A Simple Solution for Girl Power 6

Draper residents help make kits for girls in Third World countries

Last August, when Val Bunting traveled to Tanzania, she brought a small suitcase full of clothes and a large one filled with simple solutions for girl empowerment.

That large suitcase held 40 Days for Girls kits. The colorful kits are part of the Days for Girls project, an international effort to make and supply quality, sustainable, feminine hygiene products to girls in Third World countries, which allows them to attend school during their menstrual cycle.

“These kits are one small way for girls in these countries to break out of a vicious cycle,” said Bunting, a Draper resident who regularly volunteers with the Draper Days for Girls team.

Religious and cultural factors, atop ignorance and the inaccessibility of feminine hygiene products blend, together to turn girls into outcasts during their menstrual cycle. Girls miss out on four to five days of school each month. Most fall behind and many drop out.

Alone, girls sit or squat on dirt floors using banana leaves, cardboard, dried cow dung, or cornhusks for padding. Most have no idea why they bleed. Many think they have AIDS. “If they are lucky enough they’ll have a friend or family member who brings them something to eat,” said Bunting. “They aren’t allowed to go out on their own.”

On her humanitarian trip, Bunting, 65, taught English and helped pour cement for school buildings. She gave the schoolgirls, as well as their female teachers, the kits, taught them how to use the kits, and taught the teachers how to educate other girls.

When presented with the kits, the young girls’ eyes filled with tears, she recalled. “They thought it was a miracle because now they didn’t have to miss any school.”

Each Days for Girls kit contains a washcloth, two pairs of underwear, two zip-lock freezer bags, a bar of soap, a waterproof shield for the underwear and eight absorbent flannel liners. These liners slip inside the shield, which snaps to the underside of the underwear—all included in a drawstring bag that resembles a purse.

The girls can carry the items undetected and can wash the liners, using soap, the zip-lock bag and water. The bright patterns camouflage blood stains allowing girls to hang the liners out to dry.

“It is life-changing,” Bunting said. “These girls love school. They walk miles to attend. Education is the only way to get somewhere.”

In another step toward empowerment, Days for Girls sets up cottage industries where girls and women can make their own kits. “It becomes an inside job,” Bunting said, “and that is all part of the self sufficiency.”

Bunting plans another humanitarian trip to Africa and will again fill her largest suitcase with as many kits possible.

“I started volunteering with Days for Girls in Draper because it was something I could do, but the importance of it didn’t hit me until I went over there,” she said. “We get so caught up in our lives, we are so insulated here, that you don’t understand what having these kits is like for these girls until you go over there and see it for yourself.”