Menstruation march in Rwanda – SHE is on the move!

March 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I am having a one-woman party for Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) today!   On Friday SHE held a mobilization in Rwanda “breaking the silence” about menstruation.  They gathered  hundreds of people for a march through the city, including some “Big Shots” like government ministers to call for:

-Open dialogue on menstrual issues;
-Increased access to health and hygiene education;
-Increased access to affordable sanitary pads.

The entrance fee to the event was a packet of sanitary pads, and participants received a bottle of water and T-shirt. I love that!  And lets be frank, a march through town about menstruation is a bold thing to do in Africa where things about sex, reproductive health and women’s bodies are not talked about in public.  Most exciting (and it cannot be overstated)  is that this is totally Rwandan-driven, with many students and local women’s groups taking the lead.

When I wrote SHE’s media strategy for my thesis I theorized that this kind of event is great for “trickle-up” media attention — coverage in the Rwandan paper will add credibility later for farther-reaching global media.

Julian (SHE leader in Rwanda) hits the nail on the head on the SHE blog when she writes:

I just realized for sure is, just as we all need management and bookkeeping skill, every one needs advocacy and awareness skills. Right now as I write this, my B.day is 15 minutes away, and I can’t think of anything to do, other than work on the campaign, one of my campaign partners mentioned she cannot concentrate on a thing, until launch of campaign is done, no wonder this is full time job for some.

I am staying tuned to hear more about the reactions of the community to what happened.  I will be checking the SHE blog for updates.

A face to face with Emeka Okafor from Timbuktu Chronicles

July 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Had the pleasure of meeting one of my blogging heroes yesterday, Emeka Okafor from Timbuktu Chronicles. A self titled venture catalyst, he is the director of TED Africa, an African food imports entrepreneur, and connector of innovators.   Elizabeth from Sustainble Health Enterprises and I tracked him down to discuss all things Africa and entrepreneurship.

He is concerned about the missing links in the chain of innovation in Africa.  In the US we take this chain for granted — the university systems, funding for research, business plan competitions, labs where discoveries are made.   With all these pieces working together, a breakthrough idea can become a business.  But in Africa, many of these links are missing.

One thing he is doing is looking at how to invest in large scale women traders.  In Francophone Africa, these women are “cash madams” — moving thousands of dollars of merchandise through selling basic staples like salt, soap and plastic sandals.   In Eastern Africa they call these women “Dubai mamas“.  Like SHE, he is interested in proving that these are viable business networks ready for investment.   He says what these women are doing is not new, that in many parts of Africa, women have been the traders for centuries, patriarchy as a business model is a product of recent times.

To talk to him was to glimpse a community that he is slowly building – one where innovation and ideas are invested in, and business and creativity drive problem solving, not development aid.   Through him, I learned about a ning site for venture capital in Africa, and he is one of the people behind Maker Faire Africa a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention, will take place August 14-16 in Accra, Ghana.   It was inspiring to meet him, I hope to keep in touch.

Meeting Nick Kristof pays off

May 7, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Been celebrating for 2 days now, SHE is featured in Nick Kristof’s blog “Getting Girls in School in Africa”.

Comments are fascinating: why are American women wanting African women to use reuseable pads when they do not use them themselves? Hypocrisy!  The beauty is that SHE’s market-based approach will prove that if women want the product, they will buy it, plain and simple.

Well, in one of my many thesis interviews Jene O’keefe Trigg gave me a very good tip about using press coverage like this:

  • Ask everyone you know to comment on the article, it will show the journalist its a hot subject
  • Analyze the comments for new leads and ideas
  • Use some of the comments in your materials to demonstrate need and interest

Please show your love and  add your own comment on NYT site.

How does media coverage help social entrepreneurs?

February 8, 2009 at 3:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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For my thesis I am designing a media strategy for Sustainable Health Enterprises, launched by social entrepreneur and Echoing Green fellow Elizabeth Scharpf. SHE is launching a low-cost, locally produced maxi pad to keep girls in school when they are menstruating, an age-old problem in many poor countries.  I am having a great time looking into the question : what does press coverage do for social entrepreneurs?  To answer this I am standing in the overlap of public relations, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship — what an interesting little triangle.

To to find out exactly what happens after major media exposure, I had  an interesting chat today with Jennifer Corriero, executive director and founder of TakingITglobal, my favorite youth-led technology organization.  Like many non profits, TIG never directly sought media exposure.  But in the early days of TIG, press coverage, like this article from FastCompany about her and Mike, launched the organization skyward.

She confirmed some theories that I will explore further in my research:

  • After the articles came out the response was always immediate.  The main benefit was that high caliber people reached out to TIG and offered partnership and support that helped for years to come.
  • Media coverage adds legitmacy, especially for start-ups; articles can be passed to potential funders and new contacts.
  • Keep in touch with journalists, find the ones that have a genuine interest in your project and keep them updated.
  • Awards matter, they drive press coverage.
  • Media can be a great way to strengthen relationships with funders by mentioning them in the story.

You can be a part of this thesis process: tell me your stories, how have you leveraged the media to achieve your goals?  If you know someone I should talk to, send me a shout.

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