Photo © Courtesy of Days for Girls
By Jillian Johnston, Canadian Advocacy Coordinator
She said, “They’re washable.” The anticipation in the crowded room was palpable, and nearly a hundred pairs of eyes were on me, awaiting my response. One of the girls had brazenly bolted from her seat to shout out her exclamation, and Jenny, my Haitian translator, had just told me the meaning of the Creole words the girl had shamelessly shouted. I was holding up a Days for Girls Menstrual Hygiene Kit for them to see, and now in the total silence of the room, in response to the one voice that had put all of their hopes into words, I answered those inquiring eyes. “Yes,” I nodded, “They are washable.”
Menstruation represents eight years of period days in a lifetime, and 70% of Canadian women say that they have missed school or work because of their period. So why are menstrual hygiene products treated more like a luxury than a fundamental human right?
For the longest time, menstruation has been treated like a dirty secret that is only talked about among those who experience it, instead of a natural, beautiful, and powerful process. Breaking down these misunderstandings and removing barriers to accessing menstrual products are fundamental to the goal of normalizing periods and menstruation.
Founded by visionary Celeste Mergens in 2008, Days for Girls International (DfGI) has been actively advocating for menstruators ever since. The movement has spread around the globe, taking a firm hold in Canada.
As of January 1st, 2021, we have reached over 2.1 million girls in 144 countries. Ours is a volunteer organization, and our members systematically cut, fold, and sew every month to create our Days for Girls Supreme Menstrual Hygiene Kits.
Team London, ON, is one of 75 in Canada and has created and distributed 3,744 kits since they began in 2015. London was also the first city in Canada to provide free menstrual products in city-owned facilities! By following precise patterns and instructions to ensure quality, each DfG Kit is made to last at least three years. Therefore, Team London’s 3,744 beautiful kits have helped reclaim 673,920 Days for Girls! That means 3,744 girls can attend school and carry out the routine responsibilities of their lives without missing a day, even when they are menstruating, all because of one team! Multiply that effort by 75, and it’s clear that Days for Girls Canada is making a difference across the globe.
With the help of global supporters, DfGI is doing all we can to end period poverty worldwide. Days for Girls Canada is also working specifically to focus on Canadian menstruators who need our help. We know that period poverty is a significant problem right here at home and one that must be faced head-on.
The Canadian Government has begun to take steps to address the needs of people who menstruate, especially as more and more people learn of the problem, but we have a long way to go to keep pace with Scotland and New Zealand. DfGC advocates for all Canadian menstruators, especially those in marginalized communities. We add our voice to the growing call for universal access to affordable Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH).
DfG Canada recently has begun to benefit from corporate partnerships as well, including World Vision Canada (WVC), which enables DfG Canada to send kits to countries where WVC has workers to receive them, and Save the Children Canada, which stores our kits in preparation for emergencies in Canadian communities.
With North American menstruators’ diverse needs in mind, DfGI has introduced Hybrid Kits, and Days for Girls Canada is creating them for Canadians in marginalized communities where our help is needed. These kits introduce our hand-sewn products and contain a selection of disposables, and in some cases, a Diva Menstrual Cup, supplied by Diva International, another of DfG Canada’s corporate partners. Our goal is to give choices to Canadian menstruators in communities where our washable, reusable kits are not an ideal solution.
Despite the pandemic, Days for Girls Canada is making headway against period poverty, internationally and right here in Canada!
You don’t have to menstruate to donate!
To learn more and help end period poverty in Canada, visit daysforgirls.org/canada
*This data does not capture the experiences of trans men and gender non-binary people. **Source: Plan Canada 2019 Gender Study