Days For Girls Update

12 Feb

2015jillbirdie6-003

A little over a year ago I posted here about the non-profit grassroots project called Days For Girls.  I had just started up Italy’s first (and only) team and was really excited and full of ideas of how I could build up a community of women who would be willing to help me help girls around the world manage their monthly menstrual cycles with ease and dignity.

I’ll be honest, at the beginning it felt slightly awkward talking so openly about periods, pads and menstrual flow with complete strangers.  But I’m happy to say that I am now 100% comfortable talking about every detail of women’s reproductive systems with everyone from the local baker to my car mechanic.

For those of you who have never heard of Days For Girls I’ll quickly re-cap what the project is all about.

Days For Girls was started by Celeste Mergens in 2008 after working in a Kenyan orphanage and noticing that a lot of the girls weren’t educated about their menstrual cycles nor equipped to deal with it.

Soon thereafter Celeste started up Days For Girls which is an incredible and supportive network of volunteers around the world who make and put together re-usable menstruation kits that are then delivered to girls in need in over 60 countries around the world (over 60,000 kits have already been delivered).

These kits last for approximately three years and have literally changed the lives of girls and women who before had to miss school or work due to their periods.  This in turn has helped lower school drop-out rates in many areas as well as less loss income for days missed at work.  So much good!

This project has come to mean so much to me over the last year.  I’ve introduced Days For Girls at many local clubs and events and have always had so much enthusiasm from everyone I’ve met.  Even the sweet and hilarious 85 year old man who kept insisting that they would make perfect pencil holders before realising their real use.

One of the most common reactions I see from people as I explain the project is the feeling of shock when they realise that they had never actually thought about this problem before.  We think of helping people with food, water, clothing and shelter but rarely does it come to mind to help girls deal with monthly menstruation and educate them about women’s health and the female reproductive system.2014daysforgirls2 To hear more about our Indian kit delivery and see photos click to read on…

After a year of sewing mornings with my friends, workshops with local women’s groups and the help of sewing groups in Belgium and Norway I had enough kits to make my first delivery.

From the very beginning I knew I wanted to make a kit delivery to India.  I had read many articles regarding the serious problems girls face in regards to menstruating as well as the taboos surrounding menstruation in Indian culture. It’s not rare in India that girls are taught that menstruating is impure and dirty.  Some are not allowed to enter kitchens, temples or even socialise during “that time of the month”.  Girls are left feeling isolated and confused about a natural part of being women.  Interesting articles regarding this problem in India are found here, here, here and here.

Last spring I contacted a friend in India who helped find The Delhi Council for Child Welfare which runs 17 centres in and around Delhi.  The DCCW provides programs and services to under-privileged families in the areas of medical services, vocational training and rehabilitation of physically and mentally challenged children .  These services reach over 2500 children daily (mostly girls).

From the very beginning the DCCW was very enthusiastic about receiving the kits and a date was made immediately for the delivery. My husband, three children and I all went to India and made the kit delivery as a family.  It was the highlight of our trip to India. 2014indiadaysforgirls1

Our visit to the centre was on December 22nd.  Delhi was experiencing the coldest weather in decades and it was 2 degrees outside (and inside due to the fact there are no heating systems in India).  It was freezing cold!  Luckily the centre helps keep all the kids warm with donated wool sweaters, hats and scarves.

2014indiadaysforgirls5The girls who received the kits are all attending the centre’s vocational training programs.  The programs that are offered range from Cutting and Tailoring, Embroidery, Painting and Beauty Culture.

2014indiadaysforgirls7 2014indiadaysforgirls6The director of DCCW Dr. Sandhya Bhalla and I presenting and demonstrating the Days for Girls kits.  On top of discussing the kits Dr. Bhalla had an open and very informative discussion with the girls about the female reproductive system.  I was so impressed at how candidly and comfortably Dr. Bhalla spoke with the girls about the nitty-gritty details of menstruating, how the female body works and even the importance of safe sex.

My three kids helped hand out all of the kits and my 10 year old son was definitely the star.  The girls loved him! I’m so grateful that he got to be involved and learn how important it is to support women’s causes such as this. I’m pretty sure he’s one of the most informed 10 year old boys when it comes to menstruation (check out his enthusiastic expression in the photo below!).2014indiadaysforgirls8Passing along the patterns and instructions for making the kit components.  I have already heard back that the centre has started producing the kits themselves. 2014daysforgirls2As you can see here the girls were very happy with their kits.  After this photo was taken some of them did a traditional Indian dance for us and even pulled my daughter and I up to join in (I was terrible!).

Many thanks to Dr. Bhalla, Kanchan, Minakshi and Sanjay for helping organise our visit to the DCCW. Also many thanks to the Norwegian and Belgian sewing groups as well as all my local friends who help me out so much.

Now to get busy sewing and start organising our next delivery!

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26 Responses to “Days For Girls Update”

  1. jandi February 12, 2015 at 18:29 #

    Such briliant work! x

    • Jillian In Italy February 19, 2015 at 12:14 #

      It’s such a great project that is really making a difference for girls in the world today.

  2. Roslyn Amiss February 15, 2015 at 00:04 #

    Congratulations – our small team of Days for Girls here in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia had our first packing day yesterday and packed 188 kits ready for delivery when I return to Nepal in May – our goal is 500 kits to be transported and distributed in country. I felt very excited reading your blog and only wish that all the wonderful ladies that packed with me yesterday could experience the distribution process in country as well. Well done.

    • Jillian In Italy February 18, 2015 at 23:05 #

      That’s fantastic Roslyn! 500 kits is quite a goal. I can’t wait to hear how the delivery goes in Nepal. Please keep in touch.

  3. grammao February 17, 2015 at 00:40 #

    very important work – for the young women, for you and for your children. Learning to understand and share in the lives of others.

    • Jillian In Italy February 19, 2015 at 12:15 #

      I was actually contacted by the Days For Girls team in Bridgewater, NS if you’re interested in getting more involved…although remember any flannel you buy comes to Italy 😉

  4. Michelle McInerney February 18, 2015 at 16:24 #

    So so inspiring Jillian. What an incredible thing you and your family are doing xx This is a subject close to my heart through my work with Maassi girls in Northern Kenya and I am excited to know more.

    • Jillian In Italy February 19, 2015 at 12:06 #

      Yes! Let’s keep in touch over the coming months to see if we can plan something together. In the meantime you could also contact Christine Robson or Jane Williamson from the UK chapter (uk@daysforgirls.org) to see what kind of distribution they are working on. xo

  5. Megashree Vijay February 19, 2015 at 00:06 #

    Hi Jillian, you are doing a great work. I would like to be a part of your mission. Is there any way I can contribute ?

    • Jillian In Italy February 19, 2015 at 12:08 #

      Yes, lots of ways! Where do you live? You can always get in touch with a local chapter to help with sewing or donating kit items. Or you can contribute directly on the Days For Girls site (and you can even specify which chapter or team you would like to receive the funds). Contact me at jillianinitaly@hotmail.com for any questions please!

  6. Janis February 19, 2015 at 02:52 #

    What a wonderful program- I have a craft room full of fabric – would love to make bags! Or help in any way! I am in New York

    • Jillian In Italy February 19, 2015 at 12:11 #

      That’s fantastic Janis. You can contact the local chapter in NYC for more information about contributing. I looked on the site and there are 4 teams there (it’s under the chapters/teams menu on http://www.daysforgirls.org). Thanks so much for your interest!

  7. gina February 19, 2015 at 11:00 #

    Amazing Jiliian. I just love this. I could love to contribute in some way — sharing this week on FB for starters.

    • Jillian In Italy February 19, 2015 at 12:13 #

      Oh thanks so much! I really appreciate it. I saw that there is a team in Sweden lead by Bonnie Jameson and Nancy Sandelin if you’d like to get in touch with them. xo

  8. Laura D February 19, 2015 at 19:33 #

    My church is working on some that are going to Africa. We raided my stash earlier this week to pull out fabrics and supplies to get started. 🙂

  9. Lysa March 18, 2015 at 20:53 #

    I came across your blog via My Life At Classic Play. I was inspired by your life in Italy and especially your humanitarian efforts with young girls coming of age. I am a flight 🙅 for a major US commercial ✈️. I travel extensively throughput Europe and Asia. I reached out to DFG within the U.S. They put in touch with a chapter in Michigan. I live on the East Coast and lucky make contact with friends in Michigan. With the help of a friend, they were able to arrange pick up of 20 kits. I am now on my way to Mumbai to distribute the kits to young girls in need. Thanks for the inspiration to help young girls!

    • Jillian In Italy March 18, 2015 at 22:42 #

      Dear Lysa, You don’t understand how happy that makes me!! What a beautiful thing that you reached out to DFG and are delivering kits to India. Thank yo so much for getting involved and please keep in touch about your experiences in Mumbai. I’d love to hear all about it. Sending the warmest wishes from Italy, Jill xo

  10. Ravali April 13, 2015 at 14:56 #

    Hey Jillian,

    This is a fabulous Work.. No Words but respect!!!

  11. Aileen April 14, 2015 at 22:10 #

    Hi Jillian, you have a really great blog, I stumbled upon it from the vanilla oil recipe on Pinterest and really enjoyed it, thanks so much.
    After reading this article, I agree that this is an amazing cause and I never realized there was such a need out there. I would really like to get involved, I happen to be an American ex-pat in Italy, I am located in Southern Tuscany, and I saw you were the Italian coordinator, I have a sewing machine and some knowledge of how to use it, and some time on my hands, please tell me how I can help!

    • Jillian In Italy April 21, 2015 at 07:58 #

      Hi Aileen! So great to hear from you. And always a pleasure to “meet” a fellow North American expat living in Italy of course. I’ll send you off a private email so we can connect and try and work together. Thanks for the interest in Days For Girls! Jillian

  12. Clodagh March 2, 2016 at 13:58 #

    Hi Jillian, wow I just came across your post today and I felt such a connection. I am going to Dhaka tomorrow to undertake the Ambassador program and meet with the DFG ladies and Celeste, I am so excited. On my return I am starting up the first (and only) group in Oman. I would love to email you and ask you about your experiences as I feel I could learn a lot. Many thanks Clodagh

    • jc March 2, 2016 at 14:12 #

      Dear Clodagh. Great to hear from you! And how amazing that you’re going to Dhaka tomorrow to take the Ambassador program (I was tempted to go myself). I’d love to hear about it afterwards so please keep in touch. Email me anytime at jillianinitaly@hotmail.com Kind regards! J

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