Grinnell College Will Present 2013 Grinnell Prize to Young Leaders in Global Refugee Rights, Women's Economic Development

$100,000 Annual Prize Honors Innovators in Social Justice

Oct 28, 2013, 12:00 ET from Grinnell College

GRINNELL, Iowa, Oct. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Grinnell, Iowa -- The 2013 Grinnell Prize—a $100,000 award presented to young innovators in social justice—will be presented to the founder of a group supporting refugee rights in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the leaders of an organization using an innovative business model to support women's economic development in Africa.

Emily Arnold-Fernandez is founder and executive director of Asylum Access, the only international organization solely dedicated to supporting refugee rights in countries of first refuge in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Instead of the traditional humanitarian aid approach, Asylum Access' innovative model helps refugees rebuild their lives through access to safety, legal work opportunities, education and the ability to move freely and make empowered choices for themselves.

Elizabeth Scharpf is the founder and chief instigating officer of Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), and Julian Ingabire Kayibanda is the chief operating officer of SHE Rwanda. A social venture that invests in overlooked ideas that can have a significant positive impact, SHE is increasing women's access to affordable menstrual products by manufacturing low-cost maxi pads using local agro-waste, primarily in Rwanda, but soon globally.

Believed to be the largest prize honoring social justice, the Grinnell Prize is presented annually to leaders under 40 who are making creative innovations in social justice.

The 2013 Grinnell Prize medals will be presented at an awards ceremony at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Herrick Chapel at Grinnell College. The 2013 Grinnell Prize recipients will spend the week of Nov. 3 in Grinnell meeting with students in and out of class, and offering presentations about their work. For the full symposium schedule, go to

About Emily Arnold-Fernandez and Asylum Access
Asylum Access is the only international organization solely dedicated to supporting refugee rights in countries of first refuge in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The organization's innovative approach uses four integrated tools to help refugees access social justice: individualized legal counsel or representation, community legal empowerment, policy advocacy and strategic litigation.

In just seven years, Asylum Access's accomplishments include:

  • successfully advocating for refugee work rights to be included in the Ecuadorian constitution;
  • successfully advocating for refugee rights to be included in draft amendments to the Thai Immigration Act, now due before parliament (if successful, this would be Thailand's first refugee law);
  • securing unprecedented recognition for the urban refugee population in Tanzania, which led to the development of an urban development policy that would allow refugees to live and work outside camps, in local communities;
  • reaching an estimated 1,000,000 refugees through successful policy advocacy and strategic litigation efforts.

About Elizabeth Scharpf, Julian Ingabire Kayibanda and SHE
Millions of girls and women in developing countries lack access to affordable menstrual pads, which leads to significant costs in education, economic productivity, health and dignity. Most girls and women simply stay home from school or work while menstruating, missing up to 50 days per year of lost wages or school time. While interning for the World Bank in Mozambique in 2005, Elizabeth Scharpf overheard a local colleague remark that 20 percent of her employees missed work on a regular basis, up to 30 days per year, because of menstruation. The reason: menstrual pads cost more than a day's worth of wages.

After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2007, Scharpf founded Sustainable Health Enterprises, a social venture that invests in people and ideas that are typically overlooked (and often taboo) as vehicles of socio-economic change. SHE launched the SHE28 campaign to give girls and women greater access to affordable menstrual products and health and hygiene education. In 2009, Scharpf teamed up with SHE COO of Rwanda Julian Ingabire Kayibanda, a Rwandan national who left her home country in the 1990s because of the political situation and then returned to rebuild her country after the genocide.

SHE is increasing access to affordable menstrual pads, called LaunchPads, with a local, eco-friendly and scalable business model to affect social and economic change. With assistance from its partners, SHE developed a patent-pending, mechanical process to make an absorbent maxi pad core—the highest material cost driver—from banana fiber. SHE's LaunchPad doesn't use toxic chemicals, so it reduces the negative environmental impact of typical pads. The use of readily available banana fibers allows the SHE LaunchPad to be priced lower than multinational brands. SHE will deliver this innovation by investing in women entrepreneurs to jumpstart businesses selling and distributing locally produced, low-cost, eco-friendly SHE LaunchPads.

SHE is now replicating its patent-pending technology on an industrial scale during a pilot, mass-manufacturing 300,000 SHE LaunchPads for 3,000 Rwandan girls attending 10 schools. The pilot will also create 600 income-generating opportunities for people in the eastern region of Rwanda.

About the Grinnell Prize
The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize (also known as the Grinnell Prize) honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. Each prize carries an award of $100,000, half to each winning individual (or individuals) and half to an organization committed to the winner's area of social justice. Nominations for the 2014 Grinnell Prize are being accepted through November 8. For more information, including information about the selection committee, go to

About Grinnell College
Since its founding in 1846, Grinnell has become one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, enrolling 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries. Grinnell's rigorous academic program emphasizes excellence in education for students in the liberal arts; the college offers the B.A. degree in a range of departments across the humanities, arts and sciences. Grinnell has a strong tradition of social responsibility and action, and self-governance and personal responsibility are key components of campus life. More information about Grinnell College is available at About Global Online Academy Global Online Academy is a nonprofit, global partnership of leading independent schools bringing intellectually rigorous programs and excellent teaching—the hallmark of our member schools—online. 


Stacey Schmeidel, director of
media relations,
Grinnell College

Anna Chen, communications
and development coordinator,
Asylum Access

Connie Lewin, director,
strategic partnerships and
marketing, global
Sustainable Health

SOURCE Grinnell College