Ugandan entrepreneur wins global award for innovating water-proof smart bag

Enabel Country Representative Tom Vanneste handing over AWA award to Smart Girls founder Jamilah Mayanja at Hotel Africana in Kampala on November 19, 2023. PHOTO/KARIM MUYOBO

Ugandan entrepreneur Jamilah Mayanja has beat twelve global competitors to win the 2023 AWA Award for innovating a water-proof smart bag meant to keep rural girls in schools.

The water-proof smart bag is a multi-purpose item made of recycled plastics that learners can use to carry books, charge a phone using solar energy. Light a lamp and carry reusable sanitary pads for girls.

In Uganda, disposable sanitary pads packet costs an average of Shs3,500. Some women use up two packets in a month.

But now Mayanja, who is the founder of Smart Girls, said her bag is specifically designed for girls in rural areas who have no access to electricity and pads.

 “It carries the book and has a solar panel that charges the lamp during day while someone is walking. And when you get home, you can use the light. It also has a USB for charging,” she explained.

She added: “We started a social enterprise to empower girls and women to live a healthy and economically stable life. Solar recycled smart bags came from the many interactions I had with the women that empower.”

Mayanja told Monitor that they used to give out usable pads to school going children for menstrual hygiene, noting that a portion of those girls were dropping out because of their menstrual hygiene.

“With my team, we noticed that we need to make a friendly bag and we came up with a plastic bag from which we recycled used plastics to make it waterproof for schoolgirls,” she remarked on Sunday.

She also revealed that they have a partnership with Serena Hotel which provides waste from their kitchen as a ‘raw material.’

Besides, through Enabel they have managed to get orders from South Africa, Ghana and other African countries.

Speaking at the awarding ceremony Tom Vanneste, Enabel’s Country Representative urged women in the entrepreneurship industry to use their skills and ideas to start small scale businesses for other women.

“Entrepreneurship is a tough business. It's not about your idea but getting to the tough side. You as ladies can inspire other women to build and employ them to earn a living,” Vanneste added.