At the beginning of 2020, we had organised a different year to the one which inevitably came as the world was plunged into a global pandemic. Rather than completely halt this project that everyone felt so passionately about we, instead, utilised this time to conduct the essential research into the fabrics and materials we would use.
The pads needed to have both antibacterial and absorbent waterproof layers for not only functionality but also to give the wearer comfort and confidence when using the product.
We explored many options regarding fabric types and suppliers, making samples and trialling them each along the way. We eventually sourced a textile manufacturer that could accommodate all our needs. We were able to also import all the machinery and equipment we required to make and assemble our pads from the same country which helped reduce our costs and lower our environmental impact.
Our next step was finding an ideal location for the workshop and, in turn, the workforce we needed. Once a suitable place of residence was found I was given an outline of the existing building, the measurements to work on an optimal floor plan and layout and offer different options on the distribution that the space would require.
When looking for our workshop manager it was important to us that we hired a woman that would share our values, ideals and ambitions. Convinced we had found the best candidate, we emphatically decided to employ Aynalem who although at that time did not have the full manufacturing knowledge we were at first looking for, as a teacher, she had an abundance of dedication and passion that we were confident would nourish our other prospective female workers.
In April 2021 I was finally able to go to Addis Ababa to build up the workshop. Due to outside circumstances such as the devastating conflicts in some regions, new regulations and all the obvious complications covid produced, many problems arose. We continually adjusted, adapted and pivoted along the way. When a container was delayed we instead used that time to organise the structure of the company, and when the rainy season came early and stopped the electricity we gave extra training to staff.
There will always be issues and obstacles that are outside your control when setting up a new venture and it was important to modify, readjust and plan to accommodate when these arise. We dedicated time to formalising the business structure and making a detailed potential costing of the products and began training the 3 employees in the office.
During that time we also formalised our filing structure to enable us to keep track of the material usage, stock creation, etc. Within the physical space, we also began making the electrical connections for all the lighting and switches needed and any structural issues we needed to fix.
Finally, the first container arrived and it was time to put all of our careful planning into action. The machines needed to be assembled and luckily through our more careful research, we were able to hire local engineers to get things up and running.
Now it was time to get our workforce trained up!
Everything soon got into its place. Although we were experiencing an early rainy season and the power was often intermittent we had our first staff members training, practising their skills and testing both the machinery and the patterns for the pads. Though not everyone was as experienced as they soon will be it was amazing to see their curiosity, enthusiasm, and eagerness to learn.
After I left, I continued to guide them remotely, through the necessary steps in the improvements needed in the production of the pads. Once the quality was where we needed it to be we started making the bags.
The strength of this project is not only in the service the sanitary products provide but also in the emphasis on educating everyone on the use and benefits of the product. The help that it gives, and empowerment of the females who need and make the product.
(Hawasa project with Ayuda en Acción 17/12/21)
Our biggest accomplishment to date has been delivering the order from FDFA to the Somali region in Ethiopia. It's a privilege to see Mela for Her making a difference. We look forward to enabling more females to access these much needed sanitary products and giving them the authority over their own bodies.
(SDC project with Swiss Development Cooperation 03/03/22)
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