KCI Students Working to Address Period Poverty
One in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa will miss school because she does not have a way to manage her period. In Brazil, this number is three in ten. A small group of girls at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute (KCI) is working hard to change those statistics.
The Days for Girls club meets regularly, tracing and cutting materials that will be made into reusable menstrual pads. Days for Girls is an international organization that educates girls about menstrual health and hygiene and provides sustainable solutions to help women and girls live their lives with dignity and break the cycle of poverty.
Each Days for Girls kit includes two pairs of underwear, two waterproof shields, eight washable liners, a washcloth and bar of soap, care sheet with instructions and a calendar, a large ziplock bag and a drawstring cloth bag to keep everything together.
Internationally, Days for Girls has reached over one million women and girls. In the past year, students at KCI have contributed over 3000 reusable pads to the kits provided to girls.
“Menstruation wasn’t an issue I thought about much. I didn’t realize that it was taboo in other countries or that people didn’t have access to period products,” said Gabrielle, a Grade 11 student who has been part of the Days for Girls club for two years. “I thought about how your health and your dignity are negatively affected if you don’t have access to these products and how my life would be different if I didn’t have access. Cutting and tracing is a simple activity with a big impact. That’s why I wanted to get involved.”
Learning how the lives of girls around the world are put on hold for one week every month made the Days for Girls club a popular destination during lunchtime. “Having a period, for most of us, is simple to handle when the time comes. But for these girls, it prevents them from going to school and learning, so it’s important that we do this simple task to help them,” said Jenna, a Grade 11 student who has also been part of the club for two years.
The kits students at KCI are helping to create will be handed out to women and girls in need in Shirati, Tanzania. Guidance counsellor Jane Schultz-Janzen has a personal connection to the area and has handed out kits for the past few years. In her time in Tanzania, Schultz-Janzen met girls who missed so much school that they had to drop out of their classes. The kits they receive allows girls to continue their education, learn skills that will lead to employment and enable them to provide for themselves and their families.
“The girls learn about the kits and how to use the products inside them together, but they receive their kits individually,” said Schultz-Janzen. “The minute I show them how the pad snaps on, they erupt with excitement. Then all I hear from them is ‘thank you, thank you, thank you,’ and many of the girls cry. What we take for granted is truly life-changing for these girls.