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For the past 8 years, several Birmingham First members have been involved in a significant sewing project to create reusable feminine hygiene kits for women and girls in impoverished nations. We are part of the larger ministry, Days for Girls International (DFG), which has donated more than 2.8 million of these kits to those in need since 2008.

These kits have been carefully hand-delivered with professional instruction to villages in over 25 countries across Africa, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and refugee camps in the Middle East, by more than 40 established mission groups. Some of these missionaries are from our own church, serving in places like Haiti, Honduras, and Kenya. Their instruction encompasses various topics: 

• Puberty & menstrual cycles 

• Fertility & anatomy (male & female) 

• How to use the kits (washing out liners with no running water or trash facilities) 

• Importance of hand-washing 

• Contraception & abstinence 

• Self-defense & self-respect 

• Dangers of human trafficking

Buff Cummings is the coordinator of the DFG project at Birmingham First. She began working with Days for Girls in the spring of 2015, accompanied by Sara Shirley and Ila Hill of Birmingham First Nurses. Buff immediately began organizing friends at church to help with the sewing, Sara began donating the waterproof fabric we needed, and Ila began sewing up a storm for us.

Since then, at least two dozen women at Birmingham First have stepped forward to help sew and to donate money and materials to our project. Our helpers unanimously and routinely express how good it makes them feel to participate in this.

While on a “field trip” to the Farmington chapter of Days for Girls they were all intrigued by the hum of the workshop they observed. The Farmington chapter is one of the largest DFG chapters in the United States and has issued more than 22,000 kits in its 9-year history. Just in the last year, they have sent missionaries out with kits to Honduras, Peru, Belize, and the Philippines. While the Farmington group meets weekly year-round in a large workshop (20-40 men and women attend regularly), we do our work individually in our own homes.

In the past 7 years, Birmingham First has delivered over 18,000 items needed for their kits to Farmington: 

• 1,900 shields 

• 8,900 liners 

• 3,600 waterproof-lined carrier bags 

• 3,450 drawstring tote bags 

• 330 masks when the pandemic hit

The kits are precisely made and hold a U.S. Patent. The current kit is at least in its 30th iteration, as field experience reveals what works and what lasts.

Hear about the DFG mission from the source: Days for Girls press release October 11, 2023 BREAKING THE SILENCE ON PERIOD POVERTY: INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL 2023

Globally, it is estimated that 500 million women and girls do not have what they need to manage their periods. Lack of access to menstrual products and education can negatively impact mental health, perpetuate stigmas, hinder education and reinforce cultural practices. 

Days for Girls International (DfG) is proud to shed light on this issue as we celebrate International Day of the Girl in collaboration with Project Everyone. 

DfG envisions a world where periods never stand in the way of gender equality. We work to eliminate stigma and limitations tied to menstruation. By removing these barriers, we open doors for all those who menstruate to pursue opportunities and achieve their goals. 

Without access to available, safe, affordable period products – and safe and convenient facilities with water and soap – people with periods may experience the following in their lifetime: 

• Health challenges 

• Stigmatisation and shame 

• School and work absenteeism In the US, nearly one in five girls miss school due to a lack of period products. 

One in 10 girls in Africa miss school because they do not have access to menstrual products, or because there are not safe, private toilets to use at school. In South Sudan, 57 percent of adolescent girls reported staying home during menstruation because of the lack of private changing rooms in school. 

In some parts of the world, the situation is more dire. 

• In Western Nepal, the cultural practice of Chhaupadi banishes menstruating women and girls to cow sheds, mud huts or open fields during their period – exposing them to life-threatening elements and causing unbearable shame. This extreme form of discrimination is deeply rooted in misconceptions of menstruation as impure, unhealthy and a harbinger of bad luck (passed down through generations). 

• In Kenya, 65% of women and girls cannot afford sanitary pads and as a result, many girls are coerced into transactional sex for access. This dynamic places women and girls at risk for early/unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and interpartner violence. 

It is important that those who menstruate have access to menstrual tools to help them consistently and sustainably manage their menstruation with health and dignity. DfG’s holistic approach includes: 

• Production and distribution of high quality, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, DfG washable menstrual pad kits; 

• Delivery of comprehensive, timely and age-appropriate menstrual health education to both women and girls, and men and boys who are key allies for change; 

• Conducting advocacy to local and national leaders to improve menstrual health policies and programs.