We call it the "Undieground Railway" -- How we get complete kits to various places in the world by sending them with people and nonprofits headed to communities in need of kits. For the past few months it has been the only way that we have had to get menstrual hygiene to Kenya. You see, pre-election violence there has been threatening and we are advised to wait a bit longer. Since we serve in many places in the world, we have the ability to keep the model growing where it is safest, but the safety advice hasn't stopped us from sending hundreds of kits over with various nonprofits serving in Kenya so that girls can continue to be reached. The results?
One reported after distributing kits that, "It was as if we had brought gold. The girls were so happy to receive their kits. I had no idea how important this would be to them."
Another said, "They were so pleased and now they want more kits." 200 kits were provided for the deaf school in Kisii, via the Ambassadors of Women's Health that were trained there last year. Wonderful proof that the model is working and needs to continue to be expanded. One girl said, "I have never had something this soft against my skin." It's wonderful that items that can last for years, work well and are easy to care for are also comfortable and help her stay in school with confidence and dignity.
It's not just the kits, it is the awareness and knowledge that is shared when kits are distributed. That is equally as powerful. The last time we were in Kenya a beautiful, articulate 16 year old came up to us after learning how periods happen and why. She explained with relief that for the 2 years since her period had started she had believed that the bleeding she experienced was a sign that she had HIV or AIDS. She was afraid to tell anyone because she feared the stigma that is associated with AIDS. Now the fear was gone. Now she knew that it was all part of a basic biological function that she could now manage on her own month after month. It's hard to imagine not having access to hygiene and perhaps harder still to imagine her 2 years of needless fear. For most of us learning about reproductive health happened in an "embarassing" classroom discussion in 5th Grade and we assume "everybody knows" but the truth is that knowledge is passed on and the instruction that comes with kits includes this important education. We're committed to empowering more and it means so much to us to have your support.
Thank you for making so much possible. Than you for helping empwer more knowledge, more kits, more girls and women being reached. We will be returning to Kenya soon and we can't wait to report what's next as Kenyans work to reach other Kenyans, in part in thanks to you!
We're gearing up to head to Uganda! By the time you get this, we'll be gone. Thanks to your support we will be taking additional fabric that they can not purchase there (and exploring further with dignitaries how to mnake that fabric available in Uganda). We'll distribute kits for two schools while there. The Lions Club of Harborview sent reading glasses for those going without (How can you sew if you can't see?). And... vitally, to train the trainers. What does that mean? We will teach Ugandan Regional Representatives to instruct women all over Uganda to train others to be Ambassadors of Women's Health: A national network of women sewing kits, empowering to teach about health, hygiene, reproductive health, menstrual health management and of course to distribute kits. This is it! Taking the national dignity model to the next level so it can be applied worldwide. And it's all thanks to you! You'll be with us in our hearts, because YOU chose to be a champion for girls with us.
You should see the girl's faces when they receive kits. I hope you can come someday. They are so grateful. The last time we were there a girl in Gulu, Uganda said when she was asked if her kit would really change anything, "We will no longer have to fear." Thanks to you more girls will have more dignity, more safety, less distraction at school and yes, less fear. For that matter, without your support, she might not have been able to stay in class at all. It never ceases to amaze me that such a simple, direct solution improves so much for girls around the globe. Thank you for being an important part of the solution.
If anyone asks what you made possible, tell them that YOU and Days for Girls International are creating a more dignified, humane and sustainable world for girls. Tell them that women and girls trained to be Ambassadors discover their potential and self-value, are equal participants and agents of social change and are given opportunities to thrive, grow and contribute to their community’s betterment while ensuring quality sustainable feminine hygiene. THAT is what you are making possible. There is more: By proving the model and creating important partnerships we can reach every girl. Everywhere. Period. One girl at a time. Thanks in part to you.
We'll keep you posted!
Now, let's just hope the snow in the East has passed by the time we get there so our layover doesn't become a REALLY long stay.
Did you know that Days for Girls is committed to reaching every girl, everywhere. Period. By 2022. That can only happen with lots of collaboration, and by empowering in-country programs as well, like this one-- one of the first-- and the women you have helped in Zimbabwe. We were set to return again next month, but elections worldwide are not always a safe place to travel during election time. It is very difficult for us to wait to bring more supplies and empower more training in Zimbabwe. And at the advice of trusted allies, our scheduled trip has to wait.
The girls and women in Zimbabwe have taught us over and over again the gravity of the situation they face without access to hygiene. It was in Zimbabwe that a Minister of government said, "Dignity can't wait" when she heard about what we do and in response embraced our program and the dignity it restores. I'll never forget the 16 year old girl who came to a health clinic 3 days after they had distributed Days for Girls Dignity kits. She was one of many who traveled there after word got out. The leaders there tell us that she wept when she heard that the kits people were talking about were all gone. She explained that she had been using corn cobs for hygiene in an effort to stay in school and now had such severe infections that scarring had taken place. All because she wanted to learn and have a future. It was in Zimbabwe that Kgotsu taught us that an 11 year old could take the lead and teach her fellow classmates about feminine hygiene and how to make their own. Afterwards she said, "I no longer consider myself an orphan" because now she is a leader. It was in Zimbabwe that a newly trained Days for Girls Ambassador of Women's Health told me, "This is going to change our world."
Your support has made such a difference. We are commited to continuing this important effort. So you can imagine how it pains us to wait to keep the results going. Meanwhile those already doing training and making kits are doing what they can and soon, hopefully very soon, we will be able to get more supplies and support to the team there. When we do, your support will be with us. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, we continue our programs worldwide. Because it's true... dignity can't wait. Thank you for your support in making it all happen.