Nurses and teacher help destigmatize menstruation with hand sewn kits

Three women from Waterloo region leave for India this weekend, to distribute 166 hand-sewn feminine hygiene kits to young women in that country.
Kim Trinh, Shamim Damji and her sister-in-law Alysha Damji are going to India to distribute reusable feminine hygiene kits to girls in an orphanage and girls from rural communities. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Three women from Waterloo region leave for India this weekend, to distribute feminine hygiene kits they've sewn to young women and girls in that country. 

Two of them, Kim Trinh and Shamim Damji, are nurses at Grand River Hospital; Alysha Damji is a teacher. 

Their trip is part of the Days for Girls campaign, a global non-profit with which has a goal of destigmatizing menstruation and equipping every woman and girl with ready access to feminine hygiene within the next five years. 

"One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls in India are absent from school [during their period]," Trinh explained to The Morning Edition's host Craig Norris on Thursday. 

"[That] equates to almost two months of missed days from school." 

"Missing two months out of the year worth of work, school and opportunities is a long time to be away, because you can't manage your menstruation." 
The kits include two pairs of underwear, two covers to hold the liners, eight liners, a washcloth, soap, care instructions and plastic bags to keep used liners inside the cloth bag the whole kit comes in. The liners, covers to hold the liners and bags were all sewn by the women and volunteers. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The women will have 166 menstruation kits packed in their luggage. They cost about $15 each to produce and last two to three years. 

The kits include:

  • Two waterproof barrier shields that have a polyurethane liner similar to what's found in baby diapers.
  • A fabric pad that can be snapped around underwear.
  • Eight flannel absorbant liners.
  • Two pair of underwear.
  • A washcloth and soap.
  • A drawstring bag so the women and girls can discreetly transport the materials.

"This will allow them to feel like they're not ashamed – they have something that's clean, that's hygienic, that they can use and they can feel special that there's people that care about them," Shamim Damji told CBC K-W

 Almost everything is handmade except for the underwear and soap and the kits are brighly coloured.

"There's a reason for that," explains the Days For Girls International website. 

"The bright colors camouflage staining. The absorbent liners unfold to look like a washcloth, which allows women to wash and dry them outside in the sun without causing embarrassment."

The trip carries special importance to Shamim Damji. The trio will be distributing the kits in Pune, India, through REACH by the Visram Foundation, but also to the Asha Sadan Rescue House in Mumbai — the orphanage Damji was adopted from at age five. 

"I haven't been there for 27 years," she said. 

For the three women, who are paying to go to India themselves, the trip has been a way to do more than just make a donation to charity and get more directly involved with helping girls in need. 

"When you spend time on your own and build something, it feels that much more impactful," said Damji.

With files from the CBC's Kate Bueckert