Days for Girls, hope for future women

Maple Grove groups support project to lift girls out of poverty

For many girls in remote parts of the world, an education can be a luxury.

There are parts of the world where when young girls reach puberty, they must stay home during their menstrual cycle.

Maple Grove Rotary member Judy Johnson shows volunteers how to make parts of feminine hygiene kits for the Days for Girls group. This group accepts these kits to donate to young girls in remote parts of the world who do not have access to feminine hygiene supplies. These kits also help these young women stay in school.
Maple Grove Rotary member Judy Johnson shows volunteers how to make parts of feminine hygiene kits for the Days for Girls group. This group accepts these kits to donate to young girls in remote parts of the world who do not have access to feminine hygiene supplies. These kits also help these young women stay in school.

Because these girls do not have access to feminine hygiene products, it means days without school, days without income and being left in isolation. Girls use leaves, mattress stuffing, newspaper, corn husks, rocks, anything they can find but still miss up to two months of school every year.

A non-profit group, Days for Girls, believes every girl in the world deserves education, safety and dignity. They are doing this by helping to create sustainable feminine hygiene kits that fit into a zip bag and last for years with the help of other groups and organizations. So far, Days for Girls as reached women and girls in over 75 countries on six continents.

According to Days for Girls, “It turns out this issue is a surprising but instrumental key to social change for women all over the world. The poverty cycle can be broken when girls stay in school.”

The Maple Grove Rotary, Maple Grove Fire and Arbor Lakes Dental have gotten involved and will be hosting a sew-a-thon Thursday, Feb. 4, to make components for these Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits to be delivered to girls in the most remote areas of the world who do not have access to feminine hygiene supplies.

MAPLE GROVE INVOLVEMENT

Judy Johnson, member of the Maple Grove Rotary, started the Girls for Days Sew-a-thon project in Maple Grove a year and a half ago.

“In May 2014, I had the incredible opportunity to go to Sydney, Australia, for a Rotary International Conference,” Johnson said. “At the time, I was president-elect of the Maple Grove Rotary. At the conference, there were over 100 projects represented and the www.DaysForGirls.org booth is the one that tugged at my heart. I decided to bring this project to the club.”

Jamie Sledd, Arbor Lakes Dental, and Marilyn Arnlund, Maple Grove Deputy Fire Chief, take part in recent Days for Girl Sew-a-thon.
Jamie Sledd, Arbor Lakes Dental, and Marilyn Arnlund, Maple Grove Deputy Fire Chief, take part in recent Days for Girl Sew-a-thon.

She added because many girls drop out of school after they begin menstruating; this means they are eligible for marriage because they are not in school and they begin to have babies.

“The only way to break this cycle of poverty and illiteracy is to help girls manage their cycle,” Johnson said. “This is a human issue, not just a woman’s issue because in these villages, it is the females take care of the families and if they are able to stay in school longer, they will earn more money so their families can be takes care of with a roof over their head, shoes on their feet, good food, medical care, education, etc. — all the basic necessities in life. Also, by earning money, she also earns respect.”

Maple Grove Deputy Fire Chief Marilyn Arnlund stated Johnson is at every single sew-a-thon and brings all the supplies and even extra sewing machines. “She is one special person,” Arnlund added. “Without Judy, there would not be a sew-a-thon.”

Arnlund said she got involved with the Days for Girls Sew-a-thons after “my good friend Dr. Jamie Sledd, owner of Arbor Lakes Dental, invited me to attend a sew-a-thon at her dental building that she sponsored.”

After the last sew-a-thon, Arnlund said the kits were donated to girls in Guatemala while Dr. Sledd was on a mission trip there.

There have been 18 sew-a-thons in Maple Grove for Days for Girls hygiene kits. During that time, with the help of volunteers, Maple Grove Rotary has been instrumental in making and distributing 435 kits: 200 in Bangladesh, 100 in Kenya, 70 in Guatemala, 50 in Gambia and 15 in India.

Volunteers put together feminine hygiene kits that will be donated to Days for Girls and young women in remote areas of the world.
Volunteers put together feminine hygiene kits that will be donated to Days for Girls and young women in remote areas of the world.

These kits do not just affect the girls that receive them, helping also leaves a impact on those helping make the kits.

Johnson said, “I think helping girls reach their potential and empowering them is one of the greatest things you can do. I also believe the feminine hygiene kits are helping to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy and they are also helping to fight terrorism because the radicals don’t want the girls to go to school and we do. Perhaps, even peace can happen.”

“When I think of a young woman in another country who does not have access to feminine hygiene products and then stays home from school when she has her period … it is heartbreaking!” Arnlund said. “It is absolutely mind boggling to think something that we take for granted in the United States is not available to women in other countries.”

HYGIENE KITS

Each hygiene kit includes a drawstring bag to carry and hold the clean items, two one-gallon zip freezer bags (used to transport and clean soiled items), eight absorbent tri-fold pads, two moisture barrier shields (holding pads in place and stopping leaks), one wash cloth, two pairs of panties, one travel-sized bar of soap and one visual instruction sheet.

“These kits can be washed with very little water, guards against leaks, dries quickly and can last up to three years with proper cleaning,” Johnson said. “In these three years, they get back 180 days for school and/or work.”

Days for Girls hygiene kits are more than for feminine hygiene. These kits also help keep these girls in school.

The purpose of these kits is to provide protection to girls so they can attend school and have a more dignified life. These kits can last three years with proper cleaning. To give a girl three more years of schooling will help break the poverty cycle and is instrumental for positive social change in families and in the world.

Judy Johnson, member of the Maple Grove Rotary, sews together parts of hygiene kits for the Days For Girls group, which helps young women in remote areas of world stay in school.
Judy Johnson, member of the Maple Grove Rotary, sews together parts of hygiene kits for the Days For Girls group, which helps young women in remote areas of world stay in school.

The Days for Girls website states that after the distribution of the hygiene kits school absence rates dropped from 36 to 8 percent in Uganda and from 25 to 3 percent in Kenya.

SEW-A-THON

Typically between 20 and 40 people come to the sew-a-thons in Maple Grove. Arnlund the more people the better.

Those interested in helping with this endeavor are invited to the Days for Girls Sew-a-thon Thursday, Feb. 4, beginning at 4:45 p.m. in the EOC downstairs at the Maple Grove Government Center, 12800 Arbor Lakes Parkway.

Knowing how to sew is not a requirement to participate. Besides sewing items, patterns need to be traced, fabric needs to be cut, turned and ironed, as well as stringing bags and putting snaps on shields.

Arnlund asks those interested in attended to email her at [email protected] or call her office at 763-494-6091.

There are six more sew-a-thons planned in the area in the next few months.

If someone is unable to attend this sew-a-thon, there are other ways to help. Donations of girl’s panties sizes 8 to 14, flannel and 100 percent cotton (smallest size 5 inches by 5 inches), wash clothes, hotel-sized soap, gallon sized zip freezer bags are also need. Johnson added cash for supplies is also needed.

Other ways to take part include hosting a sew-a-thon.

“This is how we have run the sew-a-thons in the past is someone (like you) sets up a sew-a-thon by getting a location, inviting people and bringing snacks,” Johnson said. “Then I come with four machines plus two ironing boards and irons, lots of cut fabric and tasks for both sewers and non-sewers to do, and we work together to get stuff done. I train folks on what to do and help them out. I also give a presentation on Days For Girls and why we are doing this (projector would be nice). Later I bring the components home to do quality control. In May at the District Conference, we will assemble these components into kits. Rotarians will distributed these kits as they travel to remote areas of the world.”

“This is just a great project and we encourage people to bring their teen age daughters as well…it is a great experience and learning opportunity for them as well,” Arnlund added. “We have also have men participate in this project as well and we definitely encourage them to participate.”

For more information on this project, see www.DaysForGirls.org.