When AFRIpads' founders traveled to Uganda in 2008, two significant things happened. First, they became aware of the numerous hardships and challenges that girls cope with while trying to manage their monthly menstruation, and how this negatively impacts girls' attendance and their academic performance. Second, the founders learned about the existence of reusable, cloth menstrual pads manufactured by a company called Lunapads. based in Vancouver, Canada.
In North America, reusable pads appeal to a specific niche market of eco-conscious women. Yet in Uganda, where the population is nearly 80% rural and poverty is widespread, reusable sanitary pads are truly a product innovation that is simultaneously an empowering and practical solution to an everyday challenge. The founders connected the dots and the idea of AFRIpads was born.
So in early 2009 they started AFRIpads as a pilot project to determine the feasibility of locally manufacturing a low-cost, cloth sanitary pad, and subsequently, what the demand for such a product would be. The entrepreneurs were met with great success on both accounts. Ugandan schoolgirls quickly embraced the AFRIpads' design, immediately recognizing the benefits of a washable pad over the makeshift alternatives they previously relied on, and it soon became evident that it was time for AFRIpads to grow.
From a Pilot Project to a Social Business
With the success of the pilot project, AFRIpads was ready to start addressing the acute need for affordable menstrual products on a nation-wide scale. But rather than establishing a charity, the founders decided to take a new approach to addressing development problems, and in late 2009 AFRIpads Ltd. was incorporated as a social business. By blending the power of business with the social objectives of charity, AFRIpads is utilizing the power of the market to provide the best and most sustainable menstrual product solution.