This piece aired on Utah Public Radio last week:
One of the most prevalent problems in the developing world is one we rarely think about. For girls and women in impoverished countries, menstruation creates a monthly struggle. In Kenya alone, six out of 10 girls lack access to feminine hygiene products.
These girls spend one week a month in their rooms, rather than in the classroom and the workplace. They miss about 60 days a year.
Menstruation can be an uncomfortable topic for some, however there are those who are unwilling to stay silent on the issue.
Ann Lewis is the president of the Utah Chapter of Days for Girls. The organization is committed to restoring dignity to women worldwide through lasting feminine hygiene solutions.
“We give days back to girls by providing with a simple solution to a very huge problem,” Lewis said. “Feminine hygiene is something nobody talks about, yet it something every girl and woman in the world deals with.”
Days for Girls is a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington state, with teams in every state. There are nine chapters in Utah, including those in Logan, South Jordan and Vernal.
President Elect for the Kaysville Rotary Club Adam Wills helped put on an event for Days for Girls. This took place at the Davis Applied Technology College on Jan. 31.
“On Saturday we went from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and we had close to 1,000 people come throughout the day,” Wills said. “Just understanding that there were young girls in other parts of the world that were having to drop out of school because they didn’t have solutions for feminine hygiene, was pretty moving to everybody in our club. Our club tends to be predominately male, and it was still something that resonated. We all have daughters and wives.”
Connor Simonsen is the student body president at Davis High School. He and his council helped make Saturday’s event a reality. Simonsen says it has made a lasting impression on his constituents.
“Basically, it keeps girls in school and not only affects them, but affects their family and generations after that,” Simonsen said. “It stops other problems like sex trafficking, because in order for these girls to stay in school they would have to basically sell their bodies to get a tampon. And so that’s what they were having to do, and this stops that and keeps them in school.”
Officials say Saturday was the most well-attended event that Days for Girls has ever had.
“It really just made me proud to be a community member of Kaysville,” Simonsen added.
According to the World Health Organization, three out of every four African girls are sexually exploited before the age of 12. It is not uncommon for women and girls to exchange sexual favors for needed hygiene products.
Lewis says in many countries, men control the markets.
“Oftentimes, the headmasters or the male teachers in the school have products in their offices, and the girls are expected and sometimes required to go to these men and exchange sexual favors with them in order to receive pads so they can stay in school that day,” Lewis said.
Days for Girls is one of many organizations that provides hygiene kits to women in developing countries. Other groups include “50 Cents. Period.,” “Woman Care Global,” and the “Protecting Futures Program.”
Lewis says more 15,000 Utahns have volunteered to help build these kits, in small groups and at larger events like the one in Kaysville.
The kits provide sanitary, comfortable hygiene solutions, and typically last three years. Lewis says when girls are fighting to become educated, those years make a big difference.
For more information on the cause, visit www.daysforgirls.org.