Entrepreneur gives girls and women hope with affordable sanitary towels
Friday March 10 2023
Blandine Umuziranenge is a Rwandan entrepreneur who has made it her mission to bring a touch of comfort to the daily lives of girls and women across the country.
Armed with a background in business, she has taken on the task of creating affordable, reusable sanitary pads that can last up to two years.
Her product, the Kosmotive pad, has become a beacon of hope for over 15 percent of schoolgirls who miss out on school and 23 percent of Rwandan women who report missing participation in economic activities due to poverty.
The 33-year-old has dedicated the past five years to developing Kosmo pads. Her product is among the first of its kind in Rwanda. The lack of references, locally manufactured materials, and little understanding of the product has made her journey di cult.
“We have a long way to go in terms of publicity. There is still a lot of educating to do about how convenient, affordable, and user-friendly Kosmotive pads are. So far, 95 percent of clients are NGOs looking to donate to schoolgirls,” Ms Umuziranenge said.
Despite the difficulties she has faced, Umuziranenge has managed to make a significant impact in Rwanda’s rural communities.
Her initiative has provided over 65,000 schoolgirls in the districts of Gicumbi, Rulindo, and Rutsiro with reusable pads in the past two years. This has enabled them to attend school regularly without feeling self-conscious or embarrassed during their periods.
Her business runs on a Rwf530 million budget per month. The Kosmo pad is made up of three different types of cloth — a soft, breathable, chemical-free cloth on the top, an absorbent cotton-like material in the middle and a waterproof, thin material on the bottom to prevent leakage.
The pad is easy to wash, dries quickly and comes with a usage and washing manual. It is also available in three different sizes to accommodate the needs of different women and girls.
Divine Ingabire, co-founder and executive director of I Matter Initiative, is charged with advocacy and donation to make the initiative successful. She collects sanitary pad donations since 2019 from the public and social media pledges and donating them to rural school girls. She has so far reached 1,500 schoolgirls.
The I Matter Initiative is also working to introduce sanitary pad donation boxes in pharmacies and public places in Kigali. This initiative is designed to make it easier for people to donate menstrual products and to increase awareness of the issue of period poverty in the country, as explained by Ms. Ingabire.
Ms Ingabire says her motivation stems from the fact that despite Rwanda’s noticeable progress in welfare and gender equality, the issue of period poverty among underprivileged women remains overlooked.
Both Ms Ingabire and Ms Umuziranenge run on their investment and temporary funding from private partners to run the initiatives.