One of the things Sewing Buddies have done over the years of which I am most proud is sewing for charity. There are some really amazing organizations around the world and right here in the US that do incredible work and make a lasting impact in people’s lives through simple sewing projects. I recently learned of a new one that moved me far more deeply than I would have expected, and that I hope you’ll consider following and promoting, even if you never sew a stitch for them.
This is Days for Girls. They are an organization whose mission is to provide education, employment and dignity to girls all over the world in one simple way: allowing them to have a private period.
In the developed world, we take for granted that we have privacy and a lack of social stigma surrounding our monthly cycle. We make funny commercials about our periods, we joke about surfing the crimson wave, we can purchase an alarming array of safe, hygienic products to use whenever and however we choose. Most importantly–and most invisibly–in the past 70+ years, we have largely lived our lives with no disruption as a result of our periods. We go to school, to work, we participate in athletic events, we shop, we swim–in short, we behave in the same way each day whether we have a period or not.
In other countries, that isn’t the case. There is still a tremendous stigma associated with menstruation, which forces girls and women to remain home and miss work & school during their cycles. The have limited access–sometimes NO access–to hygienic feminine protection, and nearly no access to disposable options. Some girls are using corn husks and grass, anything that’s available, with resulting infections and illness from the lack of hygiene.
But there are people who want to help change that.
Days for Girls endeavors to change girls’ lives. By sewing kits for girls to use during their periods that allow them to safely, hygienically, privately care for themselves, they can continue their educations, they can work to earn a wage, and they can alter their entire family tree. This is a simple, elegant solution to a real issue that affects girls on the ground every day, around the world. When I first learned of their work through friends on Instagram, I cried. In line at a burger stand, I actually cried at the idea that these girls lack something we take so completely for granted, and that can so easily be remedied.
I was talking to some girlfriends earlier this week about our periods, actually. Because, you know, chicks do that. And when I said something about re-useable pads, one of them made a face and said, “Ew. Wait, how is that even possible?” After my five years of college with neo-hippies in Florida in the 90s, I was actually a little taken aback: are there women who don’t know about re-usable pads?? Yes, there are–and they were the norm in the centuries before disposables were around. You know how cloth diapering has been coming back/all the rage the past few years? Cloth pads are kinda like that, but even here in the First World, we don’t talk about our periods enough to make it really common knowledge.
Women still use them (you can order them from companies like The Period Store and GladRags or you can get them from sellers on Etsy), and for girls in other countries where water is scarce and hygiene can be a challenge, external protection is vastly preferable to internal protection–and reusable pads are the best choice for those who have limited waste options and few financial resources to maintain a supply of disposables.
Days for Girls distributes kits to girls around the globe containing re-usable pads, liners, underpants, washcloths, soap and even baggies (which can be used with a minute amount of water to launder the pad liners between wearings). They also offer education to help girls learn to use the kits and launder them hygienically with minimal stigma. The kits are all sewn by volunteers who participate in local groups around the globe, and then distributed by Days for Girls in locations where they are most needed, numbering more than 75 countries on six continents.
I am surprised by how moved I am to learn of this organization, or how passionately I was taken with the desire to embrace their mission. I’ve done my share of charitable sewing over the years, and have always found it rewarding–from Project Linus to Dress A Girl Around the World, from Sew Much Comfort for wounded vets to my circle of do.Good Stitches (the Trust Circle) who donated to local foster children. All of these are amazing groups and so rewarding to work with and donate to. Something about Days for Girls, though, strikes a chord even beyond these other amazing and deserving charities–maybe because I consider having a period such an intimate, personal, undeniable part of being a woman, and am crushed at the thought that for many girls, it is a source not just of culturally-institutionalized shaming and exploitation, but truly a loss of opportunity and hope. Sewing these kits is a simple act that is a basic effort toward human rights for women everywhere. Period.
You can learn more about Day for Girls and their mission here. You can locate a local chapter to join in sewing kits for girls here, or start your own if there isn’t a group local to you! You can also learn more about making kits individually or independently, and download the specs for the kits here (I found this page very useful for explaining the extensive research involved in the planning and structure of the kits, and found many answers to questions I had about how the practical side of this project works). If you’re a Sewing Buddy, I even more strongly encourage you to explore this–or any other!–deserving charity for whom you can sew. What better way to get to know a new friend who sews than to commit together to do something for the good of others.
(As a related aside, and now that it’s just us girls, did you know that May 28 is International Menstrual Hygiene Day? Learn more about it here.)