In many developing countries, a basic item we often take for granted here in Canada is preventing girls and young women from venturing out in public and attending school for days at a time.
So when a group of Red Deer volunteers learned about the need for reusable feminine hygiene products that can help young women live their lives with dignity and more easily pursue the education that could lead them out of poverty, they put their sewing skills to work.
The Red Deer chapter of the international charitable organization Days for Girls, which sews washable, reusable feminine hygiene kits that are distributed to women in developing countries, gathers for sewing sessions every month or so, and more helping hands are always welcome!
Creating between 1,200 and 1,500 kits a year, “it’s something we can work on here, and it makes such a difference in the lives of these girls and women around the world,” says Shelley deBoon, who founded the local chapter five years ago with Darlene Grasdal.
“We make all the components and assemble all the kits, then when someone is travelling, they’re able to take kits with them to distribute.”
The Days for Girls story
While visiting Kenya in 2008, Celeste Mergens was helping at an orphanage outside Nairobi when she learned that girls were sitting on cardboard for several days each month during their periods, often going without food unless someone would bring it to them.
Girls for Days was born.
Recognizing that disposable pads were neither viable nor sustainable, the solution was a patented reusable pad system that lasts for up to 3 years. The first Days for Girls Kits were quite different from today’s design, and each of the 28 iterations that followed was informed by extensive feedback and designed to meet unique cultural and environmental conditions in communities throughout the world.
Crafted from 100 per cent cotton and flannel, with waterproof liners, bright colours and patterns offer culturally sensitive solutions that allow the girls to use, wash and dry the materials without embarrassment.
Key to the program’s success is education, so before distribution, volunteers also have a plan in place to educate the girls about how to use and look after the kits.
Today, Days for Girls has reached more than one million women and girls in 125+ countries with kits and menstrual health education, and in addition to volunteers like those right here in Red Deer, Days for Girls also cultivates social enterprises and micro-enterprises for women around the world.
“I travelled to the Dominican Republic and they were so excited to see the kits,” Shelley says. “It was just so rewarding to experience that.”