Saturday, October 19, 2019

1 How Days for Girls Started

Days for Girls began in 2008 when Founder and CEO Celeste Mergens was working with a family foundation in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya where she began assisting an orphanage. In the middle of the night, she woke up with a nagging question: “What are girls doing for feminine hygiene?” 

The answer?  “Nothing. They wait in their rooms.”

Celeste learned that girls were sitting on cardboard for several days each month.  This set in motion her first intervention - disposable pads. But Celeste and her team quickly discovered a major problem - without any place to dispose of the pads, this was neither a viable nor a sustainable solution. It was time for Plan B: a washable, long-lasting pad.

The first Days for Girls Kits were quite different from the design in use today. Each of the 28 iterations that followed would be informed by extensive feedback and designed to meet unique cultural and environmental conditions in communities throughout the world. What would eventually become clear in the years following Days for Girls’ beginning was just how much of a difference hygiene solutions would make in assisting women and girls to break the cycle of poverty and live lives of dignity.

Today, Days for Girls has reached more than one million women and girls in 125+ countries with DfG Kits and menstrual health education. This translates into over 115 million days of dignity, health, and opportunity!

Friday, October 18, 2019

2 How we got involved

Alison and Benta attended a Christian Conference for women (Colour Sisterhood) and came away inspired to do something for women in our community and helping women who needed help in other communities.

We prayed about what form our plan should take and then we heard about Days for Girls and knew this was what we wanted to do.

As women, we knew the nuisance and potential embarrassment of a period starting when we were unprepared - but that an inability to be prepared led to the girls missing about 25% of their education was something we had never considered - we wanted to do something that would make a difference.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

3 What we provide

From 2008 to 2019 kits has been sent to over one and a half million girls in 145 countries.

That's an astonishing need!

Our intellect tells us that this is a major problem.  But psychic numbing comes into force - to miss-quote Josef Stalin " a million girls needing D4G kits is a statistic, 1 girl needing one is a tragedy"

Each kit makes a difference to one girl, and therefor to her family and to her village

Each girl gets:

(see below for more info about each item, and the Days For Girls website here)
  • a drawstring bag
  • two pairs of knickers
  • a small bar of soap
  • a flannel
  • two shields
  • eight liners
  • a transport bag to bring soiled items home for washing
  • a record card
We only use new fabrics, and we use dark but pretty 100% cotton.  The items are designed to last for 3 years but we know of some that have lasted for 5 years.  There are very strict quality requirements to ensure the kits last as long as possible, and there are certain fabrics we cannot use as we have to be sensitive to cultural concerns.

At Wraysbury Stitch people often bring us fabric they want to donate, but this is frequently second hand or inappropriate for other reasons.  We don't want to refuse people's kind offers so we use them to make Boomerang bags which we sell to help us pay for the fabric and other components of the kit.

The kits cost about £8.70 to make - some of this goes on knickers and flannels and soaps, and some on fabric and ribbons.  We also need to send the kits to the areas that need them: this means either paying postage or paying for extra luggage if someone is going to an area where they are needed.  A medium size suitcase can take about 50 kits.

What each component is for:

The drawstring bag  - can be used all year as a book bag or for carrying other items

The two pairs of knickers - full pants.  Some girls don't own any until they get their kit

The small bar of soap - for personal hygiene and for washing their kit

The flannel - for personal hygiene.  Cheap flannels are better as the luxurious ones take a lot of hand washing to get the soap out

The two shields - these are + shaped and popper under the knickers.  There is a pocket front and back.  They are lined with a product called PUL which prevents moisture seeping through

The eight liners - these are made from two layers of brushed cotton which absorbs the waste.  They tuck into the shield pockets and girls can use one, two or even three if required.

The transport bag to bring soiled items home for washing - these were, until recently, zip lock plastic bags but some third world countries (where most kits are distributed) have banned plastic bags with a £400 fine or a month in prison.  The charity is trialing different designs of PUL transport sacks

The record card - this shows the girls how to record the first date of their period each month and how to be able to predict it each month.  Pictorial instructions for how to use the kit is on the back

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

4 What else the girls get

The kits are not just handed over to a school nurse or a teacher.

They are distributed by someone who has done the the charity's Ambassador For Women's Health training.

The training teaches the distributor how to show the girls how to use the kits but also covers hygiene, information about sex and conception, pregnancy, self defense, and other relevant subjects.  All this is delivered to promote menstrual health management awareness and education - with an awareness of the need of understanding the sensitivity needed, taking great care to honour the wisdom of the girls and their environment and culture


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

5 What we do

Our Stitch ladies (and occasional gent) meet on the last Saturday of the month at St Andrew's Annex in Wraysbury

We draw around templates, cut fabric, press fabric, sew components, pack kits (there is a great way to fold knickers so they stay rolled up!) drink coffee and chat!

Some of our volunteers represent a family: a few siblings attend with their mums, three generations of another family regularly attend too.   Some of our volunteers come to learn a new skill, or to get out on a Saturday morning, quite a number have no interest in sewing at all, but are great at ironing or keeping the coffee mugs topped up

We often have visitors and we are always happy to talk about what we do and why we do it

Monday, October 14, 2019

6 Problems choosing who we should help

A friend of ours, Briege, is a New Zealand midwife: she stopped off with me for a week on route to do a month's volunteering at a maternity hospital in the Kisumu area near Nairobi.  This was organised through the Positive Aid Charity.

I showed Briege the kits and she could immediately see the advantage for new mums too - we didn't have long, but we managed to get about 20 kits together and get her through the training (see 4) before she went.

One of the hardest things for her to do was to distribute the kits: she had 20 kits and saw that many ladies every day - and they all wanted one!

She sent me this heartbreaking message:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

7 What else is being done

The Days For Girls charity isn't just helping girls by distributing kits and delivering training!  They have set up Local Enterprises

Here local women are given the equipment and the resources and the training to make kits - and these kits are then sold.  Not to local ladies but to people like you and me.  We buy the kits and this gives the makers a small income: they then deliver the kits to local schools or hospitals to help local girls and ladies who need the kits

Saturday, October 12, 2019

8 What else are we doing?

We have been gifted lots of fabric - unfortunately much of it is fabric that we can't use for the kits: usually because it is second hand.

So we make Boomerang Bags.  These are great for beginners to work on as there are no strict quality regulations.  We sell them at village churches and fairs and other events - people make a donation and have been very generous: this helps us fund the next purchase of approved fabric to make the next lot of kits!

Friday, October 11, 2019

9 What can you do?

What can you do?

You can

  • Join us at St Andrew's church Wraysbury 10-12 (generally*) on the last Saturday of the month
  • Donate new fabric: (funky, colourful, pretty cotton fabric for bags, or pretty dark / medium fabric for liners, 
  •  If you are planning a USA trip can you get us dark / medium flannel (brushed cotton) from WalMart)
  • Book us to come and talk to your your workplace, club or church (We are happy to come and talk to groups (such as the WI) or for Corporate Team Days (and can supply references): We just ask for a donation towards fabric and other components of the kits.)
  •  Buy some Boomerang bags 
  • Take some boomerang bags to your workplace, club or church and sell them
  • Donate knickers (dark, small sizes and full shape please)
  • Donate flannels (dark and cheap)
  • Donate hotel soaps
 or of course donate money - it can be used here to buy components for the kits or can be used to buy kits from the local certified enterprise operating in Kisumu so that straight away helps twice as many people.  You can donate by cash, by cheque to St Michael's (Horton) PCC or by PayPal to

(*Sometimes the church needs the annex for a church event.  We can add you to our mailing list or you can check our Facebook Page - look for "Stitch" and this logo )

Thursday, October 10, 2019

10 What next?

In planning ...

We have been donated some Heavy Flow Days For Girls Shields, and are making liners to fit them to make kits for the Positive Aid hospital (see page 6).  The Charity have offered to help with transport logistics and costs ... we just need to get the kits ready!

We recently met a charity that supports children near Nariobi to attend school.  The charity astonishingly enough, works in Kisumu! asks people to sponsor a child by buying their school uniform - without uniform they cannot attend school, so the charity works to replace the uniform every year.  The  school they support is for children up to the age of 14.  I had a long chat with Suzanne from the charity and they go to Kisumu every year!  She was very interested in our kits (I always carry a 'pod' of a shield and a liner to show people!) and they are happy to take our kits out - some for their school girls and some for the Kisumu hospital in the Uranaga Rural Development Initiative (URDI)

We have emailed them to find out  when they are next going, and how many kits they want for the school.

We have also been working with a volunteer who works in Greece with Syrian refugees.  We had hoped to be able to supply them with sewing machines (hand crank) and the resources so they could make their own.  Sadly water is so scarce that a washable product isn't going to be any help.  They are finding out if the sewing machines would help, if not we will find another charity that can make use of the old Singers etc that we have collected