It’s easy to take for granted living in a country like Australia, where we have ready access to sanitary items and hygiene products. In other countries, however, girls can miss many months of schooling – or drop out of school altogether – because they can’t purchase the products that make our daily lives easier. Local Shirley Capon fills us in about “Days for Girls” and how this group is making a difference …
Hi Shirley. What’s your association with the Greater Port Macquarie area?
I moved to Port Macquarie with my husband, Geoff, about two years ago. Port Macquarie had been our holiday destination for many years, and we loved it here, so it was an easy decision when we “retired” to move here.
Tell us a little about the international organisation “Days for Girls” and the issues it aims to address …
DFG International is an award-winning non-profit organisation creating a more dignified, humane and equitable world for girls through advocacy, reproductive health awareness, education and sustainable feminine hygiene, because no girl should go without.
Without access to hygiene products, girls in many countries can miss up to eight months of school every three years and are much more likely to drop out altogether, let alone reach their potential. The program has so far reached more than 70 nations on six continents.
What’s the history behind the Port Macquarie branch of DFG, and how did you become involved?
Emma Heath and Ronda Strand began DFG in Port Macquarie in late 2016, after Ronda heard about it through a friend working in Nepal. Ronda was part of a Curves fitness group in Port Macquarie, and the other ladies involved accepted a challenge to make 200 kits. This is when I became involved and after initially just helping with my sewing expertise, I had to make a decision whether to take over the running of the group.
The women’s group at Grace Church (Sister’s Keeper) were more than willing to be involved and provided funds for equipment and materials to supplement what was left from the Curves challenge. I was also able to be linked into a group that meets at Taree, and they were very helpful with advice and training.
Grace Church has also provided us with an outlet for our kits through International Mission Ministries (Ross and Donna Nancarrow). They travel to Nepal two – three times a year and are delighted to be able to take kits with them and bless the girls and women in the remote areas of Nepal where they work.
What types of items does the local group make, and what does each kit contain?
The kits and teaching resources are standard worldwide so that as they are distributed, all girls receive the same teaching and are shown how to use the kits effectively.
The kits have several items which are all packed into a nice cloth bag, with ties long enough so that the bag can be worn as a backpack.
So each kit is made up of:
• 1 x cloth bag
• 2 x shields
It is called a shield because it protects from staining and leaks. It is a cloth holder with a special moisture-proof fabric inside two cotton layers. The shield fastens under the panties.
• 8 x liners
The liners are soft and absorbent. A liner is folded into thirds and tucks into the pockets on the shield to absorb the menstrual flow.
• 2 x panties
Many girls do not even possess these!
• 2 x Ziploc bags and 1 x soap
Soiled liners are placed in the Ziploc bag with a small amount of water and the soap, so that they are easier to wash when returning home. This can all be kept out of sight in the cloth bag.
• 1 x face washer
• Instructions on use.
It is expected that a kit should last three years.
How many kits has the group made to date? And which countries have they been sent to?
Our group has so far sent 77 kits overseas – 50 kits to Nepal and 27 kits to Cambodia. We are aiming to send another 75 kits to Nepal in February.
It is great to have people at Grace Church who interact with girls and women overseas who need the kits. The kits going to Nepal go with International Mission Ministries, and the 27 kits to Cambodia went with WEC workers.
DFG worldwide partners with many organisations to aid distribution.
You’ve had firsthand experience working in Cambodia. What were the women’s attitudes towards the kits they received?
We worked in Cambodia for about two and a half years. I was privileged to work with some beautiful girls at Destiny Rescue, an amazing organisation that rescues girls from trafficking and prostitution. They showed me their kits and they loved them so much, that they wanted to know how they could make them for their friends. I was unsure how to source the necessary fabrics, so I was keen to follow it up when I returned home.
Day for Girls has a lot of work planned locally this month (February), with 75 kits currently being assembled and prepared for distribution in Nepal. How can readers help?
Yes, we have been very busy over the last few months trying to complete the 75 kits for Nepal. Although these will be nearly complete by the time you read this, we intend to be continually making them.
There are many ways readers can help.
- We would love some more sewers.
- Cotton fabric (time to clean out your patchwork stash?)
- Cotton or poly/cotton fabric for bags
- Donations of money to help purchase panties, flannelette, grosgrain ribbon, snaps, face washers and PUL waterproof fabric.
- We would also love people who can cut, trim and assemble kits. There are many jobs that do not require sewing skills.
Why would you encourage other locals to become involved with Days for Girls?
Currently our group of sewers and helpers is quite small, but it is very rewarding working together to help our sisters overseas, and I would encourage anyone interested to get involved. It is a constant reminder that we are so blessed to be born in a country where we take so much for granted. It is hard to imagine life without flushing toilets and garbage disposal!
Where can we find more info/contact you?
Our sewing/cutting/assembling group meets monthly in the hall at Grace Church, Kingfisher Street, Port Macquarie, from noon – 3pm. There is also the option to take components home to be completed there.
Anyone interested can contact me, Shirley Capon: Ph: 0423 314 510;
Interview: Jo Robinson.