Teams are gearing up to return to Kenya in July and we wanted to give your a report of recent progress.
Meet James Waruiru of Kenya. He literally came to the rescue when he learned that a girl was missing from his village. He helped in the search and found her curled beneath a tree sobbing because she had been embarrassed by her period starting and students mocked her. She felt she could never return to school. He promised to get her disposable pads. She returned a month later with 6 friends, explaining that they had the same problem. Soon he was helping to find sanitary pads for hundreds of girls and women in his village and beyond by providing hygiene but it was not sustainable and he was struggling to keep it up. He shared his story with Diane Brask and she and DfG Anacortes chapter members brought 300 Days for Girls kits to his project. Those kits have been delivered. Here is what he says, "This by far is one of the best initiatives. It has become an indispensable resource in our local community insuring many poor girls remain in school during their menses. The impact is seen in immediate academic improvement in the girls. The local community appreciates our work and this gives us the energy to go on even though the challenges are many since the demand for sanitary towels far surpasses our supply. Fountain of Hope Life Centre is happy to be associated with Days for Girls. We are reaching out for more Days for Girls kits because we have much more girls we need to provide for. " Go James! Diana said she was amazed at the positive response to the kits. That in all of her travels she had never seen such a reaction of joy. She went as far as to say, "If I had brought 400 iPads to the girls it would not have been as great a response as we received when we brought these S-pads." (Sanitary Pads). We will be partnering with James and his team and Diana in an even bigger way very soon helping his cooperative to sew kits themselves to create more solutions for more girls and women and to improve the economy in their community. The story repeats itself all over the world. In Kenya alone thousands more kits have been made possible. Your support has provided kits, fabric, training and results for many women in Kenya. Thank you!
We know that you have many ways that you could contribute to the world and we are honored that you found us and decided to step up to serve with us. We continue our work on Kenya and around the globe. We are completing this particular project, but you can follow the momentum you started on Facebook.com/DaysforGirls or on our website DaysforGirls.org and on Global Giving at Empower African Girls with Hygiene and Education (#11580)
I hope that you can see in the girls' faces how much this means to them and that someday you can come and see it for yourself. Thank you for adding more days of dignity, health and opportunity for girls and women in Kenya with us. So glad you have become an important part of the team.
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 wanted to let you know about the progress in Kenya. It never ceases to amaze us, how such a direct and simple solution opens so many doors. Discussions that might be considered taboo suddenly become approachable because a universal need is being met in important, sustainable ways, along with vital education about how periods happen and the fact that without periods there would be no people. All in thanks to your important support.
In the past several weeks we've received important reports from the Days for Girls project in Kenya. Did you know that in Kisii, Kenya involvement in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) dropped by 30% after presentation of Days for Girls kits? We had been invited to talk about FGM with the girls themselves. We asked to speak to the cutters separately. We expected maybe a half dozen. Instead there were dozens of women who showed up. We discussed that we were not there to tell them what to do. We were there to invite them as leaders to make a new decision and keep their tradition but cut out the cut. To our delight the responded positively. Two days later the six head cutters arrived to declare that they were laying down their knives. The next rite of passage dropped from 92% involvement to a reported 62%. Now there is more news.Rosemary Obara was our translator that weekend and she not only testified of her own trauma as a victim of FGM but she continues to speak out against the practice in her homeland, Guisii Province. Today she runs for another public office on the platform of ending the practice and making life easier for girls, including access to sustainable feminine hygiene.Meanwhile we have learned that liners are wearing out... which is good news. Because that means they are being well used and still desired. And that liners last 2 - 3 years! Great news because that is a lot of time in the classroom.Several hundred kits are now on their way to Kenya. Communities there are mapping out their strategy to meet the needs of all of the women they serve. Two thousand yards of PUL are now being ordered to travel by cargo to Mombasa, Kenya to be divided between Kenya and Uganda, so that more kits can be made for girls and women.
We return again in February to take supplies and do additional training. So we'll have more stories and photos for you. In the meantime, thank you for your important support.
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.
Excitement is building. Our team leaves for Africa next month to train Kenyan women to train their communities how to sew sanitary kits while learning about female reproductive health and more. It sounds simple enough-- and yet we get to "listen in" to how much need there is. Schools write, "Our girls are missing out. We hope you can bring your kits to us soon." Or here's one from "Sanitary pads are VERY expensive and in the rurual area NONE of the girls ever use them." There is good news in Kenya however, the government is getting more and more serious about putting real funding behind ongoing solutions and we will be meeting with authorities while there to discuss sustainable solutions to ensure that girls have the opportunity to stay in school, stay healthy, and have the dignity of not having to struggle with staining, solutary confinement nor shame... month after month.
And you know what? Surprisingly, the education about how every woman in the world shares the experience of menstruation, and sharing how their cycle works is equally powerful. Because without that knowledge girls are left feeling that they are a potential curse to their village, family and selves (mostly because of warnings they get and the lack of solutions). So your help is key to helping girls stay in school, helping women stand up with leadership and have a small income AND... assurance that Kenyan women are beautiful and powerful naturally. We'll keep you posted!
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