There is no gainsaying the progress and giant strides women have taken over the years to break the glass ceiling of bias and limitation to gain a place at the table. However, for over 500 million girls, access to safe menstrual hygiene products and menstruation information remains an insurmountable barrier to maximizing their educational and financial potential.
For Esther Inioluwa Lawal, 15, and Onyemaechi Shalom, 14, members of Team Bio Girls of Government Science and Technical College, Garki, Abuja, access to menstrual supplies isn’t just a women’s issue, but a human rights and education issue that requires global attention. 1 in 10 girls misses school (an estimated 60 billion school hours yearly) during their menstrual cycle and many drop out altogether. ‘This is a tragedy requiring urgent attention’ says the teenagers.
These girls are surely breaking the bias and have emerged as the winners of the 2021/2022 Conrad Challenge Nigeria finals. They will be representing Nigeria in April 2022 at the Global Conrad Challenge Summit to hold at Space Center Houston, Texas, USA.
They are one of the 20 Northern public school teams in Nigeria sponsored by the US Embassy in Nigeria with laptops, internet devices and other resources to help in their research and participation in the 2021/2022 Conrad Challenge. Their product called BIO GIRLS reusable sanitary pads won them the grand prize of $100,000 per team member US undergraduate scholarship and several awards as well as N1,000,000 (One million Naira) cash prize, $1,000 (One thousand US Dollars) Agile team award to help take their product to market. They are motivated to help put an end to period poverty by converting and recycling waste banana trunks into reusable sanitary pads.
The BIO GIRLS reusable sanitary pads are eco-friendly, cost-effective, biodegradable, skin-friendly, and could put an end to environmental pollution and health-related issues caused by conventional ones. It is also purely organic and contains no form of toxins.
The Conrad Challenge was founded by Nancy Conrad in honour of her late husband, astronaut, innovator, and entrepreneur, Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. The Conrad challenge is designed for students within the ages of 13 – 18 years to apply Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to solve real-world problems around them. It consists of four categories which include Aerospace and Aviation, Health and Nutrition, Energy and Environment, and Cyber Technology and Security.
The Conrad Challenge debuted in Nigeria in 2018 and runs in three stages over several weeks: the entry round, the semi-finals, and the finals. Teams compete through these stages by making elevator pitch videos about their ideas, creating prototypes, and business strategies to help them take their idea into a market worthy product.
The 2021/2022 Conrad Challenge Nigeria finals took place over the course of three days which featured 23 finalist teams and projects including a working low-cost ventilator, plastic-to-gas recycler, etc. Two other top teams emerged winners in addition to Bio-girls – Team Incognito from Pegasus Schools Akwa-Ibom and Team Biocon from Dansol High School Lagos.
Team Incognito (Ogechukwu Annette Ndubuisi, Kristal Iyeimo, and Usiere Victor Ndedde) from Pegasus Schools, Akwa Ibom emerged as the first runner up (winning N500,000 cash prize) for their idea Ultravent, a ventilator designed to provide more affordable, efficient, and pure oxygen for intensive care patients in third world countries who otherwise cannot afford decent healthcare. While Team Biocon (Oluwatomisin Miracle Coker, Omobolanle Mary Sadela, Olaoluwa Ebunoluwa Oluwashade, and Oluwatumininu Morenike Daada) from Dansol High School, Ikeja, also made up of four teenage girls
emerged as the second runner up for their idea, TTOB-converter, a multi-purpose converter that converts other things apart from tobacco like plastics into hydro-carbon oil and cooking gas.
The Mobil Nigeria-owned school, Pegasus Schools, Akwa Ibom produced the overall winning team in the 2018/2019 session of the Conrad Challenge Nigeria Competition with their “Team Innovation’s” Piracy Tracking software.
Here are the prizes and awards for the participants of the competition:
⦁ Clarkson scholarship ($60,000 for 4 years) for all finalists
⦁ Certificates and medallions for finalists and coaches
⦁ Laptops for coaches of top 3 winning teams.
Overall winner prizes:
⦁ A trip to attend the Global Conrad summit and visit the Johnson Space Center Houston. ⦁ $1000 prize money for the team to create a market-ready MVP.
⦁ $25,000 per year scholarship to Menlo College for a total value of $100,000 over four years
⦁ $22,000 per year merit-based scholarship to Lewis & Clark College for a total value of $88,000 over four years
⦁ $15,000 per year scholarship to enroll in the Jefferson University School of Design and Engineering, a total value of $60,000 over four years
⦁ $15,000 per year scholarship to Clarkson University, for a total value of $60,000 over four years
⦁ $10,000 per year scholarship/partial abatement award to College of Charleston, a total value of $40,000 over four years
⦁ $2,500 per year grant to Florida Institute of Technology, on top of any merit-based scholarships earned (range from $10,000 up to 50% of tuition), for a total of $10,000 over four years
⦁ $1,000 scholarship to attend the Leangap program
To learn more about the Conrad Challenge and how to participate, visit www.ngconradchallenge.org