Lindsay Yeager was studying abroad with the University of Delaware in Tanzania in January 2014 when she met a particularly extraordinary woman named Maggie Duncan Simbeye.
Simbeye is the founder of the Dare Women’s Foundation, a Tanzanian nonprofit actively working to improve the health and agency of women in rural Northern Tanzania. She’s also one of the only female safari guides in that country.
It was on one of those safaris that Yeager and Simbeye met. Yeager said they became close.
“I was asking her tons and tons of questions, and she would tell me about life as a woman in Tanzania,” said Yeager. “She mentioned many rural women don’t have access to feminine hygiene products.”
My goal is to empower women to do this themselves rather than donating and creating a source of dependency.
Yeager was intrigued. She wanted to know more.
“She was telling me how a lot of girls have a really difficult time attending school during menstruation without pads,” she said. “I would picture this little smart girl who loved learning and going to school but couldn’t go because she had her period. It’s so unfair.”
So Yeager decided to help through the Dare Women Foundation’s reusable pads project. Almost immediately, she began looking into ways to help from the U.S., where she found one volunteer who was manufacturing the pads and donating them to Tanzania. But that wasn’t enough.
“The next step was to turn it into a sustainable business,” said Yeager. “Redesigning the pads, figuring out how to get the fabric [to Tanzania] and have women employed and making the pads there rather than us making them here and donating them.”
Now, Yeager has assembled a team here in the U.S. — Morgan Lehr, Jaime Mayer, Lisa McBeth, Brenda Crowley, Lydia Gray and Laura Crepeau, with the all-important guidance of Simbeye from Tanzania. Simbeye’s role remains pivotal.
“My goal is to always listen to what women in Tanzania want,” said Yeager. “My goal is to empower women to do this themselves rather than donating and creating a source of dependency.”
After receiving help with exposure, networking and funding opportunities from UD’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, Yeager started a crowdfunding campaign for the project through Chuffed with a goal of $10,000.
Ready to be manufactured en masse by Tanzanian women, the product is out of the prototyping phase — Yeager would know. She uses them herself.
“I do not feel comfortable telling others to use these pads if I have not tried them out myself,” she said. “These pads would be a great solution for women anywhere in the world, regardless if we have access to feminine hygiene products or not.”
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