The denial of education is a well-documented issue, particularly for women in developing countries. But sometimes a practical solution that many of us take for granted can be the difference between attending and missing school.
Sisters Wendy Flahive and Gill Trudinger learnt about a program they believed they could support.
A world-wide grassroots organisation, Days for Girls International, aims to create a more dignified, free and educated world through access to lasting feminine hygiene solutions. The organisation highlights that not having sanitary supplies can mean days without school, isolation and the need to use leaves, mattress stuffing, newspaper, corn husks or rocks as substitutes. With access to a kit for three years a girl will gain back 180 days of school, a woman will go 36 months without interruption to work and women and girls regain their dignity. The issue is seen as an instrumental key to social change for women all over the world.
“When I first heard of this relatively simple aim, I decided it was an important way the East Gippsland community could contribute to the education and support of women,” Wendy said.
“Some of our members are great at sewing, particularly in the church, and this was a meaningful way to combine fellowship, talent and support for young girls and women overseas.”
East Gippsland Days for Girls registered in February 2015 and was organised by advertising for members in church newsletters and through word-of-mouth. Now, the small band of women and supportive men, meet at the church building once a week for two hours to sew sanitary hygiene kits for girls and women in developing countries.
The kits are standardised and need to last up to three years. They must be hygienic, reusable and environmentally friendly. Each kit is new material with special lining made of breathable waterproof polyurethane laminate that can only be accessed online. The East Gippsland women work in various roles, with some sewing the shields and the liners and others threading bags and packing the kits.
“We are constantly running out of money due to the cost of the new materials and having to buy an overlocker and a sewing machine,” explained Wendy.
“The cost of material alone is about $12 for each kit but sometimes women donate material they have not used at home or we get new flannelette from the op shops.”
East Gippsland Days for Girls is supported by the Bairnsdale and Johnsonville Uniting Churches in East Gippsland. Many women sew in their own homes and many aren’t church goers, but their dedication to helping girls stay at school during their periods in developing countries is a driving force.
Wendy Flahive said everyone in the group has found the experience rewarding.
“It is our contribution to the empowerment of women and girls so they are not ashamed of a natural body function,” she said.
“Women across the world are able to support one another with health and hygiene education in a positive way.”
Image from Days for Girls Australia Facebook.