CGI-2009 Enough Said

SHE rocks it at the Clinton Global Initiative!

SHE Founder, Elizabeth Scharpf, makes commitment along with Nobel Prize Winner Muhammod Yunus, Nike Foundation President Maria Eitel and President Bill Clinton.

SHE Hits the Clinton Global Initiative

22 September 2009
New York, NY

The Clinton Global Initiative kicked off today with Clinton calling on CEOs, Heads of State, NGOs, and individuals to put their ideas, minds, and resources together to address some of the world's most pressing problems.

With the SHE team prepping around the clock...

SHE is ready!

Bringing it Back, One Final Time

22 September 2009
New York, NY

We're bringing it back one more time as we head off to the Clinton Global Initiative tomorrow...bringing it back to our roots and our values at SHE. Why you ask? Because it's times like these (when you are in the room with CEOs, Heads of States, multilateral, and NGOs) that we need to remind ourselves and decision-makers that the past doesn't necessarily offer the solutions to the present or the future. SHE is changing the game. Read on!

July 19, 2008
Kibungo, Rwanda

Let’s play the word association game…so when I say something you respond with whatever pops in your head. So for example, I say “Mickey” and you say “mouse.” I say “karaoke” and you say “Bon Jovi.” I say “industry” and you say “international development organizations”…..huh? What an oxymoron!…like jumbo shrimp or big NYC apartment or healthy cigarette (sorry American Spirits smokers) or chatroom party animal. Yet, there is something to this notion of the international development industry.

Despite its poverty, Kigali is not unlike other African capitals with a few posh neighbors lined with signs such as USAID, GTZ, Oxfam, etc. Locals walk along the roadside carting timber, bananas, and water jugs on their heads with mammoth four wheel drive vehicles blistering by with a logo of some international development agency blazoned across the side. This is the norm. It seems that international development organizations, often one of the biggest vehicles of money flow into a country such as Rwanda takes the place of individual and institutional investors in industries such as textiles, food processing, etc. It creates jobs like program officers and outreach specialists in organizations’ programs. It creates linkages to spark job creation in other arenas as well such as computer printer shops and gas stations (those Land Rovers need to fill up an awful lot!). So when locals, as they often do, suggest that we should “just put the driver on the phone when you need directions” or question, “how much money do you have?” we should not be taken aback, but rather take it in stride and acquiesce. Or should we?

Do we have a responsibility to change the norm? And should we want to?

Should we aim to change the mindset that outside development intervention symbolizes a dollar sign? Should we aim to change the idea that international development organizations are the main vehicle for economic growth? Don’t we increase chances for sustainable Rwandan growth without dependency on international development $$?

And by the way, we are a start-up enterprise, which is quite resourceful, but working on a shoestring budget. We walk or take public transport almost everywhere. Isn’t that how most entrepreneurs do it? If we had a garage, we’d be working in it right now.

SHE Heads to the Clinton Global Initiative

21 September 2009
New York, NY

Alright SHE samurais, put on your red sequined shoes, sit on the magic carpet, and get ready for a ride! SHE is headed to the Clinton Global Initiative, a gathering of global leaders from private and public sector to confront the world’s most pressing problems. Check out Bill below on the Daily Show talking about CGI and why investing in girls and women matter.

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Picked from a plethora of social ventures around the world, SHE is going to the Big Apple to talk about the very issues we are addressing right now in East Africa: health, education, economic growth through sustainable market-based approaches. So stay tuned! And catch the action live on the webcast starting the morning of September 23rd.

The Numbers Are In!

20:34 September 18, 2009
New York, NY

If you read the last post, "Bringing It Back," you found out that SHE talked to over 500 girls and women last year in Rwanda after 100+ practitioners and experts in health and education confirmed that girls and women miss school/work because they lack access to affordable sanitary pads. So, what did doing our homework tell us? Keep reading!


This analysis was based upon the data collected in 2008 by SHE. The sample was random and the 527 respondents reflected different demographics. This is a short sample of responses from the survey.

SCHOOL AGE RESPONDENTS: (20 years and under)

o Miss school because of menstruation = 53.6%
o Unable to carry out daily activities because of menstruation = 54.1%

• If she misses school it is because (respondents checked all answers that applied)
o Miss school because pads are too expensive = 36.0%
o Miss school because physically sick = 56.6%
o Miss school because pads don’t work well = 39.0%
o Miss school because the cloth rags they use do not work well = 13.1%
o Miss school because they do not have adequate facilities (female toilets or private spaces) = 6.0%

• Number of days of school or work missed:
o Overall average 3.49

WORKING AGE RESPONDENTS (16 years and over)

• Her menstruation causes her to:
o Miss work because of menstruation = 20.9%
o Unable to carry out normal daily activities = 52.4%

• If she misses work it is because: (respondents checked all answers that applied)
o Physically sick = 41.2%
o Miss work because pads are too expensive = 24.4%
o Miss work because pads do not work well = 22.9%
o Miss work because rags do not work well = 11.4%
o Miss work because there are no female toilets or private spaces available = 5.0%

• Number of days of school or work missed
o Overall, working age respondents: Average = 3.61 days

Want to do something about this? Heck yeah!

Bringing it Back

14:21 September 16, 2009
New York, NY

Greetings all! Recently, we've gotten some calls about where and how we at SHE got started. So we're bringing the blog back, to check out the some of the kernels of our beginnings. Please read on and bounce around:

22:06 June 24, 2008
Sky Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda

New York, Rome, Paris, Addis Ababa—sound like the answer to a Jeopardy question as to where you can find the best coffee in the world? Maybe so, but in my book, these cities will always remind me of my route to Kigali, Rwanda, on the first, on-the-ground, SHE Team mission. Three days after departing from New York, we finally arrived in the small and welcoming city of Kigali. I say welcoming because, in perfect cue, our bags not only greeted us at the Kigali airport, but so did about a hundred boisterous Rwandans, donning Rwanda national flags, playing horns and cymbals, and chanting. Did they do this for every team addressing menstrual management problems, we wondered? Did the airlines tip them off that we had an excruciating journey imbued with busted complimentary movies, rubber chicken dinners, and flee infested single beds for two and not one? Maybe we needed a little cheering up? How thoughtful. We appreciated it as did the Rwandan national soccer team that also arrived with us in the airport the other day.

Yes, you heard right; the SHE Team is off on their first, on-the ground, mission in Kigali, Rwanda. How much more exciting can that be? If you are not familiar with us, perhaps now is the time to introduce. We, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), aim to address a simple, common, and yet largely ignored problem: girls’ and women’s lack of sustained access to affordable, high-quality sanitary napkins for menstruation. It’s hard to believe, but the problem exists….all over developing countries! It struck me as incredible that the problem is so prevalent and most of the activity to address it has been ad hoc, geographically clustered, and mainly donation based. Nearing the danger zone of being overeducated, I decided to take a step forward and do something about this outrageous problem by creating Sustainable Health Enterprise (SHE). We’d take a different approach and look to help girls and women start their own franchises to make and sell affordable, quality, eco-friendly, sanitary napkins. And since October 2007, I haven’t looked back….drumming up enthusiasm, support, and partnerships from MIT to Echoing Green to __(insert your name here!)___.

So now I am here with the award winning SHE Team from Harvard-MIT ( gearing up for a feasibility assessment in Rwanda. Sounds fancy, huh? But what is a feasibility assessment, really? We’re defining it as essential primary research to determine whether or not we’ll be able to pilot our intervention to tackle the menstrual management problem in Rwanda and beyond. We’ll be doing research in a few different “buckets” (in consulting talk); namely:
1. consumer insights which is just a fancy way of saying we’ll be talking to girls and women about what they currently use when they menstruate, if they are happy with it, and if they aren’t, how can it be improved.
2. product development which is a fancy way of saying we’ll be trying to make the darn product cheaply and locally. Well, how are we going to pull that off?
3. community networks which is a fancy way of saying we’ll be looking for local organizations to own the gig once we jump-start it. We want the local women to own the business of making affordable sanitary napkins.

And essentially, we’ll take this information and say “yay” or “nay” by the end of the mission in August.

So with much ado…we’re off to the field! Come on with us!