Days of opportunity

It seems to me that for some, this world has taken a step backwards.

From the bright and hopeful start of women’s work towards social equality with men, I am seeing darkness creeping back. Abuse, sexual harassment, tacit approval of rape as a ‘weapon of correction’, violence towards women offered as entertainment, workplace bullying, suppression in the name of tradition and family pride, marginalisation and dismissal of our ideas and contributions in a way that men would not be expected to tolerate.

So when I hear of an organisation dedicated to opening horizons of opportunity for girls and women, even in a personal and private way, I’m interested. And when that contribution makes an unspoken but shattering difference to millions of lives over dozens of years, I want to know more.

If you’re a man, this may make uncomfortable reading. With all possible goodwill: Toughen up, princess. This is something every woman has to deal with, for most of her life.

The organisation is called Days for Girls, and its strapline is Every Girl, Everywhere. Period. It seeks to ensure that every girl and woman has access to adequate, healthy and sustainable sanitary protection. It offers dignity, hope, freedom from stigma and the ability to keep attending school and work instead of losing days, weeks and months of their lives, stuck at home and often ostracised as ‘unclean’ because it’s their time of the month and they have nothing to help them deal with that. From early beginnings in 2008, the organisation has become international, and to date it has helped over 1,000,000 women in more than 124 countries. That’s a lot of new freedom, a lot of new opportunity.

Yesterday, I joined my local branch, and came away with ‘homework’. Many volunteers work together once a week, others take work home and bring finished items back when they are done. I have piles of fabric to assemble into one element of the kit each girl and woman receives. Each kit is estimated to take 8 woman-hours: a gift from one woman to another, one day spent to give another woman days and days of a better, richer life. The design has been refined and re-refined in the 10 years it has been in use. A lot of thought has gone into creating something that is sensitive to the widest possible variety of local ideas, traditions and taboos. Girls receive a discreet bag filled with the sanitary necessities to take them through each month and to last for years to come. Some of the kits have been in use for more than 5 years already. I am incredibly proud to be a small part of this chain of hands held out to our sisters, who receive not only these necessities, but also basic instruction on their use, plus hygiene and sex education. Co-ordinators go in person to deliver hundreds of kits and the education. Where this is not possible, the kits are passed on to the volunteers on Mercy Ships to deliver together with education, where they are making port and offering medical care.

I think a lot of men are bored with hearing about ‘women’s issues’. When you’re at the top of the food chain, you maybe don’t feel the need to pay attention to those at the margins – and make no mistake, women as a whole are still at the margins despite decades of knocking at the door and banging our heads on the glass ceiling. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still such a long way to go… So it’s down to women to help each other. I am glad to help offer freedom and dignity to young women, so that they can enjoy as much opportunity as their circumstances permit, and travel in life as far as their imaginations will take them.

I expect some umbrage to be taken about my opinions. It is human to hold differing opinions and to believe different things, based on our experiences. If you wish to express your disagreement rationally and without abuse, your comments are welcome. Trolls and anyone using abuse to make their point will be deleted.

But nothing will convince me that this concept is not a shining light of compassion, rationality and sisterhood.

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34 thoughts on “Days of opportunity

  1. Sarah Doty says:

    Thanks for this post. I found there is a chapter near me and have contacted them by email. Hopefully will hear from them next week. Thank you so much for sharing this. I also donated some money.

  2. What a stunning idea – there is a tampon you can buy that distributes tampons for refugees – I cant remember the name – but what you are doing is even better – good for you!!

    • katechiconi says:

      That’s also a good idea for maximum discretion, but there’s a disposal problem and lots of cultures do not like the use of tampons. The pads in this system unfold and when washed and hung on the line look just like face washers, which is more private for the girls. It’s all cotton, all soft, and cheerful and colourful rather than medical-looking.

  3. magpiesue says:

    I’ve heard about this effort – vaguely, somewhere. I applaud you for getting on board and sharing the info with your readers.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s such a simple but necessary helping hand, and I love that no rubbish is generated. As you can see, posting about it has already produced a result, and I’ve had a good rootle through my stash to identify fabrics that would be suitable. Our best LQS donates fabric, staff time and fundraising, which is where I first saw something about it. I love the simplicity of it: 1 day of my work = nearly a week of time each year for 5 years for one of those girls. That’s real, practical help.

  4. Steph (@resting_whippet) says:

    Awesome! I’m going to look for a group local to me.

    • katechiconi says:

      Yay! There are chapters all over the place, and if there’s nothing close enough you can either be an independent solo sewist, or you could start your own if you’re willing to take that on…

  5. nettyg says:

    Good on you for writing about this Kate, and spreading the word to those that may not have heard about the program. I belong to my local group and the Gold Coast one, so enjoy 2 days/month of sewing, sisterhood and solidarity. The group I went to India with last year made this our project and took a few dozen ready made kits, but with the help of a couple of women who are leaders in their communities in Jaipur and Jodphur, we did workshops as well for local women. A sewing machine shop in Newcastle donated 3 sewing machines and 3 overlockers for us to take, and we all took fabric and pul. You would be doubly proud and pleased if you could see those women’s faces when we firstly handed out the kits, but then showed them how to make the pads. It was interesting, the young girls were pleased to be given a kit, but probably due to their age and some embarrassment, they contained their enthusiasm, but it was the older women who were so excited and couldn’t wait to get started. We hear about the benefits to girls and young women, but older women, new mums…they all need support to deal with their period hygienically and with dignity. The couple of women we spoke to in order to get the word out brought 20+ women the first night, who came from surrounding villages up to 30km out from Jaipur. They walked, hitched, got their husbands to bring them on their bikes, caught buses and trains…..we were overwhelmed. We had 2 workshops in each city, and both nights were the same. Some of those women then went on to teach others.
    Sorry to hijack your blog, but it’s something I’m so passionate about, and sometimes hearing first hand how wonderful the Days for Girls Program is and what a difference it makes to women’s lives can make it more real for people.
    Spread the word, Sister 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      Welcome Nanette, you’re not hijacking my blog, you’re amplifying it! It’s good to hear stories from another donation location; I’ve heard a lot about PNG and the Solomon Islands and what a difference it’s made there, and thanks to you, people can read about what an impact the work has in India.
      I won’t always be able to make my local sewing sessions because of the Husband’s shifts, but I’ve arranged to bring batches home so I can whizz though a batch as time allows and then drop them off at a collection point.

  6. tialys says:

    I think I briefly saw something about this organisation on the T.V. fairly recently. Nothing doing in France apparently – according to the map – but there is a team where my daughter lives in the U.K. so I might see if I can offer some help as a ‘solo sewist’ and, yet again, entertain the security staff at the airport as I use Mr. Tialys as my weekly ‘mule’ to transport various goods and chattels between France and the U.K. He’ll have fun explaining I’m sure.

    • katechiconi says:

      I sometimes feel a little sorry for M. Tialys… and then I remember how lucky he is to be a member of the Tialys household and all its works! 🙂 I’m sure that if you made contact with the group near your daughter, they’d provide you with the patterns, specifications and details if you want to sew, otherwise, I’m sure they’d be delighted to receive fabric contributions of the right sort.

  7. craftycreeky says:

    I made some over the summer with my WI craft club, one of our members volunteers at an orphanage in Malawi so she took them over.

    • katechiconi says:

      Yes, the hand carrying and presenting and explaining is one of the things I really like about the scheme, so much friendlier and more personal. Our team leader was telling me how she demonstrates and explains, making it funny so that it’ll stick in their memories.

  8. nanacathy2 says:

    Such a good thing, and I think I saw something on TV too, but my thoughts went off a complete tangent. As a teenager I had horrid period pains which could send me to bed with a hot water bottle, and a day off school. The only thing that could touch the pain was codeine which you now can’t buy over the counter, at least in the UK. I worry that many girls loose school days because of pain and wondered what could be done about that.
    Thanks for bringing me back from the tangent, because for sure girls need sanitary towels. My Mum speaks of having rags when she was a girl and them being washed and the embarrassment of seeing them on the washing line.
    Thanks goodness that I had access to sanitary towels.
    A super post Kate, some good comments, thanks.

    • katechiconi says:

      We certainly enjoy a lot more convenience these days, but at the cost of poor environmental impact. I’m really happy to help make something that’s reusable and cheerful and doesn’t make them cringe.

  9. KerryCan says:

    I think this concept must be trending right now–I know my quilt guild, which is big into charitable outreach, is making Sani-Panties right now, too. Such a good cause to get behind!

  10. I wonder if the world will ever go balanced where women are in their right place as equal. I see women voting for the very people that intend to abuse and oppress them. Shaking my head here. I love learning about this and think it’s a wonderful idea. I have opened a page to check out if there are local chapters here. I’m sure there must be somewhere. Thank you for opening the conversation.

  11. What an excellent endeavour, and I love the name, across the board. So much better than the old euphemisms. Not an original thought… it has been pointed out a time or two… if men had periods things would be so very different!

    • katechiconi says:

      I think if men had periods, they’d have awarded themselves a week off a month a very long time ago! So much better to carry on as if it’s an ordinary part of life (which it is, of course) than suffer unnecessary pain and embarrassment inflicted by other people’s bad attitude.

  12. […] wrote about a project she has become involved with here called Days for girls, highlighting the problems girls have attending school when they have no […]

  13. Joanne S says:

    What a simple, yet compassionate idea for women. I looked it up and yep, there’s team in my area. Your posts are always inspiring. Thank you!

    • katechiconi says:

      I just found your lovely comment in the Spam department, so have rescued it. I’m so glad you’re interested in joining in. I find it a very satisfying way to offer direct, practical help.

  14. This is an amazing organization! I had never heard of it. Thank you so much, Kate, for posting this.

  15. Amazing idea. I’ll be checking to see if I can be a solo sewist for them.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ve delivered my first batch of pieces to them; they gave me the most complicated piece to do because I’m an experienced sewist, but in all honesty it’s not difficult, just multi-stage and you need to adhere to a particular pattern and layout for quality purposes.

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