Fatoumatta Kassama is an independent nurse. She has nine years of experience as a nurse in the Gambia and spent seven years working for the Ministry of Health in The Gambia in various health facilities. Apart from her professional activity, Fatoumatta is a dedicated social entrepreneur and leader. She has founded and co-founded several businesses and NGOs: Eye Care For ALL; Prospect For Girls; Girl’s Pride. She is also a Mandela Washington Fellow; OPEC Fund for International Development Fellow, Obama Foundation Country Lead; Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur, TAF-Africa Start-up Foundation Entrepreneur, Social Innovation Warehouse Ambassador, Obama Foundation National Service Projects Manager and Vice President of the National Association of Gambian Nurses and Midwives.
Since 2017, she has led the startup Girl’s Pride, which provides menstrual hygiene solutions to women in The Gambia.
What is the story behind your start-up?
I started Girls’ Pride in 2017 as a result of period poverty affecting girls’ education in The Gambia. Growing up, I had no one to buy pads for me during my period or teach me on how to take care of myself as such i missed 3-4 days from school every month and suffered unhealthy period management practices. When I started working as a registered nurse in 2012, I noticed that the same problem I experienced in 2002 is still affecting girls in my country. I learned about reusable sanitary pads in 2017 during the Mandela Washington Fellowship so I did my research on reusable sanitary products and then decided to start Girls’ Pride to address period poverty in The Gambia.
Who are your target customers, and what problem are you solving?
My target customers are women and girls of reproductive age. NGOs, Community-Based Organizations, and businesses are also my customers. Girls’ Pride is working to address period poverty in The Gambia.
What are your challenges?
Our main challenge is financial. Then come the material and human challenges. Indeed, we need to identify a reliable, affordable and fast method of sourcing raw materials in China. Also, our target customers are from low-income families. They cannot afford our pads and must rely on donors. Finally, our current production method is very labor-intensive and time-consuming, making it difficult for us to keep our tailors.
What is your vision for your start-up? What does success look like?
Our vision is to provide access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and healthy menstrual hygiene products through innovation.
Success for me would be: Gambian women and girls no longer have problems related to menstrual health and hygiene management.
Why did you apply for NHA? Why NHA and not another accelerator?
Next Health Accelerator (NHA) is the first entrepreneurship program i came across so far that focuses only on SRH in Africa. Other programs have different entrepreneurs working on different things so you hardly find someone who works in the same sector, who can support you, inspire you or someone who shares the same challenges with you.
What were your expectations, and how was your experience with the program so far?
By joining the Next Health Accelerator program my expectations were to gain new entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and experiences; learn from trainers, mentors and fellow entrepreneurs; expand my network; get financial support to offer a better product to my clients and access other opportunities.
My experience is pretty good. I have achieved 90% of my expectations and I am looking forward to achieving all expectations.
Have you met someone who inspires you since participating in NHA?
My best meeting during the program was Dr. Karima Ladhani who inspired me a lot.
What significant progress have you made in your business since joining NHA?
Through NHA, i was able to work on my acceleration plan with the help of experts. I discovered that my current business model is not sustainable with the COVID-19 crisis and was able to identify an alternative business model that is sustainable and through which I can generate revenue and achieve my goals.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would make sanitary products free for all menstruators regardless of their age, educational level, socio-economic background, religion, race, and disability.
Do you have any last comment or advice you would like to share with your fellow entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is not an easy journey especially when you want to address social issues along so we should not give up. Lots of challenges lie ahead of us as we scale up or business but with passion and teamwork, we can achieve our mission.