Comox Days for Girls Team: (from left) Lois, Joanne, Christene, Harriet and Beth. Photo supplied

Comox Days for Girls Team: (from left) Lois, Joanne, Christene, Harriet and Beth. Photo supplied

Comox Days for Girls team ships 200 menstrual kits to World Vision Canada

Lois North

Special to The Record

Days for Girls (DfG) Comox is a remarkable group of women that make and assemble reusable, sustainable cloth menstrual supplies for girls and women throughout the world, where needed.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the small Comox DfG team of six adhered closely to the government guidelines, therefore suspending regular meetings and work sessions. Each member would pick up new supplies to cut or sew components and drop off completed items – making a total of 440 kits so far during COVID.

The current shipment of 200 kits is on its way to World Vision Canada in Ontario, where it will join kits from other Canadian DfG teams and will ultimately go to Somalia. DfG requires that shipments sent to developing countries are met by a trained DfG Representative, who will oversee distribution and training. These steps are necessary, to ensure that the menstrual kits do not fall into the wrong hands – in many countries menstrual products have become a valuable commodity and can be traded or used for coercion of sexual favours.

The DfG kits are made to be pretty and special – which conveys value and dignity to the girls and women receiving them – who have likely never had anything new before. Each kit consists of 12 precisely sewn components and five purchased items at a total cost of approximately $16. As a charity, DfG relies heavily on donations and the Comox team has been generously supported by the local community, with donations of suitable quilting cotton and flannelette, etc. as well as private donations of cash and grants from the Rotary Club of Comox, and the Soroptimist International of Courtenay.

Along with each kit, each girl or woman is provided with education on their menstrual cycles, human reproduction, sexually transmitted infections, cleanliness, safety and human trafficking.

This education also addresses cultural taboos and myths that are still prevalent today – beliefs that during menstruation they:

• are “dirty” and “possessed”;

• must not touch others or the belongings of others;

• must not pray because it is a time of sin;

• could cause milk to sour or crops to fail;

• must be kept in isolation. For example, in remote villages of many countries throughout the world, the ancient practice of sequestering the menstruator in small huts (called “Chhaupadi Huts” in Nepal) is still practiced, where she is isolated and may have limited access to food & water, risking snake and insect bites, sexual assault and attack by wild animals … . the huts are tiny and typically have no room to stand or move freely … . it is appalling to know that many women die in these small huts each year!

It is vital that girls are able to manage their cycles in order to stay in school. Missing a week of school each month means that a girl will fall ever further behind in her studies and drop out of school as a result.

Making it possible for girls to stay in school has far-reaching benefits:

• she is likely to marry later;

• she will make better ecological decisions – impacting the environment;

• she will have fewer and healthier children, who will become educated beyond her own level of education;

The benefits of keeping girls in school are boundless and empowering but according to UNICEF and WHO there are still 500 million girls and women worldwide who lack supplies to manage their monthly cycle and therefore miss school – a dreadful statistic!

Days for Girls was started in 2008 by Celeste Mergens from Lynden, Washington, who had visited an orphanage in Kenya and was shocked to learn that the girls have to manage their menstrual cycles by sitting on cardboard for days – often missing meals. Celeste leapt into action and DfG was started. DfG has now delivered two million kits, along with the corresponding education – but there is still a long way to go. Progress has been exponential and one million of those kits have been distributed in the last two years.

DfG has also expanded by helping to create “Enterprises” – local entrepreneur programs which employ women to make and provide affordable menstrual solutions and information within their community and country. Some of these women work more broadly to shatter stigma and limitations related to menstruation, not only through their businesses and education activities but also through advocacy at local and national levels – they’ve become champions, influencing positive change for menstruators within their countries.

Charity and DonationsComox Valley