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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
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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We have a quick first report to share with our supporters... Days for Girls Lebanon has partnered with a local NGO in Beirut to get 250 kits to women and girls in the Shatila Refugee Camp. They have agreed to schedule sessions for us to present DfG Kits to small groups, giving us the opportunity to connect with the women and give a more thorough, detailed session regarding menstruation and the care and use of DfG kits.

There is also an exisitng sewing cooperative in place that we will be presenting to in the hopes of forming a partnership where we will supply their volunteers with the necessary fabrics and equipment to create Days for Girls kits in Beirut! This would greatly extend our reach, and we are so happy to be on the path to fulfilling our goals for Days for Girls Lebanon.

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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
$73,205 raised of $130,000 goal
 
1,085 donations
$56,795 to go
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