[color-box color=”green”][dropcap]Join[/dropcap] Canadian Expat, Dodie Schadlich, in her weekly column for “Off the Beaten Path”. Read on to hear about a reality that many girls face here in Ecuador that many women in North America take for granted. [/color-box]
A message to the males about to read this article: I am going to start talking about ‘girlie things’ so if you want to skip down to the bottom please do so now!
Sanitary Napkin Pads
I need to let you in on some inside information; some things you may not know. The girls and women living in poverty in Ecuador, and other similar countries, cannot afford to buy sanitary napkin pads. You know, the Always with Wings, Kotex Maxis, Stayfree Dry Max, to name just a few.
I want to take a moment to give a big shout out for the awesome information and contacts passed to me by Dr. Kate Jewell. This is an extremely beneficial community project; not only valuable for impoverished young ladies, but it also provides a vehicle for the families to earn income in the form of a micro business. Win/Win situations are always great!
I was introduced to this international program by a beautiful soul, Dr. Kate Jewell. Her selfless service takes her all over the world. She is not only a certified angel, she is also a Naturopathic Doctor; two things I admire tremendously. She was in Ecuador temporarily to check on her property and I was thrilled when she arrived at my door with the product and information. We had a great discussion and visit and after she left, my wheels were spinning on how to bring this to life here in Ecuador.
A Luxury Item
When it dawned on me that certainly, if they cannot afford to eat each day, how could they afford this luxury item each month.?My curiosity got the better of me and although I had a general idea I simply had to ask. They gladly shared with me how they manage this very natural part of the female experience. They will use rags, assorted clothing, like old T-shifts, that they cut into strips, wash out and either throw away, or reuse as needed. They simply do not have the money to purchase the items we take for granted.
The program is called “Days for Girls”. The kits that are created, can be sewn, assembled, duplicated and handed out to girls in puberty. The distribution is accompanied with education, not only on menstruation, but sex education, basic anatomy, safety and hygiene tips.
Each “kit” contains 2 pair of panties, the ‘pad with wings’ shown in the photo. The absorbent and washable inserts, soap, facecloth, and instructions, all discretely packaged in a lovely cinched cloth bag.
I have contacted the organization. We started communications on the process to begin a micro business for the families as a way to earn money creating these Feminine Kits. The purpose of the micro business is to ‘teach them to fish’ in essence and to help them become more independent.
Creating the product for the income is one objective, but another goal is to be able to keep the costs low enough that the majority of families will be able to access the kits for the girls in their families. Ideas are underway to find work-arounds and subsidies for families that simply cannot afford to purchase them.
I have given one of the kits to a teen-aged girl already as an experiment. I know her and her family well so there was a trust and comfort in our conversation. Her expression was priceless as she realized what it was. She followed up with me a couple months later to let me know that she feels it is less embarrassing for her and it is more feminine process now. I was so happy for her and I knew I was on the right track to help the families earn but more importantly to help the girls access an invaluable item.
Due to the holidays, my communication with the organization temporarily stalled but has recently resumed. I have two ladies working on a business plan to present to local foundations and groups to request assistance in start up costs for sewing machines, kit material and fabric to name just a few of the things.
“Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.”
There are cultural, religious and family customs we need to be aware of before barging into this topic with their young girls. Education is key, not only about the business, but about their customs and how to approach the families. I have some key Ecuadorian ladies eager to take this on.
There is also a large learning book Dr. Kate has so graciously donated; I have requested a Spanish version from the organization. It is created in a manner that is specific for teaching, with large, easy to read print.
I am so excited: as I know this topic is a source of discomfort and embarrassment for many young girls. I have handed out so many disposable pads since I have been in Ecuador and it is always met with a look of relief and gratitude. I am full of anticipation to watch these families build themselves a valuable business to help with their future.
Once the micro business is underway, we will work on advertising and marketing; anyone out there interested in assisting these families to move the project forward? Please contact me at [email protected].
Ok Guys, you can open your eyes again, we are done talking!
Dr. Kate; Thanks again!
Can’t even tell you how much I love this article, and this initiative– such kindness and compassion around a vulnerable topic!
Thank you Dodie for seeing the value and moving forward with DFG. I’ll be there soon to help you with this project.