Innovation Labs empowers female entrepreneurs to develop sanitation solutions

Globally, more than 500 million women and girls lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management, which negatively impacts their safety, dignity and health and leads to gender-based violence along with work and school absenteeism. One of the major underlying causes for this is the inadequate Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in public spaces, schools and workplaces.

Toilet Board Coalition and Kimberly-Clark Launch Innovation Lab

Powered by the Toilet Board Coalition (TBC), 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 U.K., U.S. and Kenya. It is particularly remarkable to have 11 of Kimberly-Clark’s employees from around the globe with a diverse array of skillsets and 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,” said Jasmine Burton, Sanitation Economy Accelerator and Innovation Lab Manager at the Toilet Board Coalition.


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 U.K. 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,” said Kimberley Dobney, Co-Founder of 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 reliable, high-quality waterless toilets and hand washing stations at an affordable price while also reducing the environmental footprint. Thus far, Usafi has reached over 800 students by installing waterless toilets in schools, which has positively impacted their dignity and education, Now, Usafi wishes to advance its marketing, investment strategy, technology and design.

“A lack of think tanks and 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 obtain investments, the technical and professional support from the Innovation Lab mentors will help us to raise funds and reinvigorate our business model,” said Maureen Amakabane, Founder of Usafi Sanitation.


Intersection of Inclusion and Innovation

The Innovation Lab delivers three key offerings to its entrepreneurs: Insights to understand the mechanisms of business, solidify the ideation process and identify the existing constraints; Impact to be able to integrate scale in their operations and achieve the desired outputs and outcomes; and inspiration to obtain new perspectives, gain insights from the community and move a step closer to their goals.

The Innovation Lab project also encourages peer-to-peer knowledge transfer through a platform that facilitates diverse conversations to allow the entrepreneurs to learn from each other. In addition to the extraordinary value of mentorship, this programme aims to nurture a blossoming ecosystem of support for this community of entrepreneurs.

“I am unbelievably inspired by the entrepreneurs 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 make a societal impact. It’s a privilege to be a part of their journey,” said Chris Messer, Global Social Sustainability Programs Leader at Kimberly-Clark.

Read more about our Innovation Lab programme and its entrepreneurs.

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