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Sustainable Health Enterprises

Women are spearheading the growth of the sustainable green economy across the world, not only as consumers, but also as business leaders and innovators. Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), highlighted by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, is part of this revolution with its first initiative, SHE28. SHE28 addresses the global problem of lack of access to affordable, environmentally friendly menstrual pads.


Millions of girls and women in developing countries miss up to 50 days of school/work per year because they do not have access to affordable sanitary pads when they menstruate. Currently, girls and women in this setting—if they have an option at all—turn to premium priced international brands which are too costly to sustain (e.g., in Rwanda, of the girls who miss school, 36% of them miss because pads are too expensive).  Alternatively, they turn to rags which, in combination with a lack of a clean accessible water supply, are unhygienic and potentially harmful, let alone ineffective.


SHE has addressed the stigma of menstruation on several fronts. SHE has advocated for more government support for access to women’s sanitary devices and educated Rwandans about basic aspects of women’s health and how they can be improved. SHE has also developed an innovative, patent-pending pad.  The SHE LaunchPad is a cost-effective sanitary pad made from readily available materials like banana-stalk fibers which are processed by inexpensive machines that local people can purchase.


Thanks in part to generous financial support from Seventh Generation, SHE28 has reached 5,000+ women and girls with its health education and advocacy and with more affordable pads via small-scale distribution franchises in East Africa. SHE is currently building a sustainable banana fiber supply chain and aims to reach 1M+ girls and women by 2013 as their content is adopted at the national and global levels and their production (based on patent-pending technology) goes from small to large scale.


Join the work to help build a new class of sustainable business leaders both in East Africa and across the world. Help SHE reach its goals with your financial support. Spread the word about SHE’s work on Facebook, on Twitter, and stay connected with SHE by subscribing to the sheinnovates blog and quarterly e-newsletter.

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Sheila Hollender likes to blog about the environment and health issues.