As a child, I remember playing a game called "telephone." One person would whisper a word, and each subsequent person would whisper that word to the next person until the final person said the word aloud. Without fail, the final word said aloud would be completely different than what we started with and laughter would ensue. The basic lesson of the game? Go straight to the source! No one can represent your truth like you yourself!
This is at the core of Days for Girls - let girls speak their own truth. So, when our team arrived at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda this past July, they did not take pause at the comments of a local government offical: "But why didn't you bring disposable pads? Those are the best ones!". No, the team did not stop there. They continued on to meet the Program Coordinators, the teachers at 5 schools, and the girls themselves. What they found were girls who weren't afraid to state their needs loud and clear, who welcomed the DfG washable Kits because they recognized the money saved, the trash reduced, and the pride of owning a unique and beautifully made pad.
In partnership with a Texas Chapter of Days for Girls, and the LDS Church, the DfG Uganda team distributed 2,110 DfG Kits to girls and women in the refugee settlement. Throughout the health education sessions that accompanied the distribution, they got to know the girls, engaged in lively question & answer sessions, and even posed for some celebratory photos after the training. While advocates at organization and goverment levels are so important for connecting girls to resources, at the end of the day there is nothing that replaces a girl's ability to speak for herself. And we look forward to continuing to listen, learn from, and love the girls we serve. Stay tuned for more distributions, evaluations, and enterprise projects at refugee settlements throughout East Africa and beyond!
Experts tell us it's important to get out up out of our office chairs once and move - a stretch, a shake, get the blood flowing! At Days for Girls, we take this advice a step farther. Recently our team got up from our spreadsheets and reports and went all the way to Kyaka Refugee Settlement in western Uganda to join 1,400 teenage girls in a very lively round of dancing. Why were they dancing? To celebrate the distribution of DfG Kits and Ambassador of Women's Health training that the Ugandan team had come to deliver!
This specific community had been identified by our Enterprise Partner in Kyaka, Angel's Care, due to the high rate of teenage pregnancy and school drop outs. Refugees face heightened vulnerabilities due to varied factors. In Uganda - which has proven to be a friendly country to refugees from throughout the region - settlements are often started within rural communities. While this integration is positive for so many levels, it can also place additional burdens on local structure to support an influx in population. This, combined with the fact that many refugees have been separated from family and social networks, leaves young women and girls in particular at an increased risk of teenage pregnancy and school drop outs.
The girls – who included refugees from South Sudan, Burundi, and DRC, as well as local Ugandan girls – were thrilled to receive the colorful DfG Kits, as evidenced by the dancing, cheering, and larger than life smiles. Though perhaps even more encouraging for our team was the appetite for information during our Ambassador of Women’s Health training. Many of the girls had not received much of the basic information – such as stages of the menstrual cycle – during their formal schooling. The questions continued up until the very last moment. Empowering girls with knowledge, shattering stigmas, and providing sustainable and locally appropriate menstrual health solutions are inseparable activities for DfG. At the end of the days, we want girls to be the experts in their own lives – and your support is making that possible!
Next up? Days for Girls will be celebrating World Refugee Day (June 20th) with young women and girls from Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement. We can’t wait to tell you all about it!
We may not be painting The Last Supper here at Days for Girls, but as it turns out, the breadth of skills and knowledge required is vast! With Market Activations scheduled for March, evaluation surveys in progress, and major cargo shipments incoming, our team has had the opportunity to tap into a wide array of skills, resource networks, and research to bring it all together. Here's just a little sample of the artist's palette over in the Uganda Days for Girls Office:
Puzzling supply chain because she deserve the BEST!
An integral part of the fabric that makes Days for Girls is, well, fabric! The DfG Kit uses both our patented design and high quality fabric to create a washable pad that is not only safe, reliable, comfortable, and lasting, but also something that any girl or woman can be proud to own. It is with this in mind that we trekked high and low searching for materials that are that magical balance of top-notch and affordable. And guess what... We found them! With supply partners in Kenya, the US, and China, we have created a completely custom-patterend DfG Kit fabric to be used for all our Office and gold standard Enterprises! The team also made major headway in navigating Uganda's tax exemption for menstrual care imports, meaning less money towards overhead and more money to make Kits for girls! As the Uganda team heads into Kyaka II refugee settlement next month, there will be an extra sparkle in those smiles knowing the new fabric has finally made it "home."
The give and take of learning
The East Africa Office is thrilled to host two young women as interns this year. Juliet, a recent University graduate, and Whitney, a Mandela Washington YALI fellow, have joined our team to support programming, marketing, and refugee project planning. While we are teaching them the systems, thought processes, and so much more that goes into DfG, we recognize the incredible value they bring as young Ugandan leaders to our work.
Measuring the fruits of our labor
The DfG Enterprise Trainings are intensive, fun, and pretty unforgettable for all those involved. But, what happens after? That's what our team has been investigating with follow-up surveys and visits to our Enterprise partners. With a high percentage of refugee and internally displaced people in Uganda and DRC, respectively, it's no surprise to see many of our Enterprises joining hands to lift girls & women who find themselves starting new lives away from conflict. Tuzo Blodie from Butembo, DRC has already made and distributed over 1,000 DfG Kits to internally displaced women & girls, while Berna Hillary from Kitgum, Uganda, has conducted numerous trainings & distributions in Adjumani Refugee settlement. While we are determined to capture the impact of these actions in our evaluation surveys, it might require some actual artistry to portray the beauty of it all!
Two for the price of one. Buy one, get one free. Two birds with one stone. No matter how you phrase it, there is something so satisfying about accomplishing multiple goals at once. That's why Days for Girls was so excited when the Uganda team came up with an innovative win-win strategy for supporting refugee girls to gain access to DfG Kits & Health Education, while also supporting DfG Micro-Enterprises to get out and practice their marketing and awareness raising skills. The Uganda Team is embarking on a series of "Market Activations".
Market Activations will pair a Micro-Enterprise member with a DfG Trainer to go out into the market and engage girls and women in conversations around menstruation, and providing sample DfG Pods. A DfG Pod is 1 Shield and 2 Liners - the basic components that make up the "pad." Girls & women will agree to be contacted for follow up visits where they can report on how the DfG Pod is working for them, and whether they would be interested in buying more or recommending to their friends.
The Team has already begun testing and refining this model in a series of "Market Days", where they have collected valuable feedback and data from the people approached. On average, each team member was able to talk to 7 people per hour, with a sales rate of 1 DfG Pod sold per 14 people talked to. Further, 70% of those approached indicated that they would like to buy a DfG Pod, but did not have the money immediately available. Upon return visits, many of these customers did follow through with their plans to purchase the DfG Pod - showing that awareness raising is a critical first step in convincing people about the product value.
With the lessons fresh in our minds, the Market Activations will officially kick off in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement, where the Angel's Care Micro-Enterprise is operating. This structure is beneficial not only because it will empower the Micro-Enterprise with lasting skills for community engagement, but it will also meet the girls & women where they are and allow them time to talk one-on-one about their more pressing women's health questions. As always, these Market Activations will also provide ample opportunity for learning, so that the DfG Team can continue improving the program, new activities, and engagement strategies and to share these lessons around the world.
Stay tuned for stories from our Market Activations!
"It wasn't always easy, but it was an incredible period of growth and joy". Bekah reflects back on her year developing monitoring & evaluation tools with the Days for Girls team in the Uganda office. Although few things sound as dry and boring as "data" or "monitoring", this is in many ways the crux of menstrual hygiene work around the globe. Why? Because there are so many testimonies and anecdotes to show the incredible impact that menstrual hygiene resoures, or lack thereof, can have on a girl or woman's life, and yet little adequate data to support this in the eyes of major stakeholders such as governments, donor organizations, and other major decision makers. In particular, the challenges that refugee women face in particular are even less studied, and perhaps even more pressing.
As you have read in our previous reports, we've had two tremendous opportunities to support refugee women with menstrual hygiene resources - through the development of a Micro-Enterprise in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement in western Uganda, and through a large scale distribution of DfG Kits in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, also in western Uganda. Interacting with the women and men who made these projects possible has been life changing for the entire team, and it has taken us to an exciting new point in our project: evaluation. While we are ready to drive full speed ahead towards more impact and more girls reached, we also value the importance of taking stock of where we are, what has been achieved, and where we can improve.
Through the efforts that Bekah lead over this past year, we now have a set of unique monitoring & evaluation tools that are giving us important data about the program results. For instance, because of these tools, we know that Angels Care Micro-Enterprise, in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement, has already sold 45 DfG Kits since the last reporting period - and plans to increase this number substantially following our Micro-Enterprise Support Workshop. With these tools, we also have the ability to travel back to Kyangwali in a few months to measure how many girls are still using their DfG Kits and what the impact has been. These basic statistics can paint a powerful picture of what is happening - and what still needs to be done, both by DfG and the larger menstrual hygiene management community. Now, that is something to celebrate!
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