Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) has been awarded the 2010 Curry Stone Design Prize for development of a locally produced and distributed sanitary pad that enhances women’s dignity and allows better access to education and occupation. In numerous developing countries, the stigma of menstruation is exacerbated by the lack of adequate, affordable sanitary devices, often keeping girls and women away from school and work for days or even weeks during a year. SHE’s goal is to tackle this taboo in a multi-faceted, “quilt-like” approach involving advocacy and education, as well as the promotion of a local business model based on the sustainably designed pad.
Elizabeth Scharpf, founder of Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), is partnering with networks of women in Rwanda to make and sell sanitary pads made from banana leaves.
Eighteen percent of girls in Rwanda miss, on average, 35 days of school every year (and up to 50 days of school or work each year) due to their periods and ineffective pads and the embarrassment and ridicule that ensues. SHE, in effect, builds confidence, education, and income--and even creates jobs for women in the cheap pad-making franchises.
"Menstruation is one of those things that people don't really want to have anything to do with," Scharpf tells Fast Company. Most of the population is "left hanging after donation supplies run out."
In all, Scharpf expects to reach a million women with the she28 program.