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Medtronic Joins The Fight Against Period Poverty While Also Creating Local And Sustainable SMME Jobs

Healthcare technology company Medtronic Africa has teamed up with Blossom Care Solutions in Tsakane, Springs, Ekurhuleni, to establish a small sanitary pad factory that will assist local schoolgirls and young women in the fight against period poverty, while also setting up a business supply chain in the area that will begin growing other small commercial enterprises.

For more than 30 years, Medtronic Africa, as part of the global parent company based in over 150 countries, has been committed to supporting the healthcare needs of the public and private sector in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Medtronic offers therapies that treat nearly 70 conditions, including challenging chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

Irene Rajah, Senior HR Manager (Southern Africa Region) at Medtronic, explains: “The ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, together with other factors such as continued high unemployment rates, rising fuel prices and intermittent load shedding and power issues, has left many South Africans feeling discouraged in general.

“Now imagine adding into this situation – as a schoolgirl or young woman – having to deal with your menstrual cycle every month without access to sanitary products?

“It seems shocking in today’s world, and yet this is the reality that faces tens of thousands of our people every month as they have to deal with ‘period poverty’, meaning the financial inability to buy sanitary products, which can also affect their ability to attend school and their participation in the community in general.

“Medtronic has therefore chosen to team up with Blossom Care Solutions so that we might play a role in being part of the solution, which will also encourage sustainable local job creation.”

Rajah notes that the Human Development Report 2020 shared by the United Nations Development Programme indicates that there many South African citizens are living below the international poverty line. She adds: “The report notes that 18.9 percent of the population, translating to some 11 million South Africans[1], live on less than R28 ($1.90) a day, which is around R800 ($55) per month[2]. Period poverty stretches beyond location, colour and creed. It is a reality that is faced by many communities.

“My hope is that we can encourage other companies to replicate this project to make a meaningful difference across our country. We are excited at the chance to empower young women to make a difference in our communities through this partnership.”

Shamiela Sarlie, Managing Director at Blossom Care Solutions, clarifies: “At Blossom Care Solutions, we have built a social enterprise that exists to significantly increase the access to sanitary pads amongst schoolgirls and women in township and rural markets, and to simultaneously create jobs through a Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) model, via a deliberate women-centred approach.

“The end result, besides a steady supply of sanitary pads every month to some of our most vulnerable members of the population, is the establishment of small black-owned, women-led businesses under a social franchise model.”

Highlights of the Blossom Care Solutions initiatives around the country include the following:

Distribution of sanitary pads to girls from Grades 4 to 12

A number of corporate and NGO partners have bought into the company’s mission, enabling Blossom Care Solutions to distribute sanitary pads at no cost to girls at school, specifically in township and rural communities. As a beneficiary of the Blossom Beneficiary Programme, each girl receives 10 pads per month.

Sustainable job creation

Blossom Care Solutions is targeting the demographic of young unemployed people between the ages of 18 and 34, with a focus on women, in its objective of sustainable job creation. In addition to using commercial retail outlets like spaza shops, general dealers and pharmacies – as well as regional and national key accounts – in order to sell the sanitary pads locally, each Blossom franchise needs to be serviced by local businesses in the area, for example for security, cleaning, IT support and distribution partners.

Creating black-owned, female-led businesses via a social franchise model

In each location, six young women are recruited, selected and developed, through a detailed, holistic and supportive 12-month programme, into business owners via the Blossom Care Solutions franchise model. The Blossom Care Solutions mentorship includes training on the production of the products, as well as sales and case studies, offering practical advice on how to run a business in general.

Explains Sarlie, “As we continue to grow the number of these small yet sustainable black-owned businesses, this in turn drives the development of local township economies and the expansion of related value chains.”

“At MDT, we are committed to changing lives daily through our employees, our products and through various company initiatives,” says Rajah. “The Blossom initiative allows us to partner with communities to make a difference where it matters most. Being a female who grew up in an under-privileged community, I can identify with the challenges faced by these young women.”

Peter Mehlape, Medtronic MD: Southern Africa Region, adds: “Blossom Care Solutions’ SMME business model, with its decentralised low-cost approach towards manufacturing pads to maintain competitiveness at a local level, was an important factor in our decision to partner with the organisation. In addition, we are aligned with its focus on people, profit and planet in carrying out its stated objectives.

“Medtronic subscribes to a philosophy of outcome-oriented business models, and we have a keen interest in assisting health system challenges efficiently, particularly in emerging markets, to raise quality of life and deliver improved outcomes. The partnership with Blossom Care Solutions fits perfectly with our business ethos. We look forward to seeing this new initiative unfolding further and supporting the community in helping to alleviate period poverty locally,” he concludes.

SOURCE: 4 October 2021 Companies Doing Good

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