Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon

by Days for Girls International
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Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Menstrual Health Equity for Women in Lebanon
Amel Association training
Amel Association training
  • 2 waterproof shields,
  • 8 flannel liners,
  • 2 baggies,
  • 1 soap,
  • 1 washcloth,
  • 2 underpants, one cloth drawstring bag.

The DfG Kit costs $12-$15 to create. Small but mighty. As 2016 comes to a close, we reflect on the impact our project has made for Syrian women.

Over the last year, we were able to get 3,140 DfG Kits to women in need throughout Lebanon. Partners like ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid), IRC, Akkar Network for Development, and Mercy Corps made it possible to get DfG Kits into informal refugee settlements and remote areas where it would not have been possible otherwise. Over 100 women have been trained to sew DfG shields for themselves and family/friends, and our friends at ANERA have created two micro-enterprises to help get DfG Kits to women quicker than waiting for volunteers to bring them from abroad! Not only will these women help their sisters in need, they will be earning a small income for themselves as well.

In the year ahead, we will continue to distribute and support Syrian women who have fled to Lebanon, but we will be expanding our reach. As 2016 ends, we have been busily working to connect with new partners in Turkey, Jordan, Greece, and inside Syria itself. Some of our goals for 2017 include:

  • Distribution at least 10,000 DfG Kits to Syrian refugees
  • Assist the Lebanese micro-enterprises in expanding their production and creating a solid supply chain
  • Partnerships with NGOs working in formal camps in Amman, Jordan
  • Equip the Amel Association Community Center (Beirut) with sewing machines and fabrics for their beneficiaries to make their own DfG shields and liners (we have already trained a seamstress to teach there)
  • Coordinate distriubutions with DfG Muscat and DfG Dubai, and assist them as needed financially for projects involving Syrian refugees in their countries
  • And my personal goal: to get DfG Kits into the hands of the Syria Civil Defense's ("White Helmets") two all-female teams

The support of Global Giving donors has made all of this possible and will continue to keep us going through 2017 and beyond. The struggle for Syrian women today is enormous. We will ease their burden by giving them one less thing to worry about! We do not want any woman to have to decide between food and pads. We do not want any woman to feel undignified or unclean because of lack of sanitary supplies. We will be there.

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In the northern part of Lebanon, the Akkar District is home to over 100,000 Syrian refugees. According to the UNHCR, "On average, refugees earn 20,000 LBP (USD 13) per day, with women much more likely to be paid less. With earnings reportedly too low to cover basic expenditure needs for the household, many refugees relied on alternative sources of income to support themselves and their families - sometimes deploying negative coping mechanisms and strategies"

In partnership with ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid), we are proud to report that there are now two established DfG sewing teams in Akkar. We recently returned from a trip to Lebanon where we saw firsthand the dedication of these women and the high quality of their work. These teams will be sewing and assembling DfG kits to be marketed to the many NGOs that operate inside Lebanon. This will give women in Akkar an opportunity to earn income for their families, allow aid workers to access feminine hygiene supplies quicker and more efficiently, and provide sewing training for other women in the communities who are interested in learning that skill. 

We have trained staff members of ANERA, Mercy Corps, IRC, and several local Lebanese NGOs regarding the proper distribution and awareness sessions that accompany the DfG kit. These sessions provide not only a beautiful DfG kit that a woman can use for years to come, but they also provide a safe space to discuss menstrual hygiene and reproduction with trained leaders and other community members. Many women tell us at our distributions that they had never had a thorough explanation of their menstrual cycle! One highlight of the awareness session is the menstrual chart that each woman receives in her DfG Kit with instructions for how to use it. This helps a girl to plan ahead, knowing when to expect her period and to be prepared with her supplies. It allows a woman the opportunity to know when she is most and least likely to become pregnant.

With the support of our many GlobalGiving donors, we have been able to supply the new DfG teams with enough fabrics to complete 250 shields. Each team received a hand snap and removal tool, a large supply of plastic snaps, a fabric die cutter, and the printed menstrual charts to accompany the DfG Kits. Recurring and new donations will allow us to purchase more supplies for the teams, hold more extensive sewing training sessions, business and marketing trainings, and the opportunity to travel to Lebanon to assist with supply chain development and quality control. 

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Learning to sew DfG shields in Akkar
Learning to sew DfG shields in Akkar

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. 

Making their own DfG liners in Bekaa Valley
Making their own DfG liners in Bekaa Valley
Women in Beirut- their smiles speak volumes
Women in Beirut- their smiles speak volumes
Local sewing teacher can now train other women!
Local sewing teacher can now train other women!
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Days for Girls in Akkar
Days for Girls in Akkar

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:

  1. A sewing workshop and soapmaking class (open to all women in the area) for more extensive instruction of the sewing techniques and recommendations involved in making the Days for Girls kit.
  2. Delivering donations of pre-cut fabrics and sewing supplies, including a serger to make sewing absorbent liners more efficient.
  3. Securing a suitable location for the women to set up a sewing center, with the assitance of Akkar Network for Development and other local partners.

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! 

Amel Association Community Center, Beirut
Amel Association Community Center, Beirut
Teaching the menstrual cycle to girls in Akkar
Teaching the menstrual cycle to girls in Akkar
Burj al-Barajneh Camp, Beirut
Burj al-Barajneh Camp, Beirut
The very first Lebanon-made DfG kit!
The very first Lebanon-made DfG kit!

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Sewing class in Tyre
Sewing class in Tyre

January 16-30, 2015, we held our first distributions and awareness sessions with women in Lebanon. We distributed 120 kits to women and girls in Tyre and Saida, and we held a sewing class for 18 women in Tyre to learn how to sew the DfG shield and liner. Your support was so important to get us started on this journey!

January 20: Saida, Lebanon: In partnership with Bussma Community Center and Mercy Corps Lebanon, we conducted two awareness sessions for a total of 33 mothers and 27 daughters. The mothers' group was very enthusiastic about the DfG kit and gave us very positive feedback regarding the use of them in their community. They were especially interested in learning how to sew the shields and extra liners for themselves and others.

The teenage girls were leary at first of the concept of washable pads, but after a full explanation, they were as excited as their mothers. They told us that when disposable pads are not available, they fold washcloths to use as pads, but the DfG shield will be much more protective and give them more security from leaks and/or staining than cloths. Disposable pads are readily available in their community, but they felt that the cloth pads would be a great alterative and save their families a lot of money. One girl put it simply, "These are a really good idea." We also had a brief discussion regarding menstrual hygiene. The girls shared many misconceptions, one being that they were not supposed to bathe during their periods, and we explained more fully the biology of menstruation and why these sort of myths are untrue.

January 21: Tyre, Lebanon: Again partnering with Mercy Corps Lebanon and Bussma Community Center, we held two sessions for mothers and teenage girls. The girls in Saida had been very positive about the kits, but they were also quite shy. We found the opposite personalities in Tyre! The mothers were much like the women in Saida- very interested and supportive about the kits. The girls, however, were EXTREMELY enthusiastic about both the kits and the curriculum! And even more wonderful, they had no misconceptions about their periods or the biology of menstruation. These young women would make great Days for Girls Ambassadors of Women's Health. We spoke with them about the training, and several were interested in learning more and being a voice for girls in their communities. This is one area we would like to pursue further and plan to use our funding to return to Tyre in April to meet with the girls again. Girls teaching other girls-- how awesome is that!?

January 23: Tyre, Lebanon: The mothers from our awareness session returned, along with others, for a sewing course. We had prepared pre-cut shield and liner pieces, and each of the 18 women were able to finish completely one DfG shield and 3 DfG absorbent liners. Bussma Community Center has a dedicated sewing room with two industrial machines. We are eager to return to Tyre and do an extended training session to include micro-enterprise training. Our funding will allow us to purchase several items to get a new enterprise up-and-running.

We will be returning to Lebanon in April to conduct follow-up sessions with the women and girls, distribute more Days for Girls kits (this time in Bekaa Valley), teach an extended sewing and Ambassador of Women's Health course in Tyre, and do further research on sourcing fabrics in Lebanon for a micro-enterprise.

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Organization Information

Days for Girls International

Location: Mount Vernon, WA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @daysforgirls
Project Leader:
Erin Hale
Mr. Vernon, Washington United States
$76,677 raised of $130,000 goal
 
1,163 donations
$53,323 to go
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