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The women are leading the nations with the development of sustainable sanitary pad is made from banana fibre.

Although sub-Saharan Africa has not been famous for its status as a leader in female inclusion within the economic sector, African women are surprisingly beating the odds and defying the obstacles in the field of entrepreneurship in the region.

Somewhere outside Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, there’s a production facility with a largely female workforce producing sanitary pads made of banana fibres-waste products from banana plants that are cut down when they are harvested. The pads are ecofriendly, devoid of chemicals and non-biodegradable super-absorbent polymers.

Sanitary Pads for banana fibres

The facility is established by the Sustainable Health Enterprise (SHE), a social venture founded by Elizabeth Scharpf in 2008 to produce affordable sanitary pads for women, but to do so via a business approach.

Scharpf’s journey to establishing SHE began in 2005 when as an intern for the World Bank, in Mozambique, she discovered that young girls missed school, and women missed work because they could not afford sanitary pads; a pack of sanitary pads cost more than their daily earning. At the time, Scharpf did nothing and continued to take a mental note of the situation, but when she realised it was a global issue, she decided to act.

She had the option of solving the problem in two ways; short term or long term. Short term would be via charity, which would entail free provision and distribution of sanitary pads. And long term would be to provide something sustainable that will address the socioeconomic and health problems that exist in developing countries.

Sanitary Pads for banana fibres in Rwanda

Scharpf chose long term. She wanted to make sanitary pads available and affordable for women but she wanted to create jobs for them in the process. She did some research, contacted and sought advice from scientists, engineers, agriculturalists and headed to Rwanda from the United States.

“I headed to Rwanda with two engineering students, a tape recorder, and a hand-held blender. We tested out all different natural fibres and discovered and patented a process to transform banana fibre into absorbent material” she wrote for Global Citizen.

Scharpf then set up a production site in Ngoma, eastern Rwanda where the company’s go! padsare produced. But this was only a part of SHE’s objective; soon, the company lobbied the government to reduce its 18 percent tax on a pack of sanitary pad and organized a campaign to distribute its locally made, eco-friendly and affordable pads to schools.

Sanitary Pads for banana fibres Sanitary Pads for banana fibres

SHE also partnered with the ministry of education, Rwanda, and recruits graduates from a technical vocation school to work in the production facility, many of whom struggled to get a job. As at late 2016, SHE had provided over 600 jobs and income opportunities and sold over 100,000 pads.

Read Also: Top 5 Fastest Growing Economies In Africa 2018

In setting up the company, Scharpf said she chose Rwanda for a number of reasons including its population size, banana production rate, ease of doing business and women-friendly policies. Still, the company struggles with production cost and is running at a loss spending a huge chunk of its capital in paying salaries.

According to John Uwayezu, managing director of SHE, the company will break even if they can increase production by tenfold in the next two months with the current amount of employees. Uwayezu hopes that by the end of the year, daily production output would be 30,000.

For Scharpf, her ultimate goal is to create a successful scalable business model that can be adapted and replicated in other countries across Africa and the world.

Updated Article from : Venture Africa

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Afro Success Stories

African most Passion-Driven Social Entrepreneur




Allow us present to you the African most Passion-Driven Social Entrepreneur. Iamafropreneur team with intense focus on her gathered the most in a unique interview with Mrs Fotabe Elmine. Our goal is to have you motivated, encourage and intensify you taste and hunger towards influencing and impacting the lives of the African communities through your entrepreneurial skills.

Who is Fotabe Elmine, how did you start your career, what kind of education did you have ?

Fotabe Elmine is a passion-driven Social Entrepreneur, lecturer and corporate trainer who believes that young people and women with the right training are the future of the African continent. Elmine was born in Kumba, South West Region of Cameroon, where she grew up and attended most of her primary and secondary school. Elmine’s father was a businesses man, and her mother a civil servant/Politician.

Elmine began her professional career as a teacher of Entrepreneurship in 2008 and has since then taught over 5000 students, courses like Human Resource Management, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Business Leadership, Personal Branding and more. She has also trained hundreds of corporate employees all over the country. In 2009, she founded Job Shop, a human resource consulting and placement agency.

In 2011, Job Shop became a partnership and grew to serve clients, not only in Human Resources Management, but also in Finance. The firm expanded that same year and the partners created a Higher Institute of Learning. When the vision of the Organization began derailing from her initial vision, Elmine took the bold step of leaving an organization she created and worked hard to nurture for six years! A few months later, in December 2014, Elmine founded Fotabe University College, which later became Fotabe Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy. In 2015, she founded an association called “Association for the promotion of decent work for women and girls (ASSPRODEC).” That same year, she founded and Fotabe Universal Higher Institute of Cameroon. In 2016, Elmine founded a web platform to enable young people from all over the country have access to FREE examination preparation lessons and materials. Fotabe Elmine holds two Masters Degrees. One in Human Resource Management and another in Marketing and Communication from Rome Business School. She also holds an Associate degree in Business Administration, and honours group Diploma in Mnagement
and Administration, a Certificate in Psychology and Mental health, and is currently undertaking and MBA in Finance. This Mbo native from the Kupe Muanenguba Division of the South West Region of Cameroon spends her free time talking to neighbours about he kingdom of God.

You are one of the most outstanding women in Cameroon with different portfolio what is your secret?

My secret is my appreciation for the creator’s gift of intelligence, my passion for the things I believe in, and my desire to work hard in order to bring out the best in others. I am very convinced that Cameroon has the potentials, not only in terms of natural resources, but most especially in terms of Human capital, to emerge.

3- What are your challenges and successes?

Well, the greatest challenge I deal with is not having the financial means to touch all the lives I’d love to touch. Besides the financial constraint, I am also seriously challenged by the mentality of the young people and the families I try to support. Many of them plainly do not believe an individual like myself can bring any meaningful and lasting contribution to their existence. They trust the government to do it. However, staying consistent to our mission is gradually changing their mindset of many. I’ve had many successes I’m thankful for. Top amongst them is the fact that I’ve been able to share my passion, knowledge and experience with thousands of young people and corporate entrepreneurs. I’m happy to
have helped small businesses to grow and thrive. Even though the current crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon have slowed down our work, I’m particularly happy I led the initiative called “Kansas Hill” aimed at making Bamenda the most Socially Responsible city in the Country.
We provided a FREE internet-equipped space for young people to enable them develop their knowledge and passion in social Entrepreneurship. I’m also happy to have helped women and young people discover their full potential. But most especially, I’m thankful I am lending my little contribution to encourage women and girls to take back their dignity by raising my voice against illegal migration to some Middle Eastern countries and to other countries in the world where women’s rights are not respected.

You are the initiator and organiser of FELA’s Entrepreneurial leadership forum, what are your objectives?

Simply to inspire and train young people to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities. I believe that Africa needs to focus on raising more entrepreneurial leaders.

With the Iamafropreneur team

I want every young person who attends the forum to understand that and to put it into
use. And so far, the almost 400 youths who have passed through the forum are creating
great impact in their communities.

What advice do you have for our readers and the young girls who want to follow your path?

My advice to young girls: “You have enormous potentials. Work hard, do what you’re
passionate about. Keep your dignity and do not be afraid to stand up for what is right. And
remember the most successful woman is the woman who helps other women to be successful.”
To young people all around the country, be responsible, law abiding and daring. We have a country to build. If not us, who? If not now, when?

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