Empower African Girls with Hygiene and Education

 
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Word Cloud for how it feels going without hygiene
Word Cloud for how it feels going without hygiene

How do you know a project is succeeding? When demand and programs keep showing increased results.  Big things have been happening in Uganda thanks to all of our Global Giving supporters! 

In late March, the Days for Girls Uganda (DfGU)  team traveled to Kisiki College in Eastern Uganda to conduct reproductive health training and a large reusable menstrual kit distribution. 

In partnership with the school, the DfGU team was able to conduct research on how menstruation is affecting the lives of the female students. At that school 70% of the students interviewed stated that they had missed class as a result of menstruation! 

The word cloud below illustrates the students' response to how they feel when they don't have materials to help manage their menstruation. The bigger the word, the more gave that answer.

Thankfully, because of your support, the Days for Girls team was able to distribute reusable menstrual kits to all 653 female students enrolled in Kisiki College.

Thanks to your support, the DfGU team also trained all 1,428 students (both male and female) in reproductive health knowledge.  After the training one of the teachers approached the staff to express her gratitude  She said that lack of reproductive health knowledge is a big problem throughout Ugandan schools. Students often approach the teachers asking for advice and information regarding the body changes that they're experiencing and how to manage the emotional ups and downs of puberty.  She said that, not having received thorough training herself, she felt ill equip to handle such situations.  After having gone through the training and receiving a Days for Girls Reproductive Health and Empowerment Manual, the teacher stated that both she and her students are armed with the information that they need to keep themselves safe and healthy..

Defend One Trainings

The Days for Girls Uganda team was able to partner with Defend One, a US based non-profit working in Uganda, to carryout soaping making, reproductive health, and business skills trainings as well as reusable menstrual kit distributions in Iganga and Kamuli Districts. 

Training women in how to make soap is an initiative that has impacts on multiple levels.  One, the soap that the women make can be used to wash their reusable menstrual pads.  Two, increasing access to soap helps communities combat dangerous, communicable illnesses such as cholera, dysentery, and diarrhea.  Three, making and selling soap is a great business and can help local women become self-reliant so they can pull themselves out of poverty.

Women who participated in the Kamuli training were particularly appreciative of the opportunity to diversify their income.  Days for Girls works primarily with subsistence farmers.  A few weeks prior to our training, Kamuli experienced a devastating storm which destroyed most of the women's crops. 

"I liked the whole program of Days for Girls because a storm has recently affected this village and we were left with nothing.  The coffee was destroyed, the maize has been affected by pests and nothing is growing.  Because of the soap training I can have an extra income which will help keep my kids in school."  Jennifer M.

Days for Girls both trains women in reproductive health knowledge and encourages mothers to talk to their children about the changes they'll experience as they go through puberty.  One woman told us about the impact that understanding menstruation and creating an open dialogue has had on her family.

"I learned how to be clean as a woman and I learned what to teach my children about being clean and hygienic.  I've even already started talking to them about it.  I've told them about menstruation and how it comes about.  I told them about the age that it starts, how it comes and so much.  I realized that it was normal for my daughter to have started her menstruation early.  I learned that menstruation can come at any age, it does not mean that someone is abnormal."

 The team was able to train many women and distribute many kits between the two communities. 

We feel so fortunate to be able to create real and tangible impacts in the lives of the women and communities we serve.  Thank you for supporting Days for Girls and helping us continue to serve women around the world.

In the past few weeks DfGU has also been creating kits for the Somalian refuge camps in Northern
Uganda and continueing to meet the demand for more training for more groups. Kenya has begun to step up their activities to do likewise as they apply the lessons learned in Uganda. Now we are readying to share it with groups around the globe. Thank you for helping make it all possible.This is how together, we can reach every girls, everywhere. Period. But it will take all of us and your support is helping make it happen.

Showing the girls how to use their washable kits
Showing the girls how to use their washable kits
Reproductive Health Training
Reproductive Health Training
Open air classroom - Our favorite kind
Open air classroom - Our favorite kind
Julie teaching how to make soap
Julie teaching how to make soap
Happy to not have to worry about sanitary needs
Happy to not have to worry about sanitary needs

Links:

Amuge F
Amuge F

Hello,

There is so much to report to you about the difference your support has made. Brigham Young University conducted a University Measurement and Evaluation survey.  The results confirm what our experiences suggest: Days for Girls empowers women and girls.  The survey results are included below in a graph called a “word cloud.”  The number of girls who respond with a given word translates into each word’s size in the illustration. 

Meanwhile  Days for Girls Uganda (DfGU) continues to expand its “training of trainers” programs, helping numerous nonprofits to start their own kit-manufacturing and menstrual health teams, which means a growing number of women are empowered to help their communities access hygiene while boosting their economic potential, thanks to your support.  I have attached a few photos of one of the trainings that took place recently at Bishop Angelo Vocational Training School- Aduku, Apac District. Some of the women there shared their personal stories and you can see a few of them and their photos here too:

Here’s what Abur E. recently shared after receiving her kit and training with DfGU at the Vocational school:   “…I used to have a lot of difficulties because I'm an orphan so I'm not able to afford pads....  If I had a heavy flow, it could stain my knickers and my clothes.  It was really affecting my life because if I was menstruating, I could just hide.  I'm appreciating you coming because I've realized that now I will be free and even stay with people if I'm menstruating because I don't have to worry about  leaking. I can just stay with people. I will also use the skills that DfG taught in order to earn a living. I will start a business of making and selling reusable menstrual kits in my community and earn money. This will allow me to take care of my siblings... The reusable pads are really important to the women in the village where I stay because most women don't have money to buy pads… I appreciate you coming a lot because it's given me hope for the future.  I had lost hope, thinking that I wouldn't be able to do anything but now I have hope for the future again.”

Akullu S. is 21 and she said, “I always use clothes or toilet tissue… Some materials can cause burning and hurt me so much.  These ones weren't good but because of problems I had no options.  I would use it but wouldn't be comfortable in the public.  I would always be standing because if I sit down I might get stains.  Now I'm very happy because of the skills that I got in making reusable pads.  Now if I'm in my menses I'm safe and secure because I know that even if I go in public I won't have stains in my cloths.  Secondly, I used to be so worried if I was about to get my menstruation because I wasn't sure where I would get the money for toilet tissue but now I'm happy because I know I'm safe because I know that I have a reusable menstrual kit that I can use for three years. “

Amuge F.  is 17 and she writes, “I appreciate Days for Girls coming here.  For me I used to use pads but I used to have a lot of burning because I have my menstruation for one week.  I would use the pads from morning up to evening because the pads are very expensive and I can't afford to change them more often.  By the time I finished my menstruation I would have painful burns and wouldn't even want to move.  When I go to school my family gives me two packets of pads but I use one full pack in a month because my period lasts for long.  I run out and then have to use clothe.  I don't know how to fold the clothe[s] well so I fear that if I'm moving, it can fall out.  It causes me a lot of anxiety because I fear that it will fall.  I'm really very excited about the DfG training in reusable pads.  I'm happy to have a reusable pad that I don't have concerns about because the other disposable pads that I used to use were also not reliable, they could slip off over time.  With these ones I am confident that they won't slip out because they have a snap.

When I'm at home sometimes they send us for water with a bicycle.  Riding a bicycle can cause the cloth I used before to go out of place and fall out.  With these reusable menstrual pads I'm confident that they won't fall out because of the snaps that hold them in place.

Days for Girls reusable pads are so good.  I'm really happy to know how to make the pads.  I'm so blessed because Days for Girls came.”

These miracles are possible because of your support.  I hope you truly recognize your important part in this. We do. None of this would happen without your help. 

Thank you!

Celeste

Abur E.
Abur E.
Akullu S.
Akullu S.
How a kit helps
How a kit helps

Links:

Letter of thanks from girl in Uganda
Letter of thanks from girl in Uganda

Hello,

Thinking of you as we focus on Thanksiving and now Giving Tuesday today, because YOU make so much thankfulness possible for so many girls and women. Your important giving and support of Days for Girls has helped thousands of girls and women have access to hygiene they can count on month after month. You have helped them have freedom to stay in school or work, and to have more dignity, more health. In honor of your support, we wanted to share recent reports from a few of the girls who have received kits because of your support. We have attached a letter from a 16 year old in Uganda so you can see her message in her own writing telling about the kit she received that you made possible. Another girl, Gladys N. from Kenya writes, "I want to thank Days for Girls for the sanitary towels. My days are no longer shameful, I feel like I can face each day with confidence and now I do not have to miss school when my periods come. Thanks to Days for Girls." You made that possible with your support too.   

There is another powerful component of Days for Girls that you have made possible: health education about what a period is and how to manage it. This is a subject so taboo that millions of girls and women are left at risk because, let's be honest, the world doesn't want to talk about periods. We are working to change that, you are helping make it possible. In Kenya, a bright, articulate 16 year-old girl who trained with Days for Girls to train others was overjoyed to learn what a period is, because she had been assuming for 2 years that her menses meant that she had AIDS and she had just lived with the fear until she learned from Days for Girls that there was no need for fear nor for shame. It's an important topic one well worth breaking silence and shattering taboos for.

Sharon N. is a student at Victoria Secondary School, Buikwe District, age 16. She shares what it was like to not know, saying, "One day I was sitting in class at school and felt something wet pass through my skirt.  It was strange and I felt scared about it.  I lived with only my brother and no one had ever told me about periods.  I didn't know what was happening and I was not prepared with anything to manage it.  I felt very bad.  I used a piece of cloth but it was very dirty. I didn't know what else to do and I couldn't tell my brother.  I'm happy now that I have information about my body and a reusable pad."

And Olivia N., a 14 year old student at Victoria Secondary School, Buikwe District, told our team about what it was like to start her period without knowing what it was. She reports, "When I was 9 years old I woke up feeling pain in my stomach.  When I reached the toilet I found blood.  I asked myself, 'What is this?!?!'  I didn't tell my family about what was happening because I feared that they would abuse me and beat me.  I went back to bed.  I woke up in the morning and sat at the table and thought that the blooding must have started from an insect entering inside of me.  I worried that I was going to die.  Then my mother came and asked me, 'What are you doing?'  I told her that I saw blood coming from my private parts.  She told me that this was normal for women and that I was not going to die.  She gave me a piece of cloth and told me how to use it to catch the blood.  Then she told said, 'Repeat after me.  One, two, three.'  I did and then she said that after three days I would stop bleeding. This is the story of my first menstruation.  I feared a lot because I thought I was going to die.  No one had ever told me about menstruation before.  I am happy that Days for Girls came to tell us about menstruation."

Thank you for all you do to make a difference for girls and women around the globe with us. We promise to keep working hard to ensure that your support adds up to results that really count and keeps adding up to more change lives.

With gratitude,

Celeste

PS: I thought you might like to see the recent TedX talk featuring the story of Days for Girls! The link is below. Thanks again for your support. Together we can change so many lives.

Gladys N in Kenya
Gladys N in Kenya
Olivia shares what she learned from Days for Girls
Olivia shares what she learned from Days for Girls
Sharon N. shares what  kits + knowledge =
Sharon N. shares what kits + knowledge =

Links:

Hello,

Happy International Day of the Girl! We thought this is the perfect time to report back about the girls and women you have empowered with your support. In the past few months Days for Girls kits have reached a milestone of service to 61 nations on 6 continents. YOU have been a big part of that. Your support of Days for Girls has enabled not only more momentum to reach more women and girls but also has expanded in-country training measurement and results in Uganda and beyond so women in the nations we serve can meet the needs of their own communities. The lessons we learn from different trials will help us to scale feminine hygiene solutions around the world in a way that empowers girls, women, communities and local leadership and economy. It's working and it isn't easy, but you have made it easier with your vital support. 

DfGUganda Team members biggest projects from recent months has been refining local manufacturing methods and setting up and implementing a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) program. The M&E program has been led by students from BYU, who are working with Days for Girls to measure how Days for Girls kits are impacting school attendance. In addition, we are measuring how the reproductive health training is impacting self-esteem and how girls view their roles in communities. This M&E program aims to capture the whole picture of every sector of a girl’s life that is impacted by Days for Girls programs. The M&E program will conclude in October and then be drafted into a published paper. We'll report back when we have those results. We're grateful for the effort and we're willing to ask questions about what's working, and what might not be, for the sake of the girls and more awareness worldwide. We've been asking hard questions all along our journey and the results have been innovations led by the wisdom of the women we serve. Those innovations are working.  

Meanwhile many partnering orgs have transported our kits and supplies with us and provided important distributions. Hundreds and hundreds of kits and bolts and bolts of specialized fabrics purchased with your support that are now being put to work to create kits in Uganda and beyond.

During the past several months, the Uganda team has also continued to provide health education to schools in Kampala and beyond. For many girls, this is the only chance they will get to learn about essential health matters and to ask questions, so the information we’re providing couldn’t be more important. More and more kits have been handed out all over the nation as women also learn to make their own.

In addition to working with 3 schools to implement the M&E program and continuing reproductive health training, the Days for Girls Uganda team has been hard at work getting ready to fill large kit orders. One high school in eastern Uganda has ordered 800 kits! With demand like this, it’s a good thing we’re scaling up! 

How we’re scaling up is the current focus. The Days for Girls kit design is in demand far and wide. There is no end in site. However, even more than needing a hygiene kit, women want to know how to make the kits and earn income from selling them in their communities.

There is a huge demand among NGOs worldwide to invest in training for women who already know how to sew. Because of this, Days for Girls Uganda has already been able to build new partnerships, both with Ugandan and international organizations. Days for Girls team members are sewing and reproductive health experts, and that's exactly what we want to share with women in Uganda. Many income-generation projects exist for crafts, but DfG Uganda will be moving beyond that, providing women the skills, materials, and business support to enable them to sell something that every woman needs.

There are a lot of very exciting new developments as we move forward in our next steps. We are proud to welcome Eliza Chard, our new Uganda Country Director. Our staff members will also have some important new responsibilities as they gather data, serve to train trainers, provide kits and learn how to be better leaders in tackling these issues throughout their nation. It's an important effort not just for Uganda but to be scaled in the many nations also asking for this level of support in reaching women and girls lacking basic resources to manage their health and dignity month after month after month in a way they can count on. Thank you for being part of so many lives changed for good. Stay tuned for the reports from the M&E. We can't wait to share.  Just one small snapshot of the many places you are empowering with more health, dignity and opportunity as we work to reach every girl. Everywhere. Period. Thank you!

Gulu Uganda August 2013 with African Promise
Gulu Uganda August 2013 with African Promise
Receiving a kit of her own in Gulu, Uganda
Receiving a kit of her own in Gulu, Uganda

Links:

Linda, DfGZimbabwe director teaching Luveve school
Linda, DfGZimbabwe director teaching Luveve school

Thanks to your support, we trained over 50 girls at KG6 (King George the 6th) Special needs school. Linda is returning  to do follow up by August 1 thanks to your recent support she has been able to pay an elder woman to purchase fabric and sew more liners for them.

Who is Linda? Linda Guhza is the Director of Days for Girls Zimbabwe. She is dedicated to reaching more of the girls and women of her nation because she has experienced what happens without access to feminine hygiene herself, "When I was a young girl my mother worked hard to support our family and we were able to go to school. But I had to use whatever I could to stay in school and many times I left in shame because I had a stain. Boys laughed at me. If I wasn't so determinined, I would not have made it. I understand how hard it is. I want to change that." Linda has been away from Zimbabwe for a few months now. She is returning on July 22nd to bring more fabric and follow up on results with those trained as Days for Girls Ambassadors of Women's Health there. She reports, "Our outreach to empower women by giving them dignity and their days back led us to one of the biggest Female Prisons in Zimbabwe (Mlondolozi Female Prison) we had the rare opportunity to train over 100 female inmates [on] how to make their own reusable pads. Prisons in Zimbabwe are overcrowded and female inmates live under unsanitary conditions which can lead to poor health and the spread of infectious disease. Daily these women prisoners are confronted with unique challenges namely menstruation among others and no special attention is given to female inmates and sanitary wear is not provided. They were happy beyond words."

She reports that, "At Mhandambwe High School in Zvishavane we trained 50 girls and 4 teachers and I am returning to see how they are as well.  And to follow up in Elitsheni where 120 women were trained in how to make their own pads, about their bodies and even to make a Tippy Tap handwashing machine."

Your donations made those trainings and the materials possible. Your donations are funding more fabric while she is there. And that (as you can probably tell) means the world to her and to us. Thank you! She will be sharing pictures and more results when she returns. I can't wait to hear all of the details and to share it with those of you that make it all possible. Thank you!

Asking questions about menstrual health at Luveve
Asking questions about menstrual health at Luveve

Links:

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Organization

Project Leader

Celeste Mergens

Lynden, WA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Empower African Girls with Hygiene and Education