You are nuts! Errr, uhh, bananas!

Sometime in September, 2008
Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Elizabeth, I got the package and put aside til you arrive in Cambridge. It’s huge. What is it? A tree or something!?!? Ha!” --Carrie Fitz, close college friend living in Boston

I’d think you were nuts if you asked me just one year ago if I would be opening up a big FedEx box packed carefully with a banana tree trunk cut in 6 pieces. But this, in fact, is the latest development in the SHE Team’s quest to produce a low-cost sanitary pad for girls and women in developing countries. Compliments of the fantastic and generous DON CHAFIN and his Florida-based nursery with exotic banana varieties, GOING BANANAS (, that nutty but necessary idea recently became a reality. After all, that tree in Rwanda didn’t fit in my suitcase!

The SHE Team didn’t waste any time in putting the banana tree to work with stops at MIT, one of the top universities, and IDEO, one of the top product design companies in the world. With tree in hand, the SHE Team set up shop outside the MIT Student Center where we began to extract the banana fibers and pulp from the trunk or stem, the first step in preparing the potential local raw material for a pad. MIT students are curious enough, but we were a showstopper being 3 women with machetes taking to a giant tree trunk with a pile of bananas beside us. The purpose of our “show” was to recruit new students to be involved in the MIT SHE Club and to prepare materials for our next stop at IDEO.

And with fiber and pulp in hand just 2 days later, we made our way to IDEO where we brainstormed with a group of talented engineers for a couple of hours. So, did we come up with all the answers? Actually, like any good brainstorming session, we came up with more questions! Putting all conventional pad connotations aside, we came up with a plethora of new questions, ideas, and experiments around product design, packaging, etc,…for which, I’m sure you will be swinging from your banana tree house to read about in upcoming blogging!