The surprising and answer was discovered by Elizabeth Scharpf, who was an intern in Mozambique in 2005 for the one-person private-sector development division of the World Bank.
Scharpf was studying how small and medium-sized businesses can play a role in developing economies. One day she overheard a local colleague’s concern that her women employees often didn’t come into work because they were menstruating. Hearing this, Scharpf apparently had a mindful moment and decided to learn more. Remember that a good way to initiate a mindful moment is to say to yourself, “That’s interesting” and then learn more.
Why is the education of girls so critical to these countries? Beyond the obvious loss of self-esteem from the humiliation of menstruation issues holding back these impoverished women who want to improve themselves and better support their families, this is actually a global issue with significant consequences for the economies of developing countries.
• A study fielded by the Council on Foreign Relations, “Addressing the Special Needs of Girls,” found that each additional year of secondary education increased a woman’s potential earnings by about 25%.
• A study in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa found that “more equal education between men and women could have led to nearly 1 percent higher annual per capita GDP growth” in each country.
Scharpf became passionate about finding a solution. A study found that 18% of school age girls in Rwanda missed school because menstrual pads are too expensive. In countries like Mozambique and Rwanda, where the per capita GDP is under $1,000 per year, the average annual cost of the cheapest sanitary pads was $33 a year, making them unaffordable. Because menstruation was a taboo topic, no one had ever considered addressing the problem.
For all of you who are or think like an entrepreneur, what’s one of the most basic premises of entrepreneurial thinking? Answer: find a need in the market and provide a cost-effective solution. There was both a business and humanitarian need and challenge, a problem to be solved and a true social entrepreneurism opportunity.
Instead of simply raising charity cash to import finished pads, Scharpf and the organization she founded, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) set about developing a new system of community-based education, business training, manufacturing and distribution jobs from locally-sourced banana fiber.
SHE is solving an educational problem for impoverished women and creating sustainable regional businesses. SHE has created a franchise model to partner with women in Rwanda and other developing-country communities to distribute and ultimately manufacture and launch their own SHE LaunchPads franchises.
As product is sold, some of the initial working capital that SHE puts up is paid back, with the entrepreneurs eventually owning their local franchises. In turn, SHE reinvests its profits in new geographies or other disruptive enterprises.
Have you considered a local problem that might lead to an entrepreneurial solution? Thanks for sharing.
For questions about this post or for information on becoming a fearless leader, contact Dr. Cathy Greenberg and The Fearless Leader Group at (888) 320-1299 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.