Sanitary Pads For The People

Interview

Friday, October 15, 2010

A few years ago Elizabeth Scharpf sprung to action when she learned that women and girls in Rwanda miss work and school because they don't have affordable sanitary pads. So the Harvard MBA started a business in Rwanda making pads out of the fiber from local banana trees — and now she’s received the prestigious Curry Stone Design prize for her idea.

Guests:

Elizabeth Scharpf

Comments [8]

Nancy Berrigan from Michigan, USA

I would be interested in learning how I might get these sanitary pads for the girls at the school my husband and I built in Uganda in 2005. The name of our school is John Paul Secondary School and opened in 2007. We currently have 205 students of which 140 are girls. We have been trying to find a way to help the girls so they won't have to miss so much school. Your product, the SHE, sounds like it might be our answer!
Would appreciate any help/information you could give us!
Thank you and God Bless You for the wonderful work you are doing!

Gratefully,
Nancy Berrigan

Mar. 23 2012 10:44 PM
Liz Mourant from 223_US

Kudos! Such a simple design implementation with such boons for local girls and women. Any naysayers are certainly worse than "teabaggers" and cries of "pater-maternalism" are ignoring mere industry and human-aid. This woman's ingenuity is barely being rewarded. I believe she is doing it for the love of her own sex, for their abilities to experience an enhanced life as full as the local males. Attending school must have been horribly difficult pre-pads for these female children. Why is sexism still entrenched in this day and age? Reading nonsense about ignoring these women's issues when it is just as easy to step up to the plate and help them solve them is just so much phallocentric corporate claptrap. Not every dog has his day, but too many appear to have unearned ones (I do mean "his" day).

Nov. 02 2010 05:23 AM
Jessica Davis from Utah

I think this is wonderful! Its amazing how often if a woman is empowered to really look at a problem affecting women that men haven't bothered with seeming simple solutions can be found which help in so many ways!

Oct. 17 2010 03:55 PM
Jillian Nelson from NYC

If a girl is in school for an 8 hour day, she very likely can go through 3+ pads, and the same applies to a working woman. Does the second person to comment think these young women should tote their used rags along in their nap sack in Rawanda's heat? Even the assumption that there is an inexhaustible supply of "rags" seems presumptuous. The Award for this design is $100,000, which is meager compared to the amount of money saved by the women if they can go to work or school.
When people dismiss how a design like this would improve women's lives, I wonder if they could apply their logic to their own lives and begin to use washable toilet paper.

Oct. 17 2010 12:47 PM
Just wondering... from Newark, NJ

Again, surely you jest. When I was in the Army and living in Germany in 1972 women there were still simply using a "rag." They would wash it out and use it next month. This is a no-brainer. Sort of like an old "Hints to Heloise" newspaper column where a woman wrote in with a great tip: "To organize my desk I keep my pencils together with a rubber band."

Oct. 17 2010 11:33 AM
Stephen Galowitz from United States

Have you heard the latest joke in Rwanda: "Is that a banana in your pocket or are you having your period?"

Oct. 16 2010 07:51 PM
Vanessa Redgrieving

What?! She gets a pile of money for making pads for women who've been living on that continent for a bazillion years and still haven't found out a simple way to absorb the bleeding by using banana material, or even simple cloth?

I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous and, moreover, pater/maternalistic. Whatever you want to call it.

Oct. 16 2010 04:41 PM
GreenBeets from Oregon

Thank you.

This is an amazing example of how by working at the root of the problem can produce profound innovations.

Oct. 15 2010 11:21 PM

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