Euodia Naanyane-Bouwer asks us to imagine a situation where a young girl from a poor background cannot afford basic necessities such as sanitary pads. She uses rolled up newspapers to absorb the bleeding but the blood eventually seeps through her underwear, causing stains and odours, a humiliation she has to suffer on a monthly basis. She isolates herself from the world and misses out on several days of school, inevitably resulting in her struggling to perform in school. This is the experience of too many young girls and this is why Euodia started her own company to help these girls.
Born and raised in Heidedal (Bloemfontein), Euodia’s company, Gracious Nubian, designs; develops and manufactures reusable sanitary pads. The pads can be used for up to five years and is four times more durable than ordinary pads. It is also environmentally friendly because it does not need a lot of water for it to be washed and it is biodegradable. Disposable pads ends up piled up on rubbish dumps, takes up to 800 years to decompose, and increases the cost of water treatment. More importantly, the reusable pads make it possible for girls from poorer backgrounds to go through the perfectly natural process of menstruation with dignity and without having to sacrifice their education.
Euodia’s idea for a disposable pad started in 2013 as a volunteer for the PropheTezz Foundation, a project that aimed to collect and distribute free disposable pads. It was in 2014 that she began experimenting in her bedroom with a pair of scissors, some material, and a determined spirit. All innovators start out by failing, and this was no different for Euodia. However, despite many failed prototypes, she did not give up and finally got it right in 2017. She started a pilot phase to test the pad and an academic study was done by the Central University of Technology. The purpose of the study was to see if the pad is as durable and safe as Euodia claims. Given her commitment to the project, she volunteered to become the test subject and used the pad for a year. After the study was done, it was found that the pad was 100% safe and germ free.
Her innovation won the Social Impact Award at the South African Cleantech Innovation Awards ceremony, for which she received prize money of R20000. At the same awards ceremony, she was the runner up for Innovation of the Year award, for which she received R60000. The awards ceremony is hosted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Technology Innovation Agency. As part of her prize, she will be flown to the Silicon Valley area in San Francisco, California, where she will have the opportunity to present her innovation at the Cleantech Open Global Forum. The forum will also be attended by some of the technology industry’s most influential CEO’s, executives, innovators and start-up fund managers.
In addition to running a company, Euodia is actively involved in other charities that focus on helping young people. She still volunteers for the PropheTess Foundation and she is also actively involved with the Angel foundation which focuses on funding gifted underprivileged kids in academics, sports and arts.
Euodia started a company because she wanted to make the world a better place. She was not interested in money or fame and her very modest ambition going forward is to mentor young Heidedal girls to become the best that they can be. However, given her drive and innovative spirit, it is almost certain that Euodia will someday appear on the cover of a magazine, being profiled as one of South Africa’s youngest self-made millionaires.