The Diocese of Toliara in Madagascar has recently opened a Women’s Center, where they are teaching women skills like sewing, jewelry making, and culinary arts skills. Patsy McGregor a SAMS Missionary in Toliara is excited to announce that at the Women’s Center they will be making sanitary napkins for the Days for Girls organization. Jacky Lowe will also be serving in Madagascar at the Women’s Center. Learn more about Days for Girls from the Program Director, Libby Daghlian :
With over 600 Chapters and Teams, 167 emerging Micro-Enterprises, 3 Centers, and 100+ countries reached, it’s fair to say that we have a lot of diversity here at Days for Girls! But we are all exactly the same in one respect: our drive to reach Every Girl. Everywhere. Period. We know it might sound like an insurmountable goal, but anyone who is part of Days for Girls knows that the dignity of girls and women to understand their bodies and choose products they trust and love is worth fighting for! That’s what keeps us bent over sewing machines for hours on end. It’s what keeps us clipping coupons looking for the best fabric deals. It’s what keeps us on our emails coordinating last minute details late at night. Because dignity can’t wait!
If you’ve ever been part of a Days for Girls distribution, then you probably know that that feeling you get when you see what you’ve been working towards. The unbridled smile of a girl who can attend school now without fear of embarrassment. The relief of a mother who won’t have to worry about spending money she doesn’t have on something as simple as a pad. The song and laughter that erupts as girls hold onto something beautiful and unique, made just for them. That’s why we do what we do!
And yet, if you’ve been part of a Days for Girls distribution, you probably also know that feeling of nagging disappointment and discontent when you see the faces of the girls who did not receive DfG Kits. She might be the little sister who stopped by to see what was happening. She might be the mother who dropped by to check on her daughter. She might be the teacher who watches over the students. Whether we see them or not, they’re there – the girls and women who did not receive a DfG Kit during a distribution.
We can plan as much as possible. We can try to keep the sessions closed off from the rest of the community. We can make plans to come back again next year. But this is the constant reality we face within the world of donations. Our supply is pretty impressive, but the need is even greater. That is why we are investing in sustainable sales points within the communities that we reach to complement our donated DfG Kits. Because we know that we won’t be able to reach every single girl with a free, donated DfG Kit. But we can reach her with access, education, and awareness. We can empower her to take charge of her menstrual hygiene and invest in her very own DfG Kit, whether that’s through making her own or purchasing one through the Enterprise Model.
Now, this might seem difficult, if not impossible, in some of the communities that we work in. But we have seen the impossible happen!
We have seen this in Democratic Republic of Congo. In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, our Micro-Enterprise is selling – yes, selling – DfG Kits to local women. This area faces recurring conflict from rebels, is troubled by drastic rainy seasons, and works with a depressed economy. Yet, through education and creative marketing of kit components, women are actually saving their small income and investing their money in DfG Kits!
We have seen this in Karamoja. Karamoja is one of the most economically depressed areas of Uganda and a high percentage of boys and girls have never attended school. We were funded to train girls to make their own DfG Kits, but we did not have funding for underwear. Initially we feared the girls would not be able to use the DfG Kits because we assumed they could never afford underwear. To our amazement, when we returned six months later, we talked to girls who had saved up small amounts of money to purchase their own underwear. Boy, were they proud! Not only that, they had taught their other friends to hand sew their own kits! We were floored.
We have seen the impossible become possible all around the world through education, investment in sustainable solutions, and valuing the voices of the girls and women we serve. We cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged by the disappointed faces, but rather motivated for new ways to include and empower those individuals!
So, how can we do this? Here are a few tips:
Connect with a Center or Micro-Enterprise in the area where you will be distributing so that you can pass along their contact information to anyone who does not get a DfG Kit
Emphasize the value of the DfG Kit, so that women will be encouraged to purchase them in the future, rather than always viewing them as free goods
Be intentional with your demographic: if you only have 25 Kits to distribute, try to find a natural group of 25. Maybe there are 25 nurses in a particular Center, or 25 girls in a certain club at school. People will understand when the parameters for donation are made clear in the first place.
Encourage resourcefulness and don’t shy away from those sad faces. If girls approach you wanting free DfG Kits but you have totally run out, encourage her to make her own. It might not be as fun as a free item, but it can help to meet her needs.
We didn’t say it would be easy to reach Every Girl, Everywhere. But we know it will be worth it!
Original story and photos from the Days for Girls Website here.