A problem I’ve never thought of: menstruation keeping girls out of school because they couldn’t afford to buy sanitary pads, and menstruation making it difficult for women to work because their husband wouldn’t approve the purchase of pads.

The solution: pads designed from banana leaves.

Read all about Elizabeth Scharpf’s solution and the possible problems with it in “D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution,” Nicholas D. Kristoff, New York Times, October 20, 2010

On a related note, here are a few social enterprises I read about in the Holiday 2010 issue of World Ark, the magazine of Heifer International:

AfriGadget and Ushahidi


D.light Design

The article where I got this information (“Can U Hear Us Now?” Frank Bures, World Ark, Holiday 2010) also told a rather ironic story about solar ovens. Apparently some people think they’re the solution to women’s problems in the Third World—but those people are not the women who would use them.

Why? Well, solar ovens don’t work in the dark, and you’ve got to figure there are lots of days when women have to cook in the dark. Also, they blow over, and they take a while to cook food. So even though they are a good idea for some people, they’re not all that practical.

How is this restoration?

It’s restoration of people: girls who get educated will be able to contribute more to their communities; women who don’t have to worry about militias attacking them can concentrate on their lives and families; people who have solar-powered lights can work later and study later.

But will this lead directly to habitat being restored? No.

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