Linda, the Director of Days for Girls Zimbabwe, kept going despite pain and illness for months, working to do training and distribution of kits for girls and women. And then came the opportunity to go to Germany to seek greater medical care options and to be with her husband. Yes, Linda had left the USA to return to her homeland of Zimbabwe to take Days for Girls to her nation. I don't know about you, but we find that amazing. That she has so much passion that she would move her family-- even when her husband would be leaving for another location.
And an amazing thing happened as she prepared to leave, the other women trained to be Ambassadors of Women's Health (thanks in part to YOU) stepped up and are keeping the program going. The remarkable thing is that they are all volunteering. Something many say is unheard of when they are living in such an impoverished place. They have a passion for ensuring that girls have access to feminine hygiene. They know personally how high the stakes are and they have seen the joy that girls have when they learn about reproductive health, safety and that they can have quality feminine hygiene they can count on month after month.
Currently, the trainers are focusing on reaching groups through schools and churches as they teach women to make their own kits. Most are being done in the Bullawayo district and Lupane district at this time.
The pilot program currently has 8 sewing machines in place. Our next step is to get more sewing machines to the rural team leaders so they can teach girls in their areas how to sew on the machines and the resulting kits will be as durable as they can be.
Local women's groups are focusing on their local areas to save funds, with plans to expand the program to more areas when more fabric is available to them. It is part of the Project Plan for the team to train more local women in the program once there is sufficient funding for more fabric.
Another exciting development is that other schools, nonprofits and even the Minister of Education David Coltart have support for our specific design of kits and hygiene and empowerment training as well as in receiving pad kits for their girls and in eventually expanding the program even more!
The girls benefiting from the program are reporting consistent results - that since they received their kits they now can stay in school. After a full year all of the girls report using their kits consistently, and in four cases, they preferred the washable even when their school had occassional access to disposable, saying that their DfG kits are more comfortable and that disposables have tape that does not hold well and do not work as well.
The team in Zimbabwe and the Days for Girls International team both would like to sincerely offer our gratitude to all of our generous friends through GlobalGiving for helping to sponsor this program. It's working!
Thanks in part to your support, we just returned a few weeks ago from Zimbabwe. We were able to follow up to confirm the results of DfG kits and training while also doing more training and advocacy. We were so pleased to see all of the positive effects. Here are some highlights: Meet 11 yr old Kgotso (Second from the left in the photo. Prounounced Go-tso). She doesn't define herself as an orphan since she got her kit and training last year, she sees herself as an advocate for DFG and since she heard about it has been helping others to make their own kits. She learned about DFGZ when Ambassadors of Women's Health traveled to Nzilikazi to teach a girls club of 200 (200!) Kgotso no longer has to miss school and she wants to share. She is an innovator too. She used her PUL scraps to make a tiny bag for a single liner to take to the latrine during school. Others started making them too. Today she continues to hold DFG meetings at her school.
"Dignity can not wait." The Honorable Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe; Vice President of the Movement for Democratic Change, Thokozani Khupe, was in absolute support of DfG when we met with her and spoke so eloquently about the importance of empowering girls with sanitary solutions saying, "Even I have suffered this as a girl." Such important connections to discuss how to ensure every girl in the world has access to hygiene happened thanks to DfG supporters like YOU!
The Head School Matron met us at matatu 47 (a van that acts as a community bus). From there we would walk through local markets and down green paths and up a dirt path to get to the Hamomi School. We had just completed the training for 50 Kenyan women to teach others as Ambassadors of Women's Health instructing in female reproductive health, empowerment and safety and readying to partner with girls in local schools. Now it was time to meet girls who had received their kits about a year ago and see what the results really are. We had come to get the facts. The girls, teachers and directors were unanimous. Before they received the kits girls missed 2 - 5 days of school per month. All but two experienced 1 - 2 leaking episodes at school per month before retreating to stay home. After they missed ZERO days due to periods and had zero leaks! Their only suggestion? One girls said, "More panties please!". When asked how many she said 10.and it was that way in place after place.Zero missed days. Zero leaks. Ed cross checked students with teachers responses and it was the same across the board! Next up? We hope that with adequate funding Ed can return in November with resources to ensure that those trained as Ambassadors of Women's Heslth can work with women's Sewing Cooperatobes and girls in schools to team up to create kits locally, empower women with knowledge and self-esteem, and access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene. After probing this fourth phase we will be able to replicate it worldwide. For now... We're focused on continued results for girls to count on month after month. Thank you for helping make a huge leap forward possible.