Come to the Granby Senior Center one Wednesday of every month and you will hear multiple sewing machines going at break-neck speed and dozens of cheery voices bantering back and forth. As you draw near, you see colorful fabrics being cut, sliced, sewn, turned and tweaked. On ironing boards in the back, the fabrics are being smoothed and pressed, the steam of irons puffing as they glide.
In many parts of the world girls must stay home from school and women home from paid work during their menstrual cycles because cultural norms dictate they cannot participate in community activities because they have no acceptable way to meet their hygiene needs. This group is part of a global effort: Days for Girls International (DfGI) (daysforgirls.org) gives girls and women back their days in society that they lose when they have to stay home each month. Since its beginning 10 years ago, DfG International has reached 1,000,000 girls and women in over 124 countries with hygiene kits and menstrual health education classes.
This Days for Girls group includes women from Granby and surrounding towns, sewers and non-sewers alike. Sandra Yost, Granby Senior Center Director, understands the need for a comfortable space large enough to accommodate the 25–30 people who usually participate.
The group makes washable, long-lasting shields and liners designed by DfG International that can be scrubbed clean with a bit of soap in gray water in a Ziplok bag (think washing machine). It also makes cloth bags to carry the supplies. Many girls carry their bags every day, so no one knows when they really have their periods.
Products produced in Granby go to the Maasai people of the central highlands of Kenya through the Connecticut-based Kenyan Health Care Initiatives (khci.org). Kits of shields and liners are only distributed after attendance at health education classes that explain the how and why of pregnancy and menstruation.
Even better, DfG International and Kenyan Health Care Initiatives are assisting in organizing local women and men to form businesses to make and sell these products, thus ensuring accessibility for now and into the future for the local populations and providing much needed job opportunities for women who often have few opportunities to earn a living.
The success of these products is a testimonial to their usefulness. Girls are remaining in school and can later take advantage of all the benefits a full education brings, rather than dropping out and being forced into early marriage.
The Farmington Valley Days for Girls group welcomes new members. It appreciates donations of all-cotton quilting-quality, bright medium to dark fabrics (geometric and flower patterns are best), including all-cotton flannel in similar colors, and grosgrain ribbon. Contact the Senior Center for more information.