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In Rwanda, nearly 80% of the population live in mud huts with dirt floors.
A 2013 business school design class at Stanford sent Gayatri Datar to Rwanda on a mission to improve health outcomes in the developing world.
While staying at local homes, cooking with residents and taking care of their children, Gayatri was struck by the challenges presented by dirt floors, as they were breading grounds for pathogens, parasites and bacteria. The floors caused many people to fall ill with infectious diseases and respiratory illness – not to mention, they were extremely uncomfortable.
Replacing dirt floors with concrete has been shown to drastically reduce the risk of sickness and infestations, but the high cost of materials and distribution challenges leave Rwandans at a loss.
Determined to find a solution, Gayatri returned to Stanford and created EarthEnable.
The company sells and installs earthen floors across Rwanda. A niche design trend in the US, earthen floors are made from compacted earth-based materials that are locally sourced and sealed with a layer of proprietary oil. Unlike concrete, these floors are environmentally sustainable, impermeable, sleek, easy to clean, and 10% the price of concrete.
EarthEnable also hires and trains underemployed local masons in Rwanda, providing job opportunities for those who need consistent employment and income.
“There are dirt floors all over the world causing people to get sick, so we see this as a way to address a major health concern while also providing economic stimulation to local communities”, Gayatri explains.
Gayatri has been passionate about making a difference long before this venture. While visiting relatives in India at 19-years-old, a tsunami struck countries bordering the Indian Ocean, killing thousands. She became interested in the work of relief agencies and sought ways to help. Surprised at how readily her skills made a profound impact on the ground, she was inspired to dedicate her life to helping others.
Prior to founding EarthEnable, Gayatri served as a Senior Consultant at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, where she focused on social entrepreneurship, energy access and agriculture. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Harvard College, a Master’s in Public Administration in International Development from the Harvard Kennedy School and a Master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she was an Arjay Scholar.
She had the opportunity to take several leaves of absences during her college years, volunteering with NGOs and nonprofits in India, Namibia, Nicaragua, Albania, and right here in the United States.
As the saying goes, one must “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. Gayatri Datar walked many dirt floors to understand first-hand the way in which Rwandans live – and now, she is creating a better world for the country’s local communities one floor at a time.
Through its Fellowship program launched in 2012, The Global Good Fund invests in high potential leaders committed to social impact worldwide. It also created the 360 MIRROR – the first evidence-based leadership assessment for social entrepreneurs and CEOs.
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