Imagine the plight of women and girls who cannot work or got to school for several days a month because of a perfectly normal bodily function.
In many parts of the world, blood, especially menstrual blood, is taboo, so half the population is regularly shunned or isolated, meaning they will fall further behind in school or career every month. Inadequate menstrual care can lead to serious infection and even death. Non-governmental agencies have tried to provide pads and tampons, but the supply is irregular, and disposal can be a problem.
Days for Girls is an international organization that provides sustainable discrete menstrual care kits, along with health education in many countries around the world, with a special emphasis on women confined to refugee camps. Since the founding of the organization in 2008, Days for Girls provided reusable menstrual kits to 2.1 million women and girls in over 140 countries, enabling them to continue confidently with their education or careers.
The kits are designed to last for at least three years. Each contains a drawstring bag that can double as a backpack, 2 pairs of underwear, washcloth, soap, 2 shields (which snap around the panties), 8 removable liners (or pads), a transport bag for soiled items as well as an instruction sheet on how to use and care for the kit.
The Quesnel Team of Days for Girls has been in operation for about two years. Until the start of the pandemic, more than 30 volunteers were involved, with usually 6-10 showing up at our bi-monthly work bees. Initial grants from Quesnel Lions and Quesnel Rotary provided start-up funds, while donations from individuals have kept us going.
Experience in the field has shown that only good quality cotton and flannelette can stand up to wear. We only use dark or patterned fabrics that will not show stains—something very important in many countries. If we receive fabric that doesn’t work for us, it is never wasted, and we pass it on to other non-profit groups such as the Goldpan Grannies.
When a call went out for underwear (cotton, women’s sizes, preferably in dark colours), the community responded quickly. At the moment, the group has a good stock of fabric, but cash is always appreciated as we need to buy ribbon for the backpacks, snaps, thread, and other incidentals and of course more underwear.
Even though the communal work bees were cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions volunteers took sewing home, and the Quesnel team met its goal of making 365 complete kits in 2020. All these kits are distributed at no charge to the girls. To date, our Quesnel team has sent kits to Afghanistan, Haiti, Uganda, Sri Lanka, and Guatemala.
Initially Quesnel members took kits along whenever they went travelling, but this was cumbersome, and sometimes there wasn’t an opportunity to deliver the important education part of the program.
Days for Girls Canada recently signed an agreement with World Vision Canada who pays for all shipping costs to a central location as well as for sending the kits to where there are needed in the world. In addition, World Vision ensures that critical training on the importance of menstrual health and respect for their bodies is delivered to the women and girls.
One of the goals of Days for Girls is enabling independence, and we are delighted to share that we are no longer shipping kits to certain countries, such as Kenya where women have learned to make the kits according to the high, Days for Girls standards, and have started their own cottage industries. When girls can take control of their lives like this, their whole community is stronger for it.
The goal of Days for Girls is “Every girl. Everywhere. Period.” The Quesnel team is proud to be part of such a worthy endeavor.
For more information, please go to daysforgirls.org/Canada or contact Heather Olson at 250 992-8339.
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