23/03/2018 15:02 SAST | Updated 23/03/2018 15:02 SAST

Banana Tree Sanitary Pads Are Changing Lives In Rwanda

Sustainable Heath Enterprises has come up with an eco-friendly way to keep young women from missing school.


Millions of girls in Africa, and around the world, are forced to miss school because they cannot afford sanitary pads. But a startup is changing that with their innovative, Earth-friendly and inexpensive "green" pads.


The Sustainable Heath Enterprises (SHE) pad is made of banana fibres, which are transformed using a cutting-edge technique developed between the United States and Rwanda to transform the pulp of banana fibres into a super absorptive, environmentally friendly sanitary pad. The price is friendly, too, as Go! pads cost R6 for a pack of 10 – about half a US dollar.

Small-scale Rwandan farmers, many of them women, put the pads together at the initiative's factory. It produces 1,000 a day and employs around 10 people full time, with about 800 beneficiaries in the co-operatives.


SHE developer Elizabeth Scharpf came up with the idea while in Mozambique, working for the World Bank. Scharpf found that 20 percent of the employees there missed work for up to 30 days a year because of the lack of sanitary supplies, and later that Rwandan girls are missing as many as 50 days of school a year for the same reason.

"We make our pads with no water, very little electricity — not because we aim to be the leanest, greenest machine, but because we had to," says Scharpf. "And we had people from major companies like Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark tell us that this was not possible, to create the material that would go in our pads with no chemicals and with little electricity. We figured out how to do it because we had to."

Read more about SHE's Go! pads.