P.E.I. volunteers stitch menstrual kits for girls in Africa
'They'll use things like dry cow manure and straw and grass and rags'
It was a sewing bee with a special purpose — Tuesday, members of four womens' sewing groups on P.E.I. gathered to learn how to create reuseable menstrual kits for girls in Kenya.
The kits are designed by Days for Girls, an international group founded in 2008 to help girls in developing countries stay in school by providing them with feminine hygiene products. The group estimates girls can miss up to two months of education per year because they don't have access to sanitary napkins.
We wanted these girls back in school. And we wanted a good product to send to them.— Evelyn McQuaid, volunteer
"The girls will do almost anything to not miss school because they crave education," said Ted Grant, who's been travelling to Mikinduri, Kenya, for the past decade with the P.E.I.-based Mikinduri Children of Hope.
"And so they'll use things like dry cow manure and straw and grass and rags," in place of pads, Grant said. After hearing about the program, the Mikinduri group handed out 50 kits in Kenya in February.
The kits include a drawstring bag, eight absorbent flannel-lined pads, two pairs of panties, a travel-sized soap and washcloth. One kit is designed to last three years, giving each girl the equivalent of six months of schooling.
Grant and his organization are setting up an Island chapter of Days for Girls, and a church group in Vernon Bridge has already started the sewing.
"It just really rang a bell," said volunteer Evelyn McQuaid. "We wanted these girls back in school. And we wanted a good product to send to them, something that would last a long time, something that they'd be proud to wear."
'Women know what's involved'
Suzanne Lane, who owns Quilting B and More in Charlottetown, made the kits a few years ago and was happy to volunteer to do it again.
"Women know what's involved and they feel for children, growing, going through that process, that they're missing out on education," said Lane. "And that shouldn't happen in today's world."
The P.E.I. group hopes to sew a thousand kits to send to Kenya.
So far, Days for Girls has given kits to more than 200,000 girls in 100 countries, and notes school absence rates in Kenya dropped from 25 per cent to three per cent at schools where the kits were handed out.
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