Empower African Girls with Hygiene and Education

by Days for Girls International
Bernice, of DfG Ghana, and Diana, of DfG Uganda
Bernice, of DfG Ghana, and Diana, of DfG Uganda

“I just feel good to be giving my best to people in a humble community like this.” These are the words of a hero. Or shall we say, a she-ro! Diana Nakatude is the Production Officer of the Days for Girls Uganda office and spends much of her time traveling around the region training other women to make DfG Kits, and to spread menstrual hygiene and women’s health knowledge throughout their communities.

 Although she has two beautiful children of her own at home, Diana is always ready for an adventure and ready to serve the women of her country and her continent. She recently returned from a training visit to Ghana and immediately got on a 6 hour bus ride to a rural part of Uganda called Amuria. There she began training a network of schools in women’s health and has helped to established a Micro-Enterprise that will be able to fill the need for DfG Kits in the long-term. Diana is truly on the frontlines of the Days for Girls work as we strive to reach Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.

 2017 has been an incredible year so far. Days for Girls has seen immeasurable passion and tireless work taking place throughout the world and especially in Africa, where we now have two DfG Centers, and over 40 Micro-Enterprises. Our DfG Ghana Center, at just 14 months old, has already trained 4 Micro-Enterprises in the country. This provides leadership and entrepreneurship opportunities for young women, while also ensuring long-term access to DfG Kits for girls. In addition, they are planning to reach over 3,000 school-girls this year through a partnership with the Rotary Club of Tema and the Rotary Club of Wisconsin – Madison.

They have worked hand in hand with our Uganda Center to develop strong organizational systems so that they can achieve growth at a rapid pace. We know the momentum is building and we want to be sure we are ready for it! Or as Diana says, “we don’t have time to get tired, because there are so many more girls counting on us!”

Christine, Micro-Enterprise Leader from Kira, UG
Christine, Micro-Enterprise Leader from Kira, UG

“I have always had the passion of sewing. I love selling the DfG Kits because I get an income, but also I feel people value the Kits if they have contributed something towards it.” Christine from Kira, Uganda is just one of the incredible Micro-Enterprise Leaders who got her start in 2016. As the draws to a close, we have taken this time to reflect on the incredible progress that our teams have been able to make with the support of our Global Giving network. This has been a year of tremendous growth and strategic planning, always asking ourselves how we can do better and reach more girls with access to sustainable hygiene and health solutions.

Our Enterprise Team was able to finalize a set of training resources that have supported our Country offices to further develop our Micro-Enterprise model. The Micro-Enterprise model allows local women to start their own small businesses making and selling the DfG Kit, which in turn provides sustainable access for their communities while also generating an income source for the women themselves. A partnership with Projet Juene saw this model expand all the way to Madagascar, where they have trained a group of women to sew and sell the DfG Kit. In Toliara, Madagascar, yet another Micro-Enterprise has blossomed to meet the needs of women in the southwest.

Across the continent in Ghana, our passionate leaders, Bernice and Prince, have been tirelessly moving around the country training girls to make their own DfG Kits, along with essential women’s health education. Overnight bus rides, rattling minibuses, and bumpy dirt roads haven’t been able to stop them yet. In just the five months that they’ve launched this training program, they have been able to directly reach over 1,200 girls. And they are on target for an even bigger impact in 2017!

Our Uganda team also saw tremendous growth in their third year of operations, directly reaching over 13,000 girls and women in 2016, a 60% increase from 2015. 1,000 of those girls reside in the Karamoja region of Uganda – one of the most rural and underserved regions in the country. Through the two-day training program, these out-of-school teens learned a new sewing skill, along with important health education they can teach to family and friends. At the end of a recent training, a loud commotion drew the training team outside. They found one of the training participants, a girl of just 15, surrounded by her friends on the pathway towards home. She had just thwarted the assault of a stranger using the self-defense moves she had learned that same day in the training program. An incredible, if deeply unsettling indication of just how critical this education is.

It is the support of Global Giving that makes this kind of direct impact possible, changing lives one Kit at a time, and building empowered communities, with each leader trained! In the words of Christine, “most of all, I love providing a valuable solution the women and girls of Kira.” Thank you to our Global Giving family, for providing such valuable solutions to women and girls around the world. We can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring!

Girls celebrating their DfG Kits in northern Ghana
Girls celebrating their DfG Kits in northern Ghana
Micro-Enterprise Leader in Madagascar
Micro-Enterprise Leader in Madagascar
Jane at her graduation from DfG University
Jane at her graduation from DfG University

Maracha lies in the north-western corner of Uganda, just on the border of Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a small and rural district settled into the West Nile Region of Uganda. A dry and arid setting, the landscape is both beautiful and vast. And within Maracha District resides an especially spectacular lady – Jane, and beautiful and determined school-teacher with a passion for both girls and for health. Jane attended the November 2015 Session of DfG University – our two-week residential training program that helps women launch their own small businesses making and selling DfG Kits (washable pads).  From the moment she arrived, Jane emerged as a leader in her class, generating smiles and laughter in every session.

 

Admittedly, we were a little bit nervous about Jane’s business prospects when she returned home. The West Nile region is one of the poorest in Uganda, and many families do not have disposable income for items other than the necessities. On top of that, gender equality is a particularly challenging issue in this area, where women are given little agency to advocate for their needs within the home. So, we were nothing short of blown away when we checked in with Jane just 4 months later.

 

A site visit to Jane showed us that she had mobilized a small army of women to help her sell the DfG Kits all over her community. She had sold her entire starter pack of 50 Kits – and not all in one go to a big organization, but one by one to the actual women and girls who would go on to use them. That is 50 women and girls who no longer have to worry about what they will use. 50 women and girls who can go about their days with ease and comfort when they are menstruating. 50 women and girls who lift their heads high with the pride of having purchased their very own DfG Kit. This was an incredible turning point that showed us the possibility and the potential of empowering women with business to improve health and hygiene in their communities!

 

We have worked tirelessly in the past year to refine our Enterprise training resources so that we can promote sustainable, long-lasting access points for menstrual hygiene products and education. It is our vision to see local women owning this process and being the ambassadors for menstrual hygiene in their communities, and with women like Jane, this is coming to fruition. The support from Global Giving has helped us employ local Ugandan women to go out and train other women, and to provide critical reproductive health and hygiene education to girls and mothers. 

Close up of DfG Kit Components
Close up of DfG Kit Components
DfG Team discusses program strategy & planning
DfG Team discusses program strategy & planning
Samantha teaches girls to sew the DfG Kit
Samantha teaches girls to sew the DfG Kit

The sun was shining brightly through the branches, and the grass was prickly on our legs, but we were all excited to be sitting there together in Karamoja – a captivating, but economically devastated region in northeastern Uganda. Our team had traveled to conduct a training with out-of-school girls on reproductive health and making of the DfG Washable Hygiene Kit as part of our 3-year partnership with Samaritan’s Purse. During this visit, we had the opportunity to sit with a small group of girls who had received the Kits 6 months prior. We were conducting an important follow up focus group discussion to learn more about the actual impact of the DfG Kits on these girls’ lives.

 

We sat under a tree in the middle of a large grassy field, with tall mountains in the background and thatched roof huts dotted around the landscape and well disguised by their thorny fences. Six out of the seven girls we spoke to that day had received the DfG Kit, and one girl had not, as she was not originally recruited for the program.

 

Yet we learned something amazing. Not only did each and every girl remember nearly every detail of the training program – demonstrating to us how she washed and dried her Kit, explaining the phases of the menstrual cycle, and talking about personal hygiene – but they all still had and faithfully used their DfG Kit. The one girl who had not been part of the program actually learned how to make her own Kit from her friends who had participated in the program.

 

These stories and testimonies shattered our greatest expectations. After distributing Kits, there is always a lingering thought; will the girls really use these Kits? Do they really need them? Well, we learned first hand that the answer was a resounding yes!

 

As we go out and conduct more and more trainings in our vision of reaching Every Girl. Everywhere. Period, we are also focused on answering these tough questions about impact. We are doing this through new mobile-based surveys, through focus group discussions, and through site visits to the girls and women we work with. The support of the Global Giving community is what makes this mutual learning possible! 

Focus Group discussion taking place under a tree
Focus Group discussion taking place under a tree
Sewing the DfG Kit in Karamoja
Sewing the DfG Kit in Karamoja
Training in Nakapiripirit
Training in Nakapiripirit

 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

Training girls to use a treadle machine
Training girls to use a treadle machine
DfG staff capacity building
DfG staff capacity building
Sewing shields through a DfG Micro-Enterprise
Sewing shields through a DfG Micro-Enterprise
 

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Organization Information

Days for Girls International

Location: Lynden, WA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.DaysforGirls.org
Project Leader:
Melissa Moody
Lynden, WA United States
$54,811 raised of $90,000 goal
 
1,604 donations
$35,189 to go
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