Three University of Waterloo students took home the $30,000 top prize at the World’s Challenge Challenge. The students will use the money to build a prototype that has an antimicrobial foam to protect against infections. Their initial target market is Uganda. (Waterloo Record)
Talking point: This is a business-focused solution to a problem that charities have been trying to address for years. In emerging economies, stigma around menstruation keeps girls home from school. A lack of access to commercial pads and tampons also incentivizes home-grown alternatives such as cloth or newspaper, which—when not properly cleaned between uses—can lead to serious infections like tetanus. Investment in femtech reached US$400 million in 2018, up from US$23 million in 2008. The judges were impressed not only by the students’ product, but also their business plan, which centres on employing local women to make and distribute the pads locally, and to go into schools to teach girls how to properly use them, as well as seeking to destigmatize menstruation.