Days for Girls students

In the Spring of 2020, DivaCares welcomed Days for Girls Canada as an official partner! As part of our partnership DivaCares donated 800 DivaCups so that chapters across Canada can make hybrid kits which include disposable and reusable menstrual care products for those experiencing food or housing insecurity in Canada. Since then, we have been inspired by the work of DfG as we work together to help increase access to period care for everyone who needs it.

Update from the Field

Days for Girls (DfG) recently celebrated its 12th birthday! This milestone is even more amazing when you consider that in the first ten years of its existence DfG reached one million girls and in the last two years reached almost one million more!

The success of Days for Girls has not gone unnoticed.

Recognition

A 2020 report by the Kulczyk Foundation and the Founders Pledge, A bloody problem: period poverty, why we need to end it and how to do it, delved into the state of Menstrual Health and Hygiene worldwide. It was a world first report on effective funding recommendations to address period poverty. It named DfG as one of the most effective organizations in regard to global reach, direct tangible impact, and for its commitment to sustainability and locally led solutions. In addition, the report noted DfG’s involvement of men and women in anti-stigma efforts.

From the aforementioned report, “Period poverty is an urgent yet grossly-underfunded and under-researched human rights issue.” Millions of women worldwide do not have what they need to manage their menstruation with dignity, yet total global spending on MHH equates to less than $.20 per woman!

Changing Lives

Days for Girls period kits Days for Girls handmade and reusable menstrual care products

Days for Girls’ dedication to menstrual health worldwide is even more amazing when you realize that all the Kits distributed free worldwide are made by volunteers. These beautiful, reusable, environmentally friendly kits are made to ensure three years of use.

Some of the most powerful motivators for our volunteers are the stories from the front lines–from the distribution of Kits. On a distribution in Sri Lanka, a woman was wagging her finger in the face of the volunteer who had just given her daughter a Kit; the woman was very animated and was talking quickly. The translator was called and after listening to the woman for a moment or two said, “ You need to hear this; and she translated what the woman was saying: “You don’t know what you have done. Every month, my daughter says, ‘please, please buy me pads so I can go to school’ but I have to think, will I buy pads or will I buy food. My daughter stays home. You have changed all that.

As you can see, DfG Kits change not just the lives of the girls who get them, but also the lives of their whole families. In addition because these reliable sources of menstrual care allow girls to stay in school and get an education, their communities benefit. However, when DfG first started distributing Kits, they had no idea what the girls had to endure in order to get any feminine hygiene products. Here is an example of what we learned.

According the Days for Girls founder, Celeste Mergens,  “​​[T]he first Days for Girls distribution was for 500 young women in the slums near Kibera, Kenya. Health education was an important part of distributions from day one. The discussion also included safety, self-worth, and avoiding victim blaming. Nicole* was one who came forward after the training.  She said if girls wanted to leave their rooms or attend class during their periods, they had to agree to have “relations” with the director of their school who would only offer them funds for hygiene if they did. Her testimony was not alone. Many others confirmed her story.”

Unfortunately, we also learned that this is not an isolated incident and in many countries, girls are given pads in direct payment for sex. It is not unusual for girls to have to manage their periods with a single disposable pad.

Environmental Impact

After a distribution in the Philippines, several members of the community remarked on how environmentally friendly the DfG Kits were, which was important to them in an area with waste management challenges. A local official remarked, “I thank you very much for your program…It will cost us a lot of money to [manage the waste here]…Now I find…one strategy to address our problem, Days for Girls. We need to advocate for our women in our community…so that we can help in reducing our waste, so that we can help our environment.”

Our dedication to the environment is one of the reasons DfG is so proud to partner with DivaCares.

Local Distributions

Days for Girls handmade and reusable menstrual care products

A few years ago, with menstrual hygiene issues coming to the forefront, it became apparent that period poverty was not confined to developing countries but that in actual fact we had a considerable problem right here in North America as well as in other developed countries.

In response, DfG developed a hybrid kit which contains some elements from the traditional Kit but with the inclusion of a menstrual cup, and sometimes even disposable pads. This hybrid kit has been offered to various period poverty programs as well as to remote communities and prison populations. In all these areas, DivaCups are more often becoming the menstrual health option of choice. Although uptake in developing countries has been slower, often due to cultural preferences, in recent years, DfG has seen a steady uptake in menstrual cup use.

COVID-19

As in all other areas of our lives, COVID has affected how we work at DfG. Since March, we have been unable to travel or carry out our distributions.

Although our distributions had been increasing from year to year, things came almost to a complete stop in 2020.  Early in the year some Kits were distributed but in March many teams turned their attention from making kits to making masks. Many thousands of masks were created and were distributed to health centres, non-profits and to private individuals.

However, we were still able to get Kits to some countries. For example, World Vision Canada already has teams on the ground in many countries and can send containers to those areas. They regularly include all the DfG kits we can provide. We also partnered with a Lebanese Canadian taskforce to send 3565 Kits to Lebanon after the explosion. So, while COVID has changed how we do things, -we are still busy helping our communities, here and abroad.