distribute and eventually manufacture affordable and eco-friendly sanitary pads made of local materials (e.g., banana fibers). Echoing Green, one of the premier seed funders of social enterprises, named SHE 1 of the 20 most innovative social ventures worldwide (out of 1,500 applicants), Harvard Business School named SHE founder, Elizabeth Scharpf, its first Social Enterprise Fellow, President Clinton recognized Elizabeth Scharpf at the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative, and Nicholas Kristof featured SHE in the most emailed Dec 2009 NYTimes article as one of a handful of innovative and meaningful organizations.

Are you the next SHE Systems Development Geek?

Do you like taking ideas and making them happen? Do you like building the infrastructure and setting up systems to make those things happen?

We’re looking for a highly motivated, experienced, and passionate systems development geek who wants to work with an innovative, international award winning social venture, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), to change the world! This position is a full or part-time volunteer position working in NYC (or potentially remotely) for 10 weeks.

Do you want to spend the next 10 weeks...

• Optimizing our new development software and bring it up to speed and ready to launch?
• Implementing a new more efficient email system?
• Transferring our email marketing system to a new and system?
• Implementing new payment online systems on the website?
• Researching "cloud" operational strategies that create efficient working systems?
• Making recommendations to the SHE team on what works and what doesn’t? and providing a game plan for how to implement an efficient systems strategy as SHE takes off?
• Having a blast being a part of a kick-ass team and learning about the nuts and bolts of running a start-up social venture doing ground-breaking work?

Do you have experience and/or skills...

• Creating and/or utilizing systems so that individuals/organizations/teams can work more efficiently?
• Researching systems best practices and applying them to your work?
• Navigating all older and newer systems (email, database, etc)?
• Working independently, instigating, and taking the “pad” and running with it?

If you answered YES to these questions, please send resume and cover letter in an email with “Systems Development Geek” in the email heading to supportshe@SHEinnovates.com by midnight, June 6th.

About Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE): www.SHEinnovates.com

Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) is a social venture using market-based approaches to address social problems in developing countries. Its first initiative is addressing girls' and women's lack of access to affordable sanitary pads when they menstruate causing them to miss school and/or work--up to 50 days per year. SHE is helping women start up their own businesses to distribute and eventually manufacture affordable and eco-friendly sanitary pads made of local materials (e.g., banana fibers). Echoing Green, one of the premier seed funders of social enterprises, named SHE 1 of the 20 most innovative social ventures worldwide (out of 1,500 applicants), Harvard Business School named SHE founder, Elizabeth Scharpf, its first Social Enterprise Fellow, President Clinton recognized Elizabeth Scharpf at the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative, and Nicholas Kristof featured SHE in the most emailed Dec 2009 NYTimes article as one of a handful of innovative and meaningful organizations.

Work it (Literally!) with SHE



April 31, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

SHE would like to wish all our readers and fellows a happy Labor Day. In Rwanda the day has been celebrated in style, and by Style I do not mean anything else but that ‘Employers and employees had an afternoon of bonding’. Normally Labor day is characterized by different organizations and offices holding parties and merry making, meaning employees have a day off etc, this time I call it unique because it was ‘bonding time’.

It has been noted that labor day is about merry making and nothing is done as far as ‘labor’ is concerned and true that!, this time, employees have been instructed to sit down with their employees, share ideas and views, and try to create a relationship with their employees, something that is never the case in most working conditions, an employer is considered the BOSS and therefore not one to just bump into and speak out whatever you have on your mind.

So today afternoon (31/04/2010), all employees and their employers did sit down to a round table, this was done right before actual labour day, because this years’ falls on a Saturday. We caught the day unawares though Elizabeth and I hung out a lot last month (see picture).

In the SHE corridors, Community Health Workers have a chance to speak to masses about the health and hygiene education, to us, it's time to give out to the community what is theirs but have no access to, as we already have an employee and employer relationship that people around us envy.

On behalf of the SHE team, every employer and employee is wished health days of service.

Julian
SHE Chief of Operations

SHE Stands With Remembrance

Hygiene training post 16th Genocide Memorial-Rwanda


As you are all aware, the month of April in Rwanda is characterized by ‘Genocide Memories and Remembrance of our loved ones who lost their lives during this time’.
This year was the 16th year of Remembrance.

During this time, life goes on normally, but with Memories fresh in our minds, and for this particular reason, SHE stood with Rwandans in remembering the genocide victims, especially with our Community Health Workers. The period, which officially lasts for 1 week has come to an end and as usual SHE is back to Health and Hygiene training by the Community Health Workers.

The training this time round is kind of unique with two main characteristics: supervising the Training of each CHW as an individual and data collection and will last for at least 3 months.

The SHE Volunteer Interns are at it again, with very clear instructions on the importance of the data collection, which will pave way for our next actions. This data is centered on: Pilot sales of existing sanitary pads and how training of Health and Hygiene is carried out. The Data which is being collected is analyzed by our ‘M&E wizard’ on a weekly basis and we shall be communicating the outcomes. In the meantime, you will be hearing from our Volunteer interns on the individual training visits.

Watch this space.

Julian, Chief Operations Officer

Brick by Brick

28. March 2010
Kigali, Rwanda
The Big House






This is the first time I have not wanted to board the plane. For the last 1.5 years I’ve had one foot in Kigali, one foot in NYC, and one foot cruising on the BoltBus to my next destination. (OK, that would make me some sort of kangaroo species perhaps, but you get it. ) I usually come to Rwanda for a specific reason like finalizing business skill training, or bringing a new staff member on board. My arrival date is usually planned in advance and my departure date is set and not moved. I don’t really think about being 100% in Rwanda because we have fantastic local leadership and a significant amount of R&D still takes place in the U.S. This transience makes it difficult to be a part of a community in Rwanda--even in NYC too. It’s tough. And maybe part of me keeps it that way because it would then be difficult to leave….which is exactly how I’m feeling today.

On Friday, we, along with 10 leading grassroots groups in Rwanda, kicked off a national campaign. Hundreds of Rwandans gathered and marched across the capital and ended up in the small stadium to discuss obstacles to girls’ schooling, namely those related to menstruation. Can you imagine that? In a country where there was a genocide just 16 years ago that demolished lives. In a country where Human Rights Watch alludes to an “authoritarian govt” and lack of free press.


video

This was moving, kind of ridiculous (a Period Parade, waaa?), and productive. Is that even possible all at once? Most importantly, it demonstrated the strength of community, a community marching and acting to improve peoples' lives. And as the day went by, I saw so many faces of people I had met over the past 2 years from Angelina to Dinah to Shirley. These are people who make up such a rich community that I am privileged to be a part of....even with my three legs!

1, 2, 3...Kick-offffff!

Kigali, Rwanda
March 25, 2010














Hey folks, put on your walking/marching shoes and beat your drums to the tunes of ‘Breaking Silence on Menstruation’ campaign, which kicks off with a march in Kigali.

The Campaign is aimed at advocating for:
-Open dialogue on menstrual issues;
-Increased access to health and hygiene education;
-Increased access to affordable sanitary pads.

One thing I just realized for sure is, just as we all need management and bookkeeping skill, every one needs advocacy and awareness skills. Right now as I write this, my B.day is 15 minutes away, and I can’t think of anything to do, other than work on the campaign, one of my campaign partners mentioned she cannot concentrate on a thing, until launch of campaign is done, no wonder this is full time job for some, for those of you who have the skills, am glad to hear from you.

So we are holding the biggest campaign on ‘Menstrual problems’ ever and we hope to get the ‘Big SHOTS’ committing to action.

As soon as I am done with the launch of the campaign, I get to meet Fatima's favourite people: the Community Health Workers (CHWs) again to get stronger commitments from them on ‘Health and Hygiene Education’. Oh by the way, remember the interns aboard SHE? Today they distributed over 50 campaign invitations around town, what better support could I ask for? I promised to take them out when the whole exercise is done, on ME.

Hey I gotta go pick a piece of cake (its my Bday remember?),


In case you are unable to attend the march, watch this space, but if you are able, ENTRANCE FEE is :PACKET OF SANITARY PADS.(Includes a bottle of water and Tshirt).

Julian
SHE Chief Operations Wizard

Training in Tare

March 20, 2010
Tare, Rwanda

SHE’s not just about pads. SHE’s about sparking conversations with girls and women about their periods, their bodies and their health. We had the pleasure of having one such conversation this past Saturday in a small village boarding school in Rwanda.

Early in the morning, Elizabeth and I met Justin and Dorothy, two of SHE’s interns (see picture), at the bus station in Kigali (it was so early that Bourbon Coffee did not yet have their ice for the day so we tried their hot coffee…divine!) We headed off to Nyamagabe, a district in the southwest of Rwanda, passing thru Butare, the major university town in Rwanda. From Nyamagabe we traveled another 30 minutes by mini-bus to a village called Tare where the menstruation management training session was being held.



We jumped off the crowded mini-bus and met the community health worker. Accompanied by a throng of small children (we learned several useful phrases from Justin to keep the little ones at bay), we strolled over to Tare’s boarding school, a secondary school for boys and girls from all over Rwanda sitting atop a hill overlooking gorgeous lush green valleys. Several students were playing volleyball when we arrived. It was, in a word, idyllic.

We were greeted at the school gate by a very handsome, very friendly young man who we learned was the school’s disciplinarian (talk about perverse incentives!). Within a few minutes, 70 or 80 students, both teenage boys and girls were packed three to a row into a classroom with a blackboard and wooden benches (reminiscent of the schoolroom in Little House on the Prairie). The previous day’s lesson (in French) was still on the blackboard. Apropos our visit, the students had been learning about the
ovulation cycle!

As soon as the discussion began (and reference was made to menstruation), all of the boys streamed out of the room (which was fine, since it allowed the conversation to flow better – pun intended!). The community health worker and SHE’s interns led the discussion (in Kinyarwandan-which I have picked up in my 2 weeks here, just kidding, the interns were taking notes in English and a lot could be gleaned from observation).

The students had a lot of questions – about irregular periods, about condoms, and about getting cheaper pads (most of the students currently use rags). Two students gave a lively demonstration on how to use a sanitary napkin (see photo). Justin, Dorothy and the community health worker answered the questions they could on the spot and the rest were collected for follow up.


Although I did not catch every word, the take away was that the girl students were bursting to talk about their periods, their health and how to protect themselves. Next steps are to provide feedback to Fatima, the training guru, on how to fine tune the menstruation curriculum and training approaches to address the questions and concerns we heard at Tare.

Judy
Guest Blogger and SHE Legal Extraordinaire Adviser

Who's in the SHE House?



Post M&E wizard (FATIMA)
Kigali, Rwanda


Do you guys recall the arrival to Kigali (SHE hub) of a SHE M&E wizard? Fatima? So her 3 months stay came to an end last week, and I must say it was with great achievements, I became a better monitoring person, thanks to her. Is it always that monitoring and evaluation people develop so many documents/questionnaires? I am about to start calling them stalkers!!! I miss Fatima!

So, these days the SHE Chief Instigating Officer is really taking care of me by making sure am not ALONE. She trotted the world this time with our lawyer, who, apparently on a holiday, is busy looking at SHE MoUs (contracts), and giving me insights into becoming a lawyer, Welcome Judy. So we actually have another J in the house.

Most important though, is that right now, I have a number of volunteer interns involved in the Monitoring and Evaluation, very interesting kids, they are out there putting to use all the forms/questionnaires formulated by Fatima, and visiting the CHWs (community Health workers) training sesions while I am kept on my toes managing them (I am loving the SHE full house right now).

Next week is my bday (23rd), and I just got an early present.

Watch this space for : presentation to an group of philanthropists and my update on what happened on my B.day.

Julian
SHE Chief Operations Wizard

Celebrating International Women’s Day in Kigali!















March 8, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

I’m here visiting Kigali with SHE founder Elizabeth Scharpf. We were lucky to arrive here just in time to celebrate International Women’s Day today, Monday, March 8. The day was declared a public holiday by the Rwandan government just this past Friday. As a result of the impromptu holiday, the city was quiet. We powered thru the day nonetheless with the help of exquisite delicious Rwandan coffee (and coca cola!). It seemed everyone was celebrating - two fellows sitting outside the Kigali tourism office happily informed us that the office was closed today on account of all of us lovely women!

And celebrate women we did! Perfectly timed to fall on International Women’s Day, today was also the 70th birthday of Professor Shirley Randell, Director of the Centre for Gender, Culture and Development Studies at the Kigali Institute of Education. Shirley is a pioneer in the space closest to SHE’s heart: using innovative techniques and leveraging international partnerships to ensure that girls and women get the education necessary to fulfill their potential. SHE wishes everyone a wonderful International Women’s Day and salutes Shirley, a great friend, inspiration and mentor!

Guest Blogger Judy Amorosa,
SHE Legal Counsel

CHWs, You're the Ones I Love

Rulindo, Rwanda
February 20, 2010
















Photo caption:
Four Community Health Workers (CHW) in Rulindo; from left to right: Beatha, Josephine, Marie Rose, and Florida. What are they holding, you might ask? Well, curious SHE-er, those are our monitoring and evaluation forms that our CHWs will fill out every time they carry out a health and hygiene training, or make a pad sale. These reports will complement our field visits where we will work with each CHW directly. This is at the conclusion of our three-hour meeting, by which time we all were comfortable enough with each other to make jokes, and say “salaaaaad” (pronounce sah-laaaaahd) together to get our teeth showing for this picture.


CHWs, you're the ones I love.

Maramutso, Miriweh, Uraho…these are some of the many greetings I heard and learned this week. I’ve also become accustomed to the common handshake here (this one is mostly used when meeting someone for the first time)– a kind of loose informal hand-slap with one hand, with the other hand resting on the extended arm’s elbow.

I spent time with quiet Esperance and young active community member Aloys in Nyamata, leader Marthe, reserved Marie Claire, and opinionated Azela in Karongi, sweet Marie Rose, quiet Florida, giggly Josephine and leader Beatha in Rulindo, and many others in Nyamagabe. They told me everything – about the health and hygiene trainings, the pad sales, and the changes they see in their communities.

The communities we work with vary from those who live hours from the city centre, to those who live in the centre of the rural district. Sensitizing everyone to the issues around menstruation has been key, but has definitely been more important for those who live in farther out rural areas. For many (especially those farther from the city centre), it is their first time hearing about menstrual health and hygiene, and seeing that there are pads to help them manage their menstruation. The trained has helped to break the silence and embarrassment of menstruation, as our CHWs explained that before, women and girls would have to hide that they were menstruating and hide their fabrics during washing, but now they are free and it is not a matter of shame for them.

Let me clarify – what the CHWs said: before, some girls and women were using fabric that they would cut from their clothes. But this was ineffective because women and girls still could not go places freely when they were menstruating. Now, women are able to go to church freely because they know how to manage their period and have the pads to do it, and girls don’t have to stay home from school because they are ashamed or afraid their fabric won’t protect them all day – they can put on a pad in the morning, and it can last the whole day or they can take another one in their backpack with them. The CHWs said they see the difference starting in their homes - with their sisters, mothers - and extending to their neighbors and to their communities.

One thing that is interesting is that the CHWs train men in the health and hygiene education curriculum as well. They said it is important to train the men also because they have to understand the need to buy pads, and they are very supportive of it now that they have had trainings. Men are very happy because it is the first time that they are understanding this, and now it is easy for them to buy pads for their sisters or wives.

As they were explaining the differences they see, they also said that girls and women do not get “illnesses of hygiene” anymore. I kept probing on the illnesses that they used to get, and they described pain and yeast infections. These have decreased dramatically.

So what are we doing with this feedback and what do we need to work on? I think Azela put it well when she said a phrase in kinyarwanda in this proud kind of way, and everyone laughed; when I turned to Delphine (Rwandese intern, currently a student at KIST), she tried to explain that it was hard to directly translate, but it was along the lines of “I’m the best sales-woman: when I have something to sell, people come to me.” She proceeded by saying she wanted more pads to sell. Beatha said it in a heartbreaking way: “Poverty is everywhere, money will always be an issue, what can you do but try to find work and help your family and neighbor.”

Our CHWs are incredible people who want to have more impact on their neighbors, want every girl to have enough pads so she doesn’t miss school, and want to meet more women in the market who tell them that now they are free and comfortable. I walked away from each field visit with a satisfying exploding headache, knowing that these CHWs want more pads to sell, more information on health and hygiene, and training on how to make pads. There is much to be done on addressing and incorporating all of this feedback, and that is what we are now working on.

As always, please comment and write with any ideas.

Fatima, SHE Fellow

fatima@sheinnovates.com

Banana Buffet!

February 17, 2010
Kayonza, Rwanda



So folks, hope you are back to non Red-black wear, if there is anyone out there who did not receive a ‘Happy Valentines message’, that does not mean you are not loved, it has come late, but SHE loves you!

Last week on Friday I went on a Banana fiber (SHE Raw materials) hunting trip.
So a friend of mine, conversant with the Eastern region-Rwanda, an area with the largest banana growing population, traveled with me, to show me around the land of bananas, you will not believe the amount of stems thrown around and the sizes of the plantations.

We visited one farmer, who has acres of land with bananas, and surrounded by another 5-6 farmers of the same, they were all interested in hearing what we need the banana stems for and how possibly these stems can amazingly produce great hygiene products like sanitary pads.

I took time to show them the extraction process, I was even promised extracted samples which I will go to see in the next one week.

I came back with a bunch of banana, in case anyone wants to join me for a banana buffet!

So this morning, Fatima (our M&E expert) and I had a session of brainstorming over the chain of supply and distribution.

Do not go away; watch out for our brilliant brainstorming reporting on ‘Raw materials supply-production and distribution’

Julian

Saddling Up!

February 3, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Hi there, SHE companions,

It’s been an interesting week – sad to see Elizabeth leave Kigali for New York, but I’m comforted in knowing that she’ll be back in a month!

So it’s me and Julian, Julian and me, me and Julian. This week, I made progress on setting up a monitoring and evaluation system – did a lot of research and prepared a bunch of documents that we’ll be taking to the community health workers later this week. We want input in two areas: the pad sales, and the health and hygiene education. We visited the community health workers in Kigali last Friday, and got a lot of great feedback from them. Ghras stood out as the leader in the group – articulating positive feedback, as well as concerns. The interesting thing is that Ghras and the others didn’t just say such and such is a problem; they also told us how they think we could address it. Spending time in the field is invaluable, and I’m glad I’ll be doing a lot of that in the coming weeks.

And the other thing on my agenda is finding banana farmers all across Rwanda. Wouldn’t you want to give up your banana fibers for the making of pads? Tell me if you know any farmers with banana plantations please!

Fatima

Leapfrogging with our phones!


February 1, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Hey folks,

Best Weekend wishes from Rwanda.(I know mine was great!It was my sisters Bday on Saturday and my brother's on Sunday, and Heroes Day is today in Rwanda! Never could ask for a better Weekend!)



You will not believe one of the best developments that is happening to SHE, one of the Mobile tech services, MTN, has launched money mobile services in Rwanda (hopefully in the region too), this is something that will enable the local population to send and receive money at an affordable cost, presently , one can only send/receive money through the traditional way, biggest percentage (having to get one to carry the cash, if they are going to a destination where you want the money taken) sending through the local bus services-which has also become expensive, bank transfer or the international courier services which are affordable by a few. MTN promises to beat these both in the number of services offered and cost.

We at SHE, hope to use this with our Community Health Workers being able to receive and send money in the sanitary pad sales and distribution, since they are based in remote areas where the aforementioned services do not exist, but MTN service centres exist.

Watch US.

Julian

Entrepreneurs Everywhere

January 21, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Greetings SHE’ers,

It’s been a busy and exciting week in Rwanda. We went to a really fascinating entrepreneurship gathering on Monday evening sponsored by JCI – the group has a creed that everyone was asked to say together standing up (which started to give Elizabeth SHE ideas, until Julian and I gave her a don’t-abuse-your-power look). So after we all sang/stated the creed, there was an initiation ceremony for the new officers and board for 2010. Over the course of the evening, there were some interesting motivational type of speakers that talked about the importance of development in Rwanda: one of the biggest goals for the country is to increase the amount of jobs available in the formal sector (to 1 million, the speaker said).

One of the things that drew me to SHE was how many different aspects of development it contributes to – from curbing infections related to using rags to helping girls continue to attend school to helping women start their own businesses that they then expand and use to create local jobs. It’s a powerful idea, and I look at the two women that I work with each day and now that these are the women are quietly making big things happen.

Keep reading and commenting please,
Fatima

Julian kicks off the year with SHE Full House

January 19, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Hey guys, sorry I have been quiet but that’s because I did not have anyone to SHE talk to over the break. That’s not going to happen again, as I started off with a ‘SHE full house’! So, with me now, is Fatima, who is already doing a great job at not only getting us up to google-everything speed, but also developing a new and improved Monitoring and Evaluation plan that we are ready to run with all around the country (see our planning picture below!) and yours faithfully-the founder, who flew in to wish me ‘Joy in the New-year’-I needed it. I guess with my SHE chair full, I will be ready to rock and roll!

















However, just to fill you in on what I have been up to: (Oh by the way , if you did not have your share of the ‘Health and Hygiene training’ in 2009, sorry because ‘I have gone commercial’, no more free lessons. Just kidding.)
So I have had the pleasure to not only Train 50 CHWs on ‘Health and Hygiene and business skills and inventory management’, but also been a guest speaker at ‘GLO Peace Camp' organized by the US Peace Corps, OTF ALCP entrepreneurship class for young and upcoming entrepreneurs, PSI Youth Centre staff (social marketing/health org), not to mention what will be in my next blog. Watch out for the 2010 action, I might as well be training H.E’s around the globe, you know we are dealing with a global issue right?
I will see you next week-- be sure to watch this space.

Julian, SHE Chief Operations Wizard

Taking a Page from Ferris


January 18, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

SHE is the Vespa of social ventures—quick moving, gets the job done well, without the heavy price tag and baggage (oh, and we like to think we look good in baby blue too!). But sometimes when you have what seems like an unending list of things to do in what seems like so little time, we should take Ferris Bueller wise words to heart,

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Who wouldn’t listen to Ferris? In fact, let’s take a look around right now. By the end of 2009, SHE has
• 50 new trainers trained in health + hygiene who have each committed to training 100 community members in health + hygiene, bringing us to 5,000 newly educated in the country of Rwanda
• 50 sole-proprietor distribution businesses up and running, equipped with simple business skills (e.g., inventory management, bookkeeping) who are selling sanitary pads at 15% less than the cheapest available option
• Patent-pending technology that takes locally available banana fibers and makes into absorbent material, creating jobs for hundreds of farmers, a promising sustainable manufacturing business, and product 35% less than cheapest available pads.

Here’s to looking around in 2010!

Elizabeth

Welcome to Rwanda, Fatima!

12:34 January 14, 2010
Kigali, Rwanda

Fatima Sabar, SHE's trailblazing Fellow, has arrived in Rwanda to make things happen. She's no stranger to SHE, having helped draft the hygiene curriculum used to train hundreds already in Rwanda. Following in the footsteps of the great Stanford dropouts like the Google founders, she's taking time off from school (don't worry Fatima's mom, she'll make graduation!) to bring ideas to life. Meet Fatima now!

Fatima video

Muraho from Rwanda! Life is exciting here - I’m writing from Shirley’s inzu where across from me is Julian (SHE Operations Wizard) translating a community healthcare worker feedback from kinyarwanda to english in between answering calls to plan important meetings, and next to me is Elizabeth (SHE Chief Instigator) working on product development. What am I doing, you might ask, as my colleagues are hard at work? I, dearest SHE followers, am taking a break from redesigning a monitoring and evaluation system. Soon I’ll be out in the field talking with community health care workers (in the company of someone who can go between english and kinyarwanda, as my learn-10-words-each-day regimen has failed me in effective communication thus far) and meeting the women and girls who are learning about menstruation and general health and hygiene, and subsequently buying pads. Stay tuned!

Fatima