So Leisa, tell us a bit about yourself.
“I am an innovator and entrepreneur working from Toronto, Canada as the Founder and Principal of Women’s Global Health Innovations. I have been working in the FemTech Space for 10 years determined to bring safe, affordable, low environmental impact menstrual, sexual, and reproductive health products and programs to adolescent girls and women globally, but in particular to those marginalised and living in extreme poverty in low- and middle-income countries.”
Can you tell us a little bit more about Women’s Global Health Innovations?
“Women’s Global Health Innovations is a research, product, and program development company that is working against the traditional siloed grain. We manufacture and deliver menstrual, sexual, and reproductive health and hygiene solutions in a rights-based approach using a user-centered design.”
“When you truly take the time to listen to the challenges, concerns, and ideas of adolescent girls and young women facing the greatest indignities, the solutions are already mixed within their words.”
“What I do is listen with the intentions to design, prototype, test and realize our bfree brand’s capacity to meet the needs of girls and women globally to open their world to freedom, dignity, bodily autonomy, and personal purpose.”
As a brand what is Women’s Global Health Innovations passionate about?
“Women’s Global Health Innovations was set up to push the envelope on menstrual, sexual, and reproductive health product innovation, to raise the standards, and to prove that audacious ideas can be realised and have positive impacts on the lives of girls and women.”
“My biggest motivation, along with many others in the world, was to tackle and wrestle to the ground period shame, stigma and taboos. Menstruation has been used as an excuse to keep women out of powerful positions of power and I wasn’t having any more of that.”
“Our proudest moment was seeing the refugee school girls and school boys dancing in celebration of the knowledge they had just received on puberty, menstrual health and hygiene and the girls receiving their bfree cup kits.”
“Getting to this point took so much time, determination, and very hard work. Having the support and respect of the whole community brings with it an incredible honour. To be welcomed into a community and work with the local officials, cultural and religious leaders, schoolmasters and other stakeholders collaboratively to collectively bring knowledge and menstrual support to their girls and women can only be attained when one has earn the trust of the community.”
“There is no greater honour than to be welcomed into the community.”
What are your ambitions for Women’s Global Health Innovations?
“In five years, Women’s Global Health Innovations will be a leading FemTech social enterprise with a leading team of experts expanding our partnerships and the reach of our products throughout the global market with equitable representation in the global south.
“We foresee challenges attracting the strongest, most determined women and men who share our values and mission. Building the right team takes time of course, but we are well on our way to realizing this.”
“The opportunities for growth are only limited by our imaginations.”
“The challenges we will have to prioritising and strategising, so our growth is steady as opposed to too fast resulting in our outpacing ourselves. We already see that this is possible, but again, this is where the building of a dedicated team sharing the same ethos comes into play.”
What is an important lesson you have learnt?
“The most important lesson I have learned has got to be the importance of collaboration and learning what is true leadership.”
“Most of us entrepreneurs begin our journey naive beyond measure and lacking in the knowledge and skills to see us through to success, but we know and have a modicum of confidence so that if we just set out, we will pick up the necessary skills along the way.”
“Meeting with girls living in refugee settlements and urban slums and hearing their stories clarified for me my purpose to do something, to serve as a duty-bearer when and however I could.”
What are you predictions for FemTech in 2021?
“There is so much happening underfoot, it is difficult to keep up with all the FemTech innovations happening, but I do see 2021 as a super great year for further investment in the sector.”
“To pinpoint one key FemTech player or sector, I will have to be biased and say innovative menstrual products, in particular the bfree cup is set to soar and grow this year. Oh, and Moonai, where science, sound and period pain meet in ways that will change the landscape of ‘just suffering through it.'”
Read more interviews with FemTech Founders in our exclusive FemTech.Live series which gets exclusive in-depth insights with key players in the FemTech space.