Menstruation can be such a taboo topic in developing countries that girls resort to rocks, carpet, or even animal manure as a poor alternative to sanitary items — just so they can continue their education.
But a push to donate sanitary items to girls in need is bringing Australian volunteers together to produce hand-crafted fabric items in the hope of changing lives.
Volunteers for the international charitable organisation Days for Girls have distributed thousands of sanitary kits to more than 100 countries.
Kits produced by volunteers include waterproof sanitary pads or shields, fabric liners, a face washer, soap and plastic bags for washing so the fabric items can be reused.
Days for Girls South Australian coordinator Susanne Harris said the items were invaluable.
“In many cultures they don’t understand. They’ve never been taught how the body works,” Ms Harris said.
“They use different things but it varies from old newspapers, old rags, and they can use rocks sometimes to stop the flow, or animal manure.”
Bridging the gap in feminine hygiene
A lack of understanding and sanitary items means some menstruating girls in developing countries can miss up to eight months of school over three years.
Days for Girls works to educate young children and mothers about hygiene at the same time as distributing sanitary kits.
Australian director Gloria Buttsworth started the program back in 2012 and expected it to benefit 1 million girls in 2018.
“Since its beginning in 2012 it’s gone viral. We’ve grown by 800 per cent,” she said.
She said there were thousands of volunteers nation-wide compiling packs to be sent overseas.
“It’s very therapeutic for the women who make the packs, to know each kit will be helping girls overseas,” Ms Buttsworth said.
In South Australia, some 5,000 kits have been made compared with 130 in 2012.
Nicole Casement is a volunteer from South Australia’s Riverland.
In the next few weeks she will return to Indonesia to distribute another load of gifts for girls.
“It was an amazing feeling to give them that little bit of quality of life,” Ms Casement said.
“They were like, ‘Thank you so much and thank you for coming’.
“It was a very emotional day and I was in tears.”