A group of women in Smithers has teamed up to help keep girls in school on the other side of the world with the simple act of making feminine hygiene products.
Last week, The Smithers Days for Girls team sent out 118 kits, destined for school girls in Malawi. They will be delivered and distributed by Stand As One Ministries. This is in addition to 153 kits sent there previously.
“This means that 271 girls may be able to stay in school longer to earn a diploma and thus help break the chain of poverty,” said one of the volunteers, Grace Hols.
Each kit contains 11 sewn components, which means the local group has sewn almost three thousand pieces in the last year. The kits also include underwear, soap, washcloths, and instructions.
Hols got involved in the organization and brought the idea back to Smithers after visiting South Africa.
On a little table in her hotel room there was a pamphlet from a local charity. They needed money to buy 67,000 packets of sanitary towels to support girls in that area who did not have access to feminine hygiene supplies.
“I learned that these girls, if they do not have supplies, stay home from school when they have their periods. They sit in tiny rooms on a piece of cardboard, or sit in a special hut over a hole in the dirt,” she said.”Worst of all, they miss class on a regular basis, and often, by the time they are 14 or younger, they are unable to keep up and drop out of school. They would have to go to work, or, worse, be married off to become an older man’s second or third wife. Then, because they are still so young and so tiny, they suffer terribly in pregnancy and childbirth and embark on a life of much pain and difficulty.”
Hols tried to support this organization, but communication was difficult and transfer of funds was complicated.
However, shortly after, she learned from her cousin in Toronto about a sewing project called Days for Girls. They make reusable sanitary supplies to send to developing countries.
Hols explained the program is a charity, supported by volunteers. There are now more than 800 groups worldwide that make these kits. These kits, in turn, have already reached more than 1.7 million women and girls in developing countries around the world.
She decided to start a team in Smithers and called on her friends who sewed. Now about 12 of them help put kits together. This is their fourth year making kits.
Hols said this is a sustainable solution. “The kits are meant to last for three years instead of a one-time disposable use. It not only keeps girls in school, but the program is committed to supporting a girl through her lifecycle. It includes the kits, but also includes education about her cycle and about her health. It offers training as she grows older so that she in turn can produce kits for her own community,” she said.
Hols said she continues to be involved because there are hundreds of millions of girls around the world who today do not have access to sanitary supplies. Providing these kits can be life-changing and very empowering for a young girl if it allows her to stay in school.
“It teaches the girls that their bodies are beautiful, that they have worth, and that their monthly cycle is not a source of shame,” she said. “The goal of this organization is to aim for a world in which menstruation is no longer a taboo.”
The women fundraise throughout the year to help pay for supplies and some donate their own fabric to use. Bandstra Transportation takes the kits down to Vancouver at their own cost before they are shipped to Malawi.
Hols said if there is a need locally for the kits, the group would be happy to help.
If anyone is interested in donating or helping out, they can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org