My Brother: Best Pad Peddler?

August 14, 2009
Nyamata, Rwanda

Most of the time incorrect assumptions in Rwanda have minimal consequences, like assuming the water coming out of the shower would be hot (not cold—yikes!) or the typical fare would be flavorless (instead of spicy garlic—yum!). What’s the worst outcome of that? A little chill and maybe some bad breath.

But today, I was confronted by a situation that challenged this. Julian, our new COO and I went off to the Bugesera district in Rwanda to continue our discussions with our new training distribution partners: Community Health Workers (CHWs). Because distribution channels and associated costs make up ~30% of unaffordable sanitary pad prices, we’re partnering with natural existing networks (e.g., CHWs) that have low transaction costs and will form the backbone of the distribution network for products such as sanitary pads. So when I walked into the room, I assumed we’d meet 10 female CHWs. Not so. In fact, the majority were men. Men? How will they teach menstrual hygiene? How will they sell product? Why am I assuming that they wouldn’t be very successful? Am I right? Isn’t the quietness and apologetic tone around menstruation all across the globe partly driven by the fact that men do not menstruate as Gloria Steinem says?

Julian reports, "Interesting to know is that after several discussions, all were interested in the project, and suprisingly one of the men said ‘ahubwo ubu mbitekerejeho nsanga abantu twarashize’, in kinyarwanda loosely translated as ‘after thinking about the lack of menstrual health and hygiene educ and the fact that women are not using the right materials, we as a community are actually all gone/finished’ meaning they do realize the dangers involved in not having facts about the issue.

Is there a grave consequence to my assumption that women would’ve been in the room this morning? Would we have missed out on powerful male advocates? Distribution partners? What do you think?

Right Place, Right Time

Kicyuru, Rwanda
August 11, 2009

Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Today, one of our important activities (Health and Hygiene Education feasibility study) took off and guess what, the group that we interacted with (all in Kigali town) all confessed, they do not talk about menstrual health and hygiene, Seriously can you imagine that? Ok, do you actually talk about menstrual hygiene? Because it looks like we are doing the right thing at the right time.

They do not mention it to their own kids, or anywhere else and so, it's amazing to know that the most frequent health occurrence is actually not being noticed, except for SHE who is taking it personal.

We definitely need to pass on a menstrual health program, a heads up for SHE!

We are off to Bugesera, see you soon with more news.


Hillary, Hillary, Let Done Your Hair

August 8, 2009
Kigali, Rwanda

So what were you up to on Wednesday? While I was picking flowers or braiding my hair (a joke for all those who don’t know me), our sister, Hillary Clinton, was picking up her pliers in the country next door. SOS Clinton gave a fierce speech addressing the Kenyan leadership, a leadership that is a result of an inflamed election and harrowing post-election violence killing 1,000 in 2007/2008. No one was rebuked. Clinton remarked, “this has not yet translated into the kind of political progress that the Kenyan people deserve,”

One symptom: corruption on all levels. Listen to this:

“According to Transparency International, a bribe is expected or solicited in nearly half of all transactions in Kenya, which is high even by New Jersey standards.” As a Jersey girl, I think she might be right.

The WSJ reports, “The ‘West’ has spent an estimated $2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the past five decades. Yet in a typical African country, one-third of the children under five still have stunted growth due to malnutrition.” Of course, this then begs the question, “What’s the point of international ‘aid’ so to speak and how can we change it?” Is this outrageous statistic a reflection of the political leadership? The international aid system in general? Or the capacity of the African nations and its people to take $$ and produce significant results?

What do you think? Rumors are that Hillary will be in Kigali tonight, perhaps she’ll kick back a few and expand.

SHE Culture Guide: Is it Touchy Feely Optional or Hard Core Vital for an Entrepreneur?

August 6, 2009
Kigali, Rwanda

Never one to dig following rules or embracing “protocol” (I was late to high school 43 times my senior year), I was surprised when I found myself on Monday talking with Julian, our new SHE COO, about that exactly. So why did I change the radio station? I’ve realized that organizational culture and initiating it early can heavily influence the probability of success as an entrepreneur whether success is financial returns, social returns, or just plain, work quality of life.

Rules, protocol, or a “cultural guide” as I am going to call it, are not so important if everyone is homogenous. But who wants to work with such a group? I’m a firm believer that better decisions are made if people come to the table with different experiences, skills, talents, and points of view. But there must be a common unifying thread among all such as the enterprise’s and employees’ mission, a respectful work environment, oh jeez, and dare I say a cell phone/blackberry etiquette? Don’t worry I am making sure I include another essential: fun.

Fun: All employees must have some.

Red Light to the Red Tide?

Hey people,

I have been thinking to myself, "would i stop menstruation if i could?" Aside of the fact that EMS would kill me for sabotage (she has been working on SHE and how dare i come up with this idea? ).

So now am thinking, if I could I would because it's totally not fun to look forward to periodical stress (some women have serious aches due menstruation), and so it's just uncomfortable. By the way, I read somewhere that in the old days, women never got out of bed during menstruation,PERIOD. So why would I not stop this if I could? It would make our lives better and comfy; however; on second thought, menstruation makes women special in every way: reproduction and staff, etc........... So to you all out there, what do you think?

Would you stop menstruation if you could?