Rebecca is a 16-year-old girl from Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, feminine hygiene is limited. When Rebecca heard that feminine hygiene kits were being distributed, she walked for days to the distribution site. By the time she got there, the kits were gone.
Rebecca is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of girls in Third World countries suffer these same problems. Girls and women have been known to use paper, trash, cardboard, stone and ash in place of sanitary napkins.
The Women’s Services and Resources office is taking a stand to do something about it. The office, which aims to help women in the BYU community and around the world, along with the Day for Girls Organization, hosted a service project to send feminine care kits to women in Third World countries. The goal was to prepare more than 1,000 feminine hygiene kits which will go to Haiti, Uganda and the Philippines.
“The goal of the project [was] to provide sanitary napkins to girls in Third World countries,” said LaNae Valentine, director of the Women’s Services and Resources office. “In some places, girls drop out of school just because they get their periods, which is ridiculous.”
Celeste Mergens, international director of Days for Girls, spoke at the service project about the importance of these kits.
“[These kits] make it possible for girls to go to school,” Mergens said. “Without these kits, girls miss three months of school every year. Without these kits, girls had to sit on cardboard on their beds and wait.”
Each kit comes in a simple drawstring bag. The kits contain two Ziploc bags that act as a moisture barrier and a mini washing machine, two safety pins, soap, a washcloth, seven liners and two shields lined with material commonly used in diapers that snap around the underwear which is also provided. These kits will last the girls for up to four years.
“It’s amazing how much we take for granted living in a developed country,” said Kylie Durham, a senior public health major from Henderson, Nev. “We can go to the store and get tampons or talk to our mom about it. It’s not so scary for us.”
In many of these Third World countries, menstruation is taboo. Girls are separated from society and forbidden to talk about it. Mergens said upon receiving kits, girls have told her, “You’ve brought me something I couldn’t even tell people I needed.”
Days for Girls has delivered these kits to girls in 22 nations on five continents. BYU has already taken more than a hundred of the kits to Haiti as part of their lasting service.
Mergens believes Days for Girls was founded by a higher power.
“I’m not the founder, I’m the listener, ” Mergens said. “The Spirit is the founder. It’s not our project; it’s Heavenly Father’s project.”