A SUSTAINABLE SOCIAL ENTERPRISE THAT PRODUCES BIODEGRADABLE SANITARY PADS OUT OF WATER HYACINTH
The Empowering Women Period (EWP) program’s mission is to facilitate the setting up and running of women-owned social enterprises to manufacture biodegradable hygiene products using water hyacinth as the absorbent.
The program’s broader vision is for vulnerable women around the world to have access to hygienic, cost-effective and Earth-conscious menstrual care and public health education, made possible through the replication of a sustainable business model that ensures dignity through employment.
Focus on a sustainable solution
There are too many problems associated with menstruation in the communities where we work –
- Women don’t have reliable access to clean sanitary care: it’s either too expensive or simply unavailable;
- Even if imported products are available in the market, they’re often expensive and are mostly non-biodegradable, making disposal difficult and adding to trash related issues;
- Menstruation is often a taboo topic, rarely discussed openly within communities with crippling gender inequality.
While traditional problem-solution models tightly focus on a single solution to a single problem, our solution is geared toward a multifaceted approach in the reduction of poverty and in the provision of a viable solution to handle menstruation. Our solution came from a deep commitment to creating a sustainable enterprise that can have a profound impact on multiple stakeholders in their ability to affect change in their own lives:
- Every manufacturing site is owned and run by vulnerable women who are in need of gainful employment; the women receive a respectable salary and health insurance
- The pad itself is made from a highly invasive aquatic species, water hyacinth, the removal of which increases access to local fresh water in the area. The moisture barrier is a plastic made from crustacean shells, a waste product from the seafood industry
- The pad is distributed from woman to woman along with vital public health information, which encourages opens conversation around stigmatized topics such as menstruation, among others.
Our approach is not providing aid by simply distributing sanitary pads or menstrual cups to those in need, as this would not be sustainable and would counteractively contribute to the problem of international aid dependence, being detrimental to poverty alleviation. Our solution is geared to be sustainable, where people get employment.
 United States provisional patent pending for water-hyacinth based absorbent