Computer gurus needed - help us reclaim our online SHE presence

Calling all computer gurus who are interested in reclaiming our online SHE presence. Help us re-launch our website for use as an advocacy tool to garner support for our SHE28 campaign

Sustainable Health Enterprises is looking for a volunteer webmaster wizard to manage its website. This is an excellent opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how a growing social enterprise revamps its online presence and shares information with its online community to build a movement. 

Professional Requirements: 
1. Experienced in Web design. 
2. Expertise in CSS and HTML 
3. Proficiency with graphic design software such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop  

Responsibilities include managing and editing current pages and updating existing web material.  

Option to work remotely (COO is located in Brunswick/Portland, Maine area).

Hours: 5-10 hours/week for the first two weeks, 2 hours/week following. 

Timeline: May-End of September (with opportunity for extension) 

If interested please contact CeCe Camacho, COO Global, at with a resume.

"Africa's time is coming soon."

When one works for a start-up such as SHE, it is easy to believe that you are the only one facing both the highs and lows of building a business. Therefore, it is essential to build relationships with individuals and organizations working in your sector, in order to expand your knowledge and ignite a new way of thinking and approaching your business problems.

As someone new to the international development and social enterprise sector, I was excited to attend the annual event organized by the Segal Family Foundation. The Segal Family Foundation’s mission is to invest in practical solutions that improve life in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its one-day conference provides workshops and speaker panels designed to inform the foundation's partners of emerging issues and opportunities in the international development community. The conference also encourages cross-partner collaboration since many of us work with the same communities or countries.

The energy in the room was palpable - while there was excitement about the event’s keynote speaker, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, partner organizations – over 50 in attendance – were equally eager to take the time and space to gather and network with our peers.

The most energizing panel of the day was the “Africa for Africans” panel. The panel featured remarkable African leaders, including Leymah Gbowee, and each of them offered insight into the unique challenges and opportunities of generating social and economic development in your own community. Dikembe Mutumbo started the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation in his native country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and faced intimidation and discontent early on from his childhood village when he decided to build the foundation’s hospital in the capital city of Kinshasa. 

The other panelists agreed and said that the toughest part of their job is staying committed to your true mission, especially when the need is greater than what your organization can provide. Leymah Gbowee shared the daily internal struggle she faces when she is approached by individuals and communities to provide funding or assistance that is outside the scope of her foundation. However, instead of deviating from her mission, she makes it her priority to identify partner organizations that are already doing good work but lack the name recognition.

Despite those initial setbacks, one of the strongest advantages of being African for those leaders is the recognition that cultivating relationships with people is the essential first step. Most of the panelists cited that many of the reasons expatriates fail to gain traction is that they do not prioritize understanding both the culture and the cross-cultural partnering. 
The panelists challenged all of us, whether we are native Africans or expatriates living and working in Africa, that we must always keep our ears close to the ground and work in partnership with the communities, businesses and governments. Leymah Gbowee reminded us to "Keep doing what your doing. Africa's time is coming soon." 

SHE believes in investing in the people and their ideas and jump-starting businesses is a sustainable model that turns the model of international charity on its head. Our work is constantly influenced by the farmers, health and hygiene educators, business owners, government officials, and the girls and women we collaborate with as we transition from small-scale production to our pilot industrial-scale production. SHE will leap forward to becoming a global enterprise as long as we continue to co-design our programs with our local communities.

Connie Lewin
SHE Global Fellow

Thousand hills farmers, thousand dollars per a kilo

I recently met with a farmer co-op in Eastern Rwanda to sign them up as one of our banana fiber suppliers. I described SHE and our mission, and then wrapped up our conversation by asking them how we can form a partnership with them. Without much discussion and without calculations, the farmers stated that they wanted more than US $20 (12000 Rfw) per kilo of banana fiber (excluding transportation costs)! And I was like !!! They had the misconception that SHE is a big NGO - one that has a lot of money and whose mission is to distribute it to the people. SHE, however, is a local, start-up business. 

When I then asked them how much money the pads should cost, they remained silent. The outcome of the meeting is that we need to get to know each other more. The farmers and I decided that they are going to produce one kilo of the banana fibers for us to know the cost of extraction and how many pseudo stems they need. Finally, we discussed different scenarios of extraction which are:
  1. Manual extraction: they will need a trainer because it is their first time to extract Banana pseudo stems.
  2. Machine : they will need also need a little training since nobody knows how to use it.
Farmers are there waiting for us to give them jobs. They sense the demand for the banana fibers, and more importantly for our pads, so it's up to us to show them that we have a long-term interest in producing products by the Rwandans themselves.


Junior Business Development Analyst

What's SHE Reading

Once a month, we will be sharing articles and reports that we have read and can’t stop talking about. This past month, we been discussing the following: Kenya’s and India’s bold promises to deliver sanitary pads to low-income girls, start-up commandments, benefits of mobile value added services to women entrepreneurs, risks associated with using conventional pads and tampons. Share your comments below and make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook too!

  • Prime Minister Raila Odinga directed the Treasury to allocate Sh2.6 billion for sanitary towels in the next financial year. The overlooked problem of lack of access to sanitary pads is being now recognized as an issue of national priority.  This is incredibly inspiring, especially as SHE aims to go global in 2013...
  • Taboos about menstruation does not only pervade within emerging markets, but also here in North America. Women are now are seeking to break down the culture of shame and secrecy surrounding women’s bodies with more body-positive messaging. 
  • Research from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics shows the risks associated with using conventional pads and tampons.  Producing an environmentally-friendly pad has always been a top priority for SHE -the LaunchPad contains no super absorbent polymers or chemicals, and its absorbent core, made of banana fibers, is completely biodegradable.
  • These 25 Commandments for Entrepreneurs keeps us in check as well as motivated to do the work we do every day! Which one of these commandments do you agree with? Which ones do you seem to always be breaking?

Is the growing number of entrepreneurs providing sustainable solutions?

Note from Julian Kayibanda, SHE's Chief of Operations, Rwanda:

I get encouraged by the increasingly growing interest in investing in entrepreneurs. However, the question that comes to my mind is "Are the growing number of enterprises an indication that the world’s problems are finally getting lasting and sustainable solutions?" I am not sure, but let’s keep our eyes to the ground.

In Kigali, Rwanda yesterday, the Minister of Commerce and Industry hosted a two-day workshop titled "Growing SME’s" The workshop has been organized by BidNetWork (, in collaboration with JCI Rwanda. I managed to follow the workshop online as there seemed to be interesting sessions on topics such as "Impact investing, not just about the 'buck'", agribusiness financing, and business financing through value chain.

My take away is that while there is a lot of growing interest in entrepreneurship and great entrepreneurs out there, there is still a lot to be desired in the type of vision of many of these new entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs, we must have a clear vision of where we want our businesses to be (like Eric Kacou said’ vision has to be as clear as the Virunga mountains, for those of you who have had a chance to visit the Rwanda Mountain Goriilas), so we do not lose track along the way and fail. When we lose vision, we also are not able to get funders on board with us. I think most entrepreneurs worry about the following: time, money, management and procedures. However, I think we need to get out of the survival trap.

Julian Kayibanda

SHE, Chief of Operations

Lydia Singerman, Global SHE Intern, Speaks out about SHE!

Just to give a little background, I am a current junior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine who hails from NYC. I am a Gender and Women’s Studies major and Chemistry minor. I love hiking, swimming, reading, biking, running, and listening to music (Mumford and Sons and Florence and the Machine are some of my favorites right now). Last semester I studied abroad at the University of Ghana; while abroad I took classes (West African dance and drumming), traveled across the country (as well as to Togo and South Africa), and volunteered at a local orphanage.

Since my return from Ghana, I have worked with CeCe (shown at right), SHE's COO, Global, and Elizabeth, SHE’s CIO and Founder, on a variety of projects. Every Thursday, I walk, bike, or hike through the snow to CeCe’s kitchen table (SHE’s Maine outpost), a local cafĂ© or library where we roll up sleeves and we madly work away. I have since completed a DIY technical guide based on our partnerships with MIT, North Carolina State, and Innovation Edge. This technical guide is now being used in Rwanda to help replicate the process.
This summer I take on a great project for the health side of things. I will be splitting my time between Brunswick and NYC while I work to create an open source menstrual health and hygiene best practices resource for the launch of SHE’s new website. In Summer 2011, I worked as a sex educator in Newark, NJ and I am excited to apply my experience in creating this resource for others to use.

At SHE I am constantly learning new things and being challenged. It puts a large smile on my face knowing that I am part of an amazing global SHE team.  Knowing my time and hard work makes a difference in the life of a girl and a woman is a great feeling. Knowing that my work is being used worldwide gives me a strong sense of pride and accomplishment; I am constantly motivated by the millions of girls and women across the world who lack access to menstrual pads and lack of general knowledge. This is why I joined SHE.

The longest motorbike ride ever…………..

Dear SHE Supporters,

Sylvere and I visited potential suppliers of banana fibers in the eastern province of Rwanda in the Mushikiri Sector. We both have never been there before, so when we jumped on the motorbikes, we expected a short ride. Oh gosh! 

Sincerely speaking, this was the longest motorbike ride I have ever taken! We rode a total of 30 km (19 miles) over many hills and were covered in dust by the time we arrived at the co-op.

We were able to meet a number of farmers who are members of the Mushikiri Banana Growers Co-operative Society, which is located in southeast Rwanda in the Kirehe District.

We taught the farmers how to extract the banana fibers, which is the foundation of SHE's menstrual pad, the LaunchPad. While bananas are abundant in the eastern region of Rwanda, banana fiber is not currently sold as a commodity in the market. Our SHE LaunchPad is creating a whole new business for farmers! 
After teaching the farmers the banana fiber extraction process, they agreed to provide us samples of banana fiber they will extract on their own within 2 weeks to prove their rate of seriousness, interest, and willingness to become one of SHE’s suppliers.

Despite the stressful ride to Mushikiri, Sylvere and I enjoyed our trip and ate some bananas on our way back to Kigali.

Thank you