Bana has its headquarters in Mpigi, Uganda and employs local women to manufacture and sell sanitary pads made out of banana pseudostems. Our videos center on an in depth examination of Bana’s impact, their determination to educate about the issue of menstruation management, Bana’s employment of female entrepreneurs, and the help necessary for Bana to continue to scale. We were able to capture these various aspects of Bana through comprehensive interviews with Bana’s administrative employees, beneficiaries, Champions, school administrators, teachers, and health professionals in regions with Bana presence throughout Uganda. These interviews were caught on film and edited into a 9-minute video that displayed Bana’s core values of community health education, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. Additionally, we captured the manufacturing process of the BanaPads both on film and photo-journalistically to make the process more tangible to those that are not familiar with Bana and its mission.
While in-field, we found that Bana is making an undeniable impact on the lives of its beneficiaries. They are able to strive toward higher levels of education due to the modern method of feminine hygiene that Bana provides. Teachers and school administrators have observed significantly higher levels of school attendance and improved academic performance by female students. Health professionals address fewer cases of infections and illness due to use of unsanitary methods of menstruation management such as rags. The users of BanaPads themselves report higher levels or productivity and comfort not only in school, but in other activities. Champions experience a better quality of life directly linked to the income they generate from their sales.
We worked with Solar Sister in Tanzania, though it has presence throughout East Africa. Solar Sister employs local women to sell solar lanterns and clean cook stoves throughout. There, our focus centered on understanding the beneficiaries and how exactly they use and benefit from the products that Solar Sister distributes. We filmed interviews with Solar Sister Entrepreneurs, Solar Sister Sales Associates, Tanzania’s country manager, as well as customers to gain a holistic understanding of Solar Sister and its impact on customers.
We saw that Solar Sister is making an impact on the lives of its Solar Sister Entrepreneurs with this empowering opportunity, but its customers are experiencing this same level of empowerment. They use their lanterns in innovative ways that go beyond the scope of their intended uses. The impact of using a solar lantern transcends higher productivity at night without the risks and expense associated with burning kerosene. Solar lanterns have breathed life back into the community. Friends and family are able to gather at night—something that they were not able to do before. Darkness can create isolation, but the light that Solar Sister lanterns provide also bring people together which is of incredible value in a culture centered on community. This comes in addition to providing a safer, eco-friendly, cost efficient, and healthier means of light that creates and opportunity for economic agency for local women.
Our other activities included the creation of a Master Manual to help guide and facilitate future fellows that work on film projects with various social enterprises. This manual will include a guide for fellows, the social enterprises that they work with, and the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Additionally, there will be key information and resources included to help initiate and guide post-production. We took thousands of pictures in field, and the best are featured below in a Master Gallery. A PowerPoint documenting the manufacturing process of the BanaPads was another smaller project that we completed in field for use at conferences.
Bana and Solar Sister share a common interest in finding innovative solutions to pervasive problems that affect people, especially women, in East Africa. Both have tapped into the vast potential that women have to offer as a means of solving these problems. We wanted to put our two respective fields, public health and film, in conversation to find ways to best portray this issue. We aim to have our videos strike a cord with our audiences—to promote the sense of a shared global citizenship that most social enterprises strive for. As we move forward, we will use our skills to support African Women Rising and the struggles, journeys, and woman-driven solutions around the world.