Necessity is the mother of invention, but change is the father of innovation. The need to proffer solutions to change situations is one that will keep fostering innovative products and businesses.
Social enterprises are businesses that manufacture products that solve a pressing social need, and nothing has been more pressing than keeping young girls in school as they try to get an education.
The Sustainable Development Goals four and five look at inclusive education and empowerment for the girl child, both of which cannot be achieved if more girls are staying out of school than boys; that leads to an imbalanced future and world and defeats the purpose of inclusive growth. One of the reasons more girls are staying out of school for days every month is as a result of lack of access to affordable sanitary pads during menstruation and the fear of stigmatization that follows from the use of improper means.
After discovering that need while living in a rural community in Uganda, Canadian couple, Sophia and Paul Grinvalds, decided to do something about it. In 2010, they began the local manufacture of AfriPads, which are reusable sanitary pads that are as cheap as they are hygienic. With the pads, more girls have been able to stay in school during their periods because they now have proper protection and the stigma from exposure or fear of exposure is gone.
Apart from the AfriPads being a cheaper alternative to the disposable ones, they are more sustainable for the environment because there are now less disposable pads clogging up landfills. The production of the pads are also done locally, providing jobs for up to 150 locals, most of whom are women.
In addition, partner companies such as Lunapads and Thinx, who themselves produce period panties; and reusable pads as a sustainable alternative to disposable tampons and pads, donate a percentage of every sale made to provide AfriPads to those girls who can’t afford it, to ensure that as many girls as possible are staying in school during their periods.
This is now more than just a social business, it is a movement. The saying goes that when you train a girl, you train a nation. AfriPads is doing more than just helping girls get good education, they are now raising a nation.