WIB event promotes menstrual hygiene among youth

In an effort to allow more young people to attend school and continue their daily lives comfortably while menstruating, Baruch Women in Business has partnered up with Days for Girls, a non-profit organization designed to provide young people with long-lasting menstrual hygiene products. This was the second year that WIB partnered with Days for Girls.

Days for Girls has over 800 chapters internationally, primarily depending on volunteers such as the students who attended the event. Chapters exist in varying countries, such as Ghana, Nepal and the United States. In order to accommodate people who may not have access to menstrual hygiene products, volunteers create kits consisting of reusable menstrual products, and distribute them to people in need both locally and around the world.

In many developing nations, young women in particular have to resort to sexual exploitation in order to receive money to purchase menstrual hygiene products. This poses many risks, such as pregnancy and disease. In addition, young women who resort to sex in exchange for money can develop negative emotional complexities that stem from humiliation and inferior treatment. In these nations, young people also have little to no access to education about menstrual health and it is often stigmatized and viewed as taboo.

Jill Miller, leader of the Days for Girls New York City chapter, hosted the event on May 2, initially presenting a PowerPoint and teaching the attendees how to put together the menstrual kit. Each kit can last up to three years with proper care.

So far, Days for Girls collectively has assembled 640,000 menstrual hygiene kits and distributed them to 119 countries. “It’s a force,” Miller said, referring to the organization’s widespread development. In addition to distributing kits, Days for Girls works to create jobs for people in developing nations who live in extreme poverty due to lack of opportunity. Volunteers who create kits in developing nations acquire necessary skills, such as sewing, that can transfer over to other fields.

Miller described various sanitary products in detail, providing information on how to use them effectively and safely. She instructed the attendees on how to package the kit. “Each bag is a drawstring. It comes with a shield, which has a polyurethane material that [is] sewn inside that is washable and breathable and doesn't crinkle. It's a pad that doesn't look like a pad,” she said. “A lot of women are washing with rocks and washboards and dry in the sun, so they want privacy and discretion. [We] use nice, deep, rich colors that hide stains and it's beautiful and looks like a washcloth. [There is] no stigma attached to menstruation.”

The kit comes in a Ziploc bag enclosed in a drawstring bag and also contains a hotel-sized bar of soap, a menstrual-cycle calendar, a pair of underwear, a washcloth and an additional Ziploc bag.

In making the kits, Miller instructed the participants to put care and attention into each one. “The kits are as unique as the girl receiving it because of the combination of fabrics. It's about ownership,” she said. “Quality control is a big deal for us. We don't want a kit that looks not as good as the girl's next to her.”

After the participants put together their first kits according to Miller’s instructions, Miller asked them to “hug the air out of [the kit]” because Days for Girls ships hundreds of kits out at a time and the packages need to be as compact as possible.

Miller stressed that May 28, International Menstrual Hygiene Day, is approaching and acts as one of the reasons to get as many kits as possible out there every year. Miller hopes that the New York City chapter will distribute at least 1,000 kits this year. Last year, the chapter distributed 585.

Shaimaa Abdelrahman, a coordinator of the event, said that prior to the event she and two friends went to Union Square to raise money for the organization and announced that they were collecting donations from the attendees as well.

After the initial kit-making session, Abdelrahman asked attendees to write a positive message to young people in developing nations on a poster board adorned with colorful Post-it notes.