Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday July 23rd 2019

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Women Helping Women

By Jennifer Leigh

For girls around the globe who are without access to feminine hygiene, getting your period is more than an inconvenience. It could affect your livelihood.

“Young ladies who get their periods in countries like Uganda are sometimes not allowed to go to school, or they have miss school,” said Billie Nicholson. “Access to sanitary feminine hygiene products is one of those regular things we take for granted.”

According to the Days for Girls (DfG) website, girls who have access to sanitary hygiene are more confident in school, their attendance rises and they are more likely to graduate. For every year of education, her future income increases and she marries four years later.

Nicholson and her sisters at the women’s group through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were first introduced to the Days for Girls organization from Gulf Breeze resident, Julie Gibson, who was visiting the church recently. The nonprofit serves hundreds of countries distributing more than 300,000 kits to girls since 2008. Their motto is “Every girl. Every where. Period. By 2022.”

Nicholson said she was shocked to know there was such a need. Without simple hygiene products, girls in developing countries are reduced to using whatever materials available—cornhusks, newspapers, rags or banana leaves.

“We all need to have that wake-up call,” Nicholson said. “Not everything is perfect everywhere.”

It didn’t take a lot of convincing for the group, which Nicholson serves as the president, to find out how they can help. One member contacted Days for Girls on how to get started and what materials were needed. Then, a workshop was scheduled and posted online via the website JustServe.org and social media. The night of the workshop, there were 30 women and girls from Navarre to Perdido Key ready to work.

“It was women helping other women,” Nicholson said. “We had sisters everywhere cutting patterns, sewing, ironing or putting on the finishing stitches,” Nicholson said.

The unfinished work from the first workshop was carried over to the next. On Aug. 25, there will be another event at the Milton church. So far, they’ve sewn 59 bags, 41 shields, and 345 liners. Nicholson said there will be more completed kits ready to send in November. Their ultimate goal is 500 kits.

The thought behind Days for Girls is to provide girls with DfG kits, which includes a drawstring bag carrying moister barrier shields, flannel liners, a washcloth, soap, Ziploc bags (to launder soiled liners) and a calendar for girls to chart their menstrual cycle.

The shields and liners are handmade using “pretty patterns,” which are as fashionable as they are functional. Nicholson recalls hearing that when kits were handed out to girls in a classroom, one of the teachers tried to snag one for herself joking, “But I’m a girl, too!”

It may seem like a small gesture, but organizations like Days for Girls are making a big difference. According to UNICEF, more than half the schools in the poorest countries lack private toilets. And thanks to DfG and several other groups including Sustainable Health Enterprises and AFRIpads, girls don’t have to worry about missing school because of their period. On the DfG website, it states that absence rates in Uganda went from 36 percent before distribution to 8 percent. After DFG kits had been sent to one school in Kenya, the absence rate went from 25 percent to 3 percent.

Even in the Florida panhandle, you can make a difference. Anyone who wants to donate their time and help make the kits can sign up at JustServe.org. There are no sewing skills required.

“Even if you don’t know how to sew, if you can hold a pair of scissors, you can help,” Nicholson said.

While Nicholson will likely never meet any of the girls who receive the hygiene kits, there’s a certain bond she shares with them. There’s a personal connection between making something with your own hands and passing it on to someone else in need.

“This is one of the best projects I’ve seen,” she said. “I hope they know these were made with hearts and hands of people who care about them.”

DAYS FOR GIRLS KITS WORKSHOP
WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25
WHERE: Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints, 5737 Berryhill Rd. (Milton)
DETAILS: justserve.org

Quick facts about Days for Girls (DfG) kits:

● DfG kits are made to last up to three years. A female student can earn back about 180 days of school that would otherwise be lost.
● The total cost of each kit is $10, which is less expensive than disposable pads and tampons.
● There were 27 different prototypes of the DfG kit before the final product was developed.
● Washable pads and menstrual cups save on waste. Washable feminine hygiene products would save 1.3 tons of waste annually in the U.S. and Canada.
● Through DfG Enterprises, Days for Girls trains women in sewing, reproductive health, basic business skills, and soap making.
Source: daysforgirls.org