Community Changemakers: Days for Girls

March 5, 2017

 

This International Women's Day the theme is “Be Bold For Change” and we are holding an event to celebrate and inspire just that. An event held by mothers and women for mothers and women. These local inspirations have taken a big breath, and decided to trust in themselves, work super hard, support others, and above all, follow their hearts!  Our morning is in support of a fabulous charity that absolutely backs the Be BOLD for Change theme. The charity has a huge team behind it, and yet seems to fly under the radar, perhaps because its cause revolves around secret women’s business. The taboo stuff, the icky stuff no one really thinks or talks about. Days for Girls is a BOLD movement that empowers women worldwide and helps close the equality gap between them and their men.  

Our morning will be a morning of high packed energy, fun, knowledge and inspiration, but we think it’s important you know a little more about why we want to support Days for Girls.

Please meet Lara Brits, our Days for Girls representative who will be sharing with us on Wednesday morning:

 

Tell us a little bit about Days for Girls, and why they are amazing.

 

Cardboard, corn husks, leaves.. How would you like to use these to manage your monthly period?  How would you like being excluded from work or school during this ‘time of shame’- losing what amounts to 6 months every 3 years?  Days for Girls works to empower women and girls in developing countries by providing them with high quality, reusable, discreet hygienic sanitary products.  This allows them to retain their dignity, stay in education and employment, and has enormous benefits to them, their families and their communities.

 

There are so many fabulous charities out there it’s almost impossible to know who to support. What helped you to make the decision to commit to this charity.

 

Days for Girls operates on many levels to effect real, sustainable and generational change within communities.  Women receiving the kits obviously benefit immediately.  The sex education that comes with kits helps dispel harmful myths and ignorance around menstruation and childbirth.  Mothers educate their girls, dispensing not only education but a positive and proactive attitude to sexuality.  Going forward, Days for Girls is establishing micro-enterprises within these communities so women and girls can make their own kits.  This brings in income and the community as a whole will reap the benefits.  

 

This years International Women's Day theme is Be Bold For Change. Can you describe for us how Days for Girls campaign empowers women worldwide to be able to step up and take bold steps in their countries and cultures?

 

Imagine if, for a week every month, you were shamed, isolated, embarrassed.  Barred from participation in community life due to an unavoidable, natural menstrual cycle.  Giving women a way to manage their period with dignity enables them to take back control of their bodies, their jobs, their education.  Research has demonstrated that empowering the women of a country has far reaching effects as skills, attitudes and income are passed onto the children and the community.

 

Making a change and plunging into the unknown can be really daunting. Terrifying even. There are a lot of cultures  that Days for Girls are helping who hold strong beliefs about women and their ‘place’. How do you get into communities and help them all to understand whilst supporting women to take courage to challenge age old traditions?  Both practically, and emotionally?

 

Days for Girls always partners with a trusted non-government organisation (NGO) who is already on the ground within the community.  This way,  community trust has already been built, and ongoing support and education can be provided long after the kits have been dispensed.  Our presentation to the girls and women is frank, simple, effective, and often downright hilarious! (Think 60 year old white women in Bridget Jones knickers, worn superman style, under a tree in the Rift Valley.... The mind boggles!) As we partner with indigenous workers to deliver this education we are also able to target relevant issues in a culturally-appropriate way.

 

What is the history behind Days for Girls?  What motivated the founder of this charity to step up and action this BOLD plan?  I imagine with cultural beliefs and challenges it could have been much easier to walk away.  How did they even begin?

 

In 2008, Celeste Mergens was working in Kibera, the biggest slum in East Africa.  A scientist, her aim was to find sustainable fuel for the stoves of a crowded orphanage, to help reduce the costs of feeding the children.

She discovered through discussions with young women that menstrual hygiene was an enormous issue. Due to lack of funds, on days when girls were menstruating they had to wait in their rooms. The girls were given a sheet of cardboard and remained on their beds until the days of their period passed. The girls could not go out and they could not attend school.

 

Celeste Mergens founded Days for Girls in 2008 to provide washable feminine hygiene kits to girls who would otherwise go without.  The concept made too much sense to be abandoned - scientifically, practically, economically, and ethically.

 

Do you believe it is possible for a busy person, working, parent, both… to be able to make enough difference that it would be worth them stepping up and volunteering to help with a charity, Days for Girls or another in some way?

 

Anne Franks once beautifully said “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”. Isn’t that true?  And isn’t it amazing!!!  My personal experience, which I’m sure many of you will agree with, is that the human soul delights in helping others.  There is nothing else that will give YOU that rejuvenation, that lifting of your eyes to a bigger picture.. Let alone the difference you will make to others!!   Days for Girls has many needs - sewers, cutters, organisers, fund raisers, networkers, computer geeks, money trackers, speakers...  In fact Days for Girls can use anyone who has a heart to help women and girls to a better life.

 

To Learn more about Days for Girls:

Web page: http://www.daysforgirls.org

Facebook: Search @DaysforGirlsAustralia to find us easily

 

Holding a fundraising event for Days for Girls is so much more than just about raising money.  We hope to help  chip off a hefty chunk of a very expensive piece of machinery that will help them to increase their productivity massively (or for wherever else they feel they need their funds). This morning is just as equally about raising awareness of the organisation, and the issue behind it.  Because it should become a global issue to everybody. Everywhere. Until it is no longer an issue.

 

What I have discovered as I have been talking to anyone and everyone about our fundraiser, and Days for Girls, is that very few people have even heard of them, or thought about it before.   This is equally how we hope to support DFG through our event. We want to raise awareness and compassion. We want every woman going home that day really thinking about, and more importantly talking about DFG, and then we hope some of you are moved to DO something to help them. Please do come down and join us. Enjoy our morning, have fun, learn, be inspired for yourself, for your community, and for Days or Girls

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