Navigating life as a refugee is uncertain at best, and there is not always an easy answer to the big questions. But when it comes to hygiene, and ensuring dignity for women – there is a simple solution. The Days for Girls Kit allows girls and women to manage their menstruation easily, month after month, providing a basic level of certainty and dignity. This past month, The Muscat, Oman Chapter of Days for Girls partnered with ANERA to distribute 200 DfG Kits in an informal refugee settlement in Akkar, Lebanon, with an additional 200 DfG Kits distributed at a women’s prison and another settlement.
“These awareness activities are much needed here, given the circumstances in which we live within the gathering,” said Doaa, one of the recipients of the DfG Kits. Partnerships such as this one between Days for Girls, ANERA, and the Global Giving community mean that it is possible to match needs with solutions, even in hard to reach areas.
This year, Days for Girls is aiming for even bigger impact by investing more in our partnerships and sustainable solutions for in-country DfG Kit production & education. Building on the growing evidence of need and demand for the DfG Kits, and working with the groups that have been trained in basic DfG Kit production, we will be investing more in our DfG Micro-Enterprises in Lebanon. Because when it comes to menstrual hygiene and women’s health education, there is an easy and certain answer!
Here in the United States, politics are not as usual. With the administration's attempt to restrict our willingness to accept others into our country, we are reminded that all of us have a history of immigration and seeking a better life elsewhere, even if it was our generations long past. The catchphrase "We are all refugees" has been born out of that idea, and we are seeing it used more and more by those of us who are actively assisting refugee populations.
This reporting period, I stand behind that phrase. We Are All Refugees. And in the spirit of that idea, our project has just completed a big undertaking- we have assisted with the shipment of over 1,500 Days for Girls Kits to Jordan!
Our friend DeeDee volunteers with Salaam Cultural Museums in Seattle, Washington and was keen to collect DfG Kit to send on their next container headed to Jordan to supply their medical missions teams. The supplies were headed to Zaatari Camp, the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world. The latest UNHCR data reports a population in the camp over 79,000. DeeDee asked DfG Chapters and Teams in the USA if they would donate DfG Kits. She asked for 300.
She received over 1,500.
Thanks to this GlobalGiving project, we were able to assist our volunteers in getting their DfG Kits to DeeDee and on to Jordan. Shipments came from all over the country, and the support was overwhelming! Salaam's medical teams will now distribute the much-needed feminine hygiene supplies. Women and girls will now have access to a washable, sustainable solution to their menstrual needs. Salaam's medical teams asked specifically for cloth pads, as the sanitation and garbage disposal situation in camps is not adequate for disposable pads. In addition to women at Zataari, the DfG Kits will be distributed by medical teams in surrounding hospitals and other camps as well.
And I'll give the incredible DeeDee the last word here:
"Your donated DfG Kits will provide a tangible and measurable improvement in the lives of many Syrian refugee girls and women. Thank you."
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:
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.
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.
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.
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