Woot woot! Elizabeth Scharpf and Julian Kayibanda are 2013 Grinnell Prize Winners

The 2013 Grinnell Prize—a $100,000 award presented to young innovators in social justice - has been awarded to Chief Instigating Officer Elizabeth Scharpf and COO, Rwanda, Julian Kayibanda! If any of you are in Iowa next week from November 3 - 9, you will have a chance to meet Elizabeth and Julian during the week-long Grinnell Prize Symposium!

The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize (also known as the Grinnell Prize) honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. Each prize carries an award of $100,000, half to each winning individual (or individuals) and half to an organization committed to the winner’s area of social justice. For more information, including information go to www.grinnell.edu/grinnellprize.

Read the press release here:  http://prn.to/19N6cQs

Watch our Grinnell Prize Award video here:

Large-scale fluff production has begun!

Editor Note: Have you been dying to know what's been happening at our Ngoma production site? The wait is over! You can learn first-hand from Tyson Huffman, MacGyver-in-Residence, in our mini blog series in three parts. Read today's final post out of our mini series.  Don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2!
Come meet our production team: Gaudance, Ernestine, Sandrine, Louise, Christine, Nadine, and Daniel, along with Sylvere, our Business Development Officer (in red shirt).
As I write this, we are in full fluff production at our facility! We have hired eight employees and a manager and they are performing above expectations. We ran our machines all day for three days and produced copious amounts of high quality fluff that are ready to become LaunchPads.

Again, how did we get to the point where we are producing fluff? We have the tools, we have the people, and now we have the fluff. Even though we were still working out the kinks we produced a lot of fluff. As I write this I have been watching our manager, Daniel, work out some bugs the refiner is having. I’ve only had to help him once. He is currently teaching a team member to troubleshoot problems. As a restaurant manager, I found the two hardest things to find in a manager are someone who can quickly troubleshoot and train his colleagues. We have hitched our wagon to a star here with Daniel.

From banana fiber to fluff: our team and facility in action!
We will soon have more fluff than we know what to do with. Maybe we could manufacture pillows on the side? I have a few more ideas that I may be able to get done before I leave. They will speed up some of the process.

For all of our supporters, followers, and team members I have one last message: WE DID IT GUYS, THANKS TO YOU!

From Four Walls to Up and Running

Editor Note: Have you been dying to know what's been happening at our Ngoma production site? You can learn first-hand from Tyson Huffman, MacGyver-in-Residence, in our mini blog series in three parts. Today is Part 2 of 3. Missed Part 1? Read it here.

Sylvere, Julian, and Tyson at our Ngoma production facility
How did we get there? Sweat, determination, patience, and a little savvy thrown in for good measure. There were road bumps and unexpected issues but Marines know how to adapt and overcome. This is the mindset I brought to SHE.

We faced some initial challenges when I arrived to the production site. The first concrete we installed for the floor was unstable, like mud. We had to replace a motor. We then had to replace said motor because our electrician wired it incorrectly. Our initial water plan had to be revamped into a recycled water system. We’ve had to learn and improve the refiner. Our Fitz mill clogged every time we used it.

Newly installed water system
Some were easy and others were tough fixes. The water system was my favorite design of the project. We initially planned to let the water flow onto the floor and then outside into a 9 meter sump. (The guy dug this by hand. He must have the strongest back in the world.) It proved to be too much water and was just too messy. We dug a 1 meter deep sump at the base of the refiner, then built a grate over top of it and put a pump with a float inside. It required us to install another smaller tank to hold recycled water. I piped it in such a way that our team members never have to turn a valve or turn on a pump for it to work. Water rarely flows in Ngoma. This system ensures that we will never have to stop the process for lack of water.

Other problems proved to be easy fixes. We had no washers, so we used bottle tops. Our motor burned so we replaced it. We slightly altered the refiner to adapt it to fibers rather than wood pulp. When the Fitz Mill became clogged, we cut out two bars and it worked perfectly. Much of the equipment we use here does not exist so we manufactured it. We made steps and a platform for workers to stand on. A box was manufactured to catch pulp. The crates that the machine came in were used to make a large table for fiber cutting and a desk for our manager. We even used the nails.

We started this project with four walls and a plan. We have installed electricity, wired our machines, and placed them on concrete. In order to place the machines on concrete, we used 15 men and 2” x 4”. That was a feat. We have installed plumbing to the building, plumbed our machines, and installed two large tanks. A mission well accomplished!

Tune in tomorrow to learn about the successful replication of our fluff-making technology on an industrial-scale and meet our new SHE team members that work at our production facility!

Greetings from the Land of Thousand Hills!

Editor Note: Have you been dying to know what's been happening at our Ngoma production site? You can learn first-hand from Tyson Huffman, MacGyver-in-Residence, in our mini blog series in three parts. Read Part 1 of 3 today and stay tuned for the rest of the series!

Greetings from the Land of a Thousand Hills or as Rwandans say, the Land of a Thousand Beautiful People!

So how did I get here? It’s because Sustainable Health Enterprises realized that lack of access to affordable pads while menstruating is a big problem for girls and women in developing countries.  Women miss school and work for nearly 50 days a year.  This causes them to fall behind.  SHE decided that this was a major setback for women and decided to do something about it.

SHE came up with a plan to produce pads from banana fiber.  Banana fiber is a waste product of agriculture and therefore affordable to buy.  SHE enlisted the help of MIT and NC State who came up with a process to turn the banana fiber into a highly absorbent fluff using paper-making equipment.  The most amazing thing is that this patent-pending process uses no chemicals.  SHE proved they could make pads on a small-scale at both NCSU and Kigali Institute of Technology, but wanted to bring large-scale production so millions of girls and women in Rwanda can have access to its pads. So, it sent over equipment to Rwanda and were ready to set up shop.  This was no small task.  Now where could they find a guy that is bold enough to join and help SHE pull it off? 

Tyson, second from right, with Sylvere, second from left (in red)
That would be me, Tyson.  I seem to attract unique situations and people.  I’ve had a wild ride so far.  I am a former Marine, restaurant manager, and apple farmer. I’ve done a little construction, was a security guard, and worked as process engineer at a large paper mill.  I am currently a student at NC State in their Paper Science & Engineering and Chemical Engineering programs. 

I would be remiss if I did not also give a shout out to my right hand man, Sylvere, SHE’s Business Development Officer.  He has been my interpreter, guide, and friend since I first arrived in Kigali.  For the most part, we have been together every waking hour.  He taught me how to navigate the landscape of Rwanda, and I couldn’t have done it without him.  He is one of the most interesting and capable people I have ever met.  I have no doubt that we will be lifelong friends.

Stay tuned tomorrow to learn more from Tyson about our production site!

Girls Just Wanna Have...

SHE celebrated the second annual International Day of the Girl (October 11th) in Rwanda and in the U.S. by doing what we do best: making menstruation matter by instigating awareness.

We kicked off celebrations with a call-in show on Radio Rwanda. SHE Rwanda COO Julian was featured on Radio Rwanda to discuss how SHE LaunchPads and our education and advocacy initiatives are help to advance girls' improvement in education. The most popular segment of the program was when listeners called in with their own questions. Guess who called in with the most questions: men! Yes, men called in not only to ask questions, but to declare their support for SHE!

The celebrations continued in Rwanda when SHE's Marketing Officer Gerardine attended at FAWE and UNFPA's Day of the Girl event in Rubavu. Students performed poems, songs, artwork, and skits that focused on this year's Day of the Girl theme, "Innovations in Girls' Education". The Executive Secretary of the Kanama sector also spoke and congratulated ongoing efforts by parents, teachers, and other stakeholders for investing in the girls' and supporting efforts to end gender-based violence.

The SHE Global team celebrated Day of the Girl too. UNICEF gave us the opportunity to show the world our SHE LaunchPad as an example of great innovation to improve girls' education at their global event along with innovations from the Girl Scouts, Girls Who Code, and Intel/Stanford.

SHE's Connie Lewin and Ali Sugarman, a SHE intern and all-round SHE advocate, showcased our LaunchPad to an audience of 200+ that included Day of the Girl youth advocates, UN, UNICEF, and Plan International leaders, ABC News's David Muir and actress Freida Pinto!

Ali and Connie at UNICEF's Day of the Girl Celebration

Actress Freida Pinto (center, in white dress) was excited about the LaunchPad!
International Day of the Girl may be over, but you can still keep celebrating! Sign the The Girl Declaration, a call to action to put girls at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.  You can also celebrate by shaking along to Beyonce's "Who runs the world? Girls" too!

Viva SHE,Viva Girls We Serve and Viva One Young World!

Sylvere, SHE Rwanda Business Development Officer 
Ed Note: Business Development Officer Sylvere was selected by MTN Rwanda to represent the country of Rwanda at the global conference, One Young World Summit, a global gathering of young people from around the world, helping them make lasting connections to create positive change. Check out what happened!

Hello Everyone!

I know many of you have been dying to know what happened at the One Young World Summit I attended in Johannesburg a week ago.

First and foremost, I want to give a word of thanks to the whole SHE team, all of whom give me strength and help me to realize my full potential. Your love and your professionalism gives me the energy to keep moving forward. I also thank MTN Group for sponsoring me so I can attend the 2013 OYW Summit 2013.

All I can say is wow, wowwww! This is our time as young people to shake down the barriers to change within our countries and change what remains difficult. I learned that the word "impossible" doesn't exist. I was excited to come back to Rwanda and get involved in every single aspect of development in Rwanda. Of course as a young person, I wanted to immediately come back and start!

The One Young World summit has become my #1 source of inspiration. Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the UN inspired me when he said that "when the leaders fail to lead, take a lead and make them follow." For me, this was great to hear and I learned that I do have the ability to create positive change here in Rwanda. For example, it's a girl's right to not miss school due to the lack of access to affordable sanitary pads; it is a girl's right to have a proper education around menstrual health; and SHE must continue to make these rights a reality. We are the solution!

We must spread the word until leaders of this country understand that girls are missing school between 4 to 6 days every month due to lack of menstrual health education and lack of access to the sanitation facilities/products and we should break the silence around menstruation.  SHE's business development and market-based solution are what developing countries need to welcome and integrate them into their annual programs.

People should not only think about making money from communities. Instead, they should think of how we can improve our overall community, and that is what we at SHE are doing! That's what SHE's mission of investing into people and ideas that are typically overlooked (and often taboo) as vehicles of social and economic change is all about.

When I arrived at One Young World, I had a mission to talk about SHE28 and our initiative of addressing lack of access to affordable sanitary pads in Rwanda. I didn't give up and One Young World's organizers Kat Robertson and David Jones provided me the chance to take the mic and present SHE in one minute.
Following my short presentation, I received more than a hundred business cards from different people around the world and a special invitation to The B Team dinner on Saturday night that included Arianna Huffington, the President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, whom wanted to know more about SHE.

Everyone that I met wanted to get involved in helping SHE! Speaking about SHE on stage was an amazing opportunity.

I learned a lot at One Young World too. I did not know that in Swaziland over than 25% of the whole population lives with HIV/AIDS and it is our responsibility to help reduce that percentage. I learned a lot about international perception about the United States government decisions toward countries. I learned about the political climate in the U.S. when it comes to Obamacare. I didn't really know at what extent that malaria is killing people in sub-Saharan Africa. But now I know and I am ready to provide any help I can.

In summary, I got to know that education is a powerful weapon that you can use to fight against poverty and entrepreneurship is a long-term solution than aid alone. I also learned that social enterprise are a solution to end extreme poverty and it is up to us young people to make it happen. It is my role to push Rwandan officials to support the social enterprises in my country!

Viva SHE, Viva girls we serve and Viva One Young World! 

SHE will be celebrating International Day of the Girl this Friday! Join us!

SHE is celebrating International Day of the Girl in Rwanda and globally! You can join us too!

SHE Rwanda kicked off celebrations by hosting a radio show in which callers asked questions about menstruation and the challenges girls and women face in accessing pads and health education. The celebrations will continue with SHE Rwanda next week too. Stay tuned!

We are so excited to be invited to showcase our LaunchPad in celebration of International Day of the Girl!

To mark the International Day of the Girl Child and bring attention to this year’s theme, Innovating for Girls’ Education, UNICEF will present examples of innovation in the area of girls’ education and has invited SHE to showcase our SHE LaunchPad, as an example of the importance and power of harnessing innovation to improve girls’ education.

We want you to join us too in the celebration! Here's how:
  • Join the conversation on Twitter: Tweet your support of SHE and share this message:
  • How a 5-cent maxi-pad is a gamechanger: SHE LaunchPad helps girls RECLAIM their place in the classroom: http://bit.ly/15X2r7m #dayofthegirl

Don't miss! Chief Instigating Officer Elizabeth Scharpf's Op-Ed

No one is a fan of buzzwords - they are usually hard to decipher, and while saying the latest lingo can help you feel that you're in the know, it can also have large, unintended consequences upon society and the economy.

Founder and Chief Instigating Officer Elizabeth Scharpf writes why sustainability should be more than a meaningless buzzword in Reuters.

What do you think? Let us know - tweet her @Scharpfie or us @SHEnterprises.

The HAHA Beat: Bringing Menstruation to the Table

While our industrial-scale manufacturing pilot is in motion, our HAHA team (Health and Hygiene Advocacy) team is also laying the groundwork to ensure long-term access to menstrual hygiene education and products (including our SHE LaunchPad) .

Here's our latest update on all things health and hygiene-related!


Nadia Hitimana (left) in a girl's room with a headmistress 

  • SHE is finalizing its menstrual hygiene management training guides, which will serve as a model for the Rwandan Ministry of Health. These guides will be used to train the 50 teachers at our pilot schools on menstrual hygiene management, which will thereby increase 6,000 students’ knowledge about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. 
  • SHE presented its case study at UNESCO’s inaugural Menstrual Hygiene conference in Kenya.
  • SHE instigated the passing of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) resolution urging partner states to waive taxes on sanitary pads in the region to increase their availability and affordability, thanks to ongoing support by Rwandan parliamentarian Dr. Odette Nyiramilimo. 
  • SHE presented on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) at the Girl Learning summit that was hosted by Girl Hub Rwanda and Nike Foundation. SHE’s presentation has garnered interest among several schools.
  • SHE continues to add new partners with its “Breaking the Silence” campaign. Local schools and organizations have invited us to lead MHM awareness.
  • SHE has also joined Girl Child Network, a Rwanda national network of fellow instigators advocating for policy changes to best support girls both in and out of the classroom.