It is farming season in Lebanon. Every day, Syrian girls are sent to the fields in Bekaa Valley to work the fields for less than $3 per day. When she is paid, she gives 50% of her money to the Informal Settlement camp manager and the other 50% to the head of her household. If she needs anything for herself, she has to ask for money and explain why, even if it is for menstrual pads. She's too embarrassed to ask him herself, so her mother supplies her with pads. The pads are the most inexpensive ones at the store, but still, they are a drain on the family's small amount of money. The cheap pads irritate her skin and the plastic is uncomfortable when she is working in the field. Sometimes there isn't enough money for pads, so she uses old cloth to manage her period. She is afraid of bleeding through the cloth and makes sure to wear a black dress on those days, just in case.
Imagine what a Days for Girls kit can do for this girl. When she gets her DfG kit, she can now manage her own menstruation needs. She does not need to ask anyone else for money to buy pads. She does not worry about irritation from cheap products. Each night, she puts a little of the water that she used for cooking in her plastic baggie with her pads and shield. After dinner, she is able to use a little soap and water to clean them thoroughly in the plastic baggie. The flannel liners and shield are thin enough to need only a few cups of clean water to rinse. She can hang them to dry on the small line outside of her tent with her clothing, and no one will know what they are. The next day, she still has a second shield and liners to wear while today's set is drying in the sun.
She is one one hundreds of Syrian girls that struggle in countries that are not their own.
Through the efforts of Days for Girls, we are reaching those girls. Our donors are making it possible to bring a little piece of freedom to the lives of these girls. With our sewing classes throughout Lebanon, we are able to teach women and girls to make reusable pads for themselves and the women in their families and communities. Receiving a Days for Girls kit is exciting, but learning the skills to create one for another woman is priceless.
We have just returned from two weeks in Lebanon where we distrubuted over 300 DfG kits. After each session, we also taught a brief sewing course for making the shields and liners. Over and over, we heard comments like these:
"I won't have to worry about buying pads any longer"
"I would like to make one for my daughter too"
"The women in my community would love these"
We were also able to meet with women previously served two months ago. These women told us repeatedly, in different towns and living conditions, that after two months of using their Days for Girls pads, they were very happy with them. One woman told us that she had struggled with infections and rashes from cheap disposable pads, but not any longer. One woman said that she hadn't even realized what a burden her pad purchase each month was to her family until she no longer had to make that purchase. Another woman was so pleased with how the DfG pads helped her own daughter's allergic reactions that she asked to volunteer her time to sew more pads for us to distrubute to other women in her daughter's situation. Over and over, we heard words of confirmation that the DfG kit was needed, appreciated, and special to the women who had received one.
With the help of IRC Lebanon, ANERA Lebanon, and the Amel Association, women and girls all over Lebanon can now have control over their own menstrual cycle. Your continued support will allow us to expand our parnterships with these organizations to bring more kits to women, especially in rural areas, and coordinate sewing classes and distrubution of sewing supplies and fabrics to those who wish to sew for their own communities. We will be returning in September with more DfG kits for distribution as well as the fabric and supplies to teach expanded sewing classes to both recipients and representatives of our partner organizations.
Cissy** sat in the back of the class, fidgeting quietly and glancing uncomfortably at her peers. She wore the same beautiful skirt that all the girls had – knee-length, bright, multicolored, swinging, and full. It had been hand-sewn by her from strips of cloth. She was among her friends, but still she look nervous and unsettled.
Our team was in the Nakapiripirit district of Uganda providing a training to out of school girls in women’s health and an introduction to Kit making. Each girl would learn to hand sew her very own washable pad using the tried and tested Days for Girls pattern. In partnership with Samaritan’s Purse and with the support of Global Giving, Days for Girls will be training 3,000 girls in total across one of the most remote, low-income regions of East Africa over a period of 3-years.
But on this day, our lead trainer, Dianah, could tell that something wasn’t right. As the training assistants began passing out materials to begin sewing, Dianah approached Cissy to find out what was wrong. Shyly, Cissy revealed that she was menstruating. Cissy did not have a pad, and she did not even have underwear. She was rotating her skirt to absorb the flow. Normally, Cissy would have gone to the river and sat on the rocks throughout the day. She would have returned home at night to sleep, and gone back to the river the following day until her period ended.
At the end of the day, Cissy had sewn her own Days for Girls Kit. Her smile revealed everything. Utter joy, happiness, and most of all, relief. Relief that she would no longer face long days missing out on her life because of something as natural as a period.
Along with the Kits, each girl had gained valuable knowledge and a rare opportunity to share their stories and experiences in a safe space with Ugandan women who they could see as mentors. To express their gratitude, the entire class of girls gathered together and began singing and dancing. They composed an original song about their new knowledge of menstrual hygiene.
This is just one example of the incredible work that has been possible because of your support! In addition to this program, Days for Girls Uganda has trained over 2,000 girls so far in 2016, they have supported 13 Micro-Enterprises across the region to sell Kits. And the data shows that these Micro-Enterprises are already selling Kits even in the most rural communities. This would not be possible with the incredible support from our Global Giving community. You are helping us to reach girls like Cissy every day, with long-term, sustainable solutions!
**Name has been changed to protect her privacy
We've just returned from a very successful trip to Lebanon, Thank YOU for making it possible!
We were able to distribute over 200 Days for Girls kits in partnership with ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid), Women's Network Association, Amel Association, and Akkar Network for Development. Our kits were distributed in Borg al-Barajneh Camp in Beirut, one of Amel Association's women's centers in Beirut, and in the far north district of Akkar.
Over half of the population in Akkar fall beneath the poverty level. As of January 31, 2016, the UNHCR reported over 100,000 Syrian refugees registered in the already impoverished district.
One special information session and DfG kit distribution was arranged by friends at ANERA and Akkar Network for Development. 60 women were in attendance (25 aged 11-18 and 35 aged 19+). We discovered that the women in Akkar are very familiar with reusable cloth pads, and many expressed a preference for reusable menstrual pads over disposable! Their current cloths lack any sort of waterproof barrier, limiting security from leaks and staining in public.
The Days for Girls shield will alleviate this worry for them! Each woman left the session with a brand new Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kit and a smile.
Each DfG kit contains 2 waterproof shields, 8 absorbent flannel liners, 2 pairs of underwear, 1 washcloth, 1 soap, 2 plastic baggies, 1 cloth drawstring bag, and 1 menstrual chart.
After the session, I met with three local women (one who is a tailor by trade) that are interested in sewing DfG kits for their communities and for other refugees. Each was given a sewing kit with fabrics and notions for 2 shields, 8 liners, and 1 drawstring bag. Just three days later, I received a stream of photos that the women took while sewing all three DfG kit components. With only a brief verbal explanation and pictorial instructions, these talented women were able to sew the Days for Girls shield, liner, and drawstring bag beautifully! I will be returning in June to visit these women with three main goals:
The DfG kit gives women a reliable, reusable, and earth-friendly option for menstrual health management. In addition to the DfG kit, our distribution sessions always include an education element about the proper use and care fo the DfG kit, a full explanation of the menstrual cycle (and how it can be charted, allowing women more insight into their own cycles), and basic menstrual health and hygiene. Our sessions in Lebanon are almost always in partnership with a nurse or other healthcare provider that can also answer other questions and/or concerns that the women may have during a session.
Again, thank you for making all of this possible and for helping us enrich the lives of Syrian refugees in their time of need. Be on the lookout for another update at the end of June!