The Femicorns of Sanitation

23rd November, 2020

“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” – Hillary Clinton

What’s the story?

Globally, more than 500 million women and girls lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management, which has negatively impacted women’s safety, dignity and health, causing gender-based violence, school absenteeism, stress and anxiety. One of the major underlying causes for this is the inadequate Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in public spaces, schools and workplaces.

The Innovation Lab

Powered by the Toilet Board Coalition, with the strategic support of Kimberly-Clark and its Kotex brand, the Women in the Sanitation Economy Innovation Lab intends to bridge these gaps by empowering female entrepreneurs to implement sanitation solutions across various geographies with the support of a 6-month mentoring programme.

The programme, which launched last month, features five women-led and/or women’s-health focused enterprises that are based in the UK, U.S. and Kenya. It is particularly remarkable to have eleven of Kimberly-Clark’s employees from around the globe with a diverse array of skillsets and areas of expertise providing valuable mentorship to these entrepreneurs.

“As a sanitation entrepreneur myself who works at the intersection of innovation and inclusion, I was thrilled for the opportunity to launch the Women in the Sanitation Economy programme with Kimberly Clark as our first Innovation Lab at the TBC." - Jasmine Burton, Sanitation Economy Accelerator and Innovation Lab Manager, Toilet Board Coalition


The Value of Mentorship

Kimberley Dobney and Ciara Shine of Turn and Flow – both 23 years old – propose a circular solution and are working with different communities in the United Kingdom (UK) to recycle organic pads and tampons, turning them into renewable energy and fertilizer. Their service will provide women in the UK with an easy and sustainable way to dispose of menstrual care products. Their solution touches not only upon women’s-health but also seeks to solve the solid waste management problem, creating renewable, clean energy solutions.

“Having two mentors from Kimberly-Clark who work in feminine care and understand the sanitation economy is so amazing, and I love learning from female leaders who are passionate about menstrual hygiene and ending period stigma. They will help us tackle our diverse business challenges, and their expertise will give us new perspectives on how we can make our service successful in the long term.” Kimberley Dobney, Co-founder, Turn and Flow

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Usafi Sanitation is driven by bringing elegantly designed, affordable and innovative sanitation solutions that are ideal for people who have no access to sewer systems in Kenya. They aim to build waterless toilets, and hand wash stations which are reliable, high quality products at an affordable price that also offer great ecological benefits. Thus far, Usafi has impacted over 800 students by installing waterless toilets in schools, thus positively impacting their dignity and education, and wish to advance their marketing, investments, technology and design.

“Lack of think-tanks, human resources, few opportunities to interact with professionals and capital deficiency are the major obstacles for a small company like mine. When it is hard to seek investments, the technical and professional support from the Innovation Labs mentors will help us to raise funds and reinvigorate our business model.” – Maureen Amakabane, Founder, Usafi Sanitation

The Innovation Lab delivers three key offerings to its entrepreneurs: Insights to understand the mechanisms of business, solidify the ideation process and to identify the existing constraints; Impact to be able to integrate scale in their operations and determine the desired outputs and outcomes; Inspiration to obtain newer perspectives, to delve in the community and move a step closer to the goal. The Innovation Lab project also encourages horizontal learning and provides a platform for diverse conversations, allowing the entrepreneurs to learn from each other. Apart from the extraordinary value of mentorship, this programme aims to create a community of entrepreneurs and a blossoming ecosystem of support.

Inclusion and Innovation

“I am unbelievably inspired by the sanipreneurs and their passion for their organizations. They want to change the world, and we can help them make it happen. We can harness the power of our (Kimberly-Clark’s) people and their expertise to help these entrepreneurs create shared value and have a societal impact. It’s a privilege to be a part of their journey.”- Chris Messer, Social Compliance Program Leader Kimberly Clark

Read more about our Innovation Labs programme and its entrepreneurs.