Reusable fem­i­nine hy­giene kits In­dia-bound

Waterloo Region Record - - LOCAL - Jo­hanna Wei­d­ner, Record staff

WATER­LOO — Af­ter a year of mak­ing reusable fem­i­nine hy­giene sup­plies, Shamim Damji can’t wait to put them in the hands of young In­dian girls who will have a new-found free­dom.

“We want to see the re­ac­tion,” said the Water­loo woman.

Damji and fel­low Grand River Hospi­tal nurse Kim Trinh, sis­terin-law and teacher Alysha Damji and mother-in-law Shahi­naz Damji have been busily sew­ing the kits with help from vol­un­teers.

This week­end they’re trav­el­ling to In­dia to dis­trib­ute 166 of the colour­ful draw­string bags packed with two lined shields that clip into un­der­wear, eight flan­nel lin­ers, two pairs of un­der­wear, a wash cloth and a small soap.

The reusable pads last up to three years, and the sim­ple sup­plies will make a big dif­fer­ence to the girls re­ceiv­ing them.

“It’s mak­ing them au­ton­o­mous,” Damji said.

Girls and women in de­vel­op­ing na­tions don’t have easy ac­cess to fem­i­nine hy­giene sup­plies. That means for the five days or so of men­stru­a­tion ev­ery month, girls stay home from school.

“That’s two months worth of miss­ing school,” Trinh said. “Girls are forced to drop out.”

Along with the kits, the women will pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion on fem­i­nine hy­giene and hope­fully a new view on men­stru­a­tion. In­stead of shame and iso­la­tion, they want the girls to feel dig­nity and em­pow­er­ment.

Trinh said she felt com­pelled to do some­thing af­ter stum­bling upon Days for Girls, an in­ter­na­tional ini­tia­tive that aims to pro­vide ready ac­cess to fem­i­nine hy­giene for ev­ery girl and woman.

Nei­ther Trinh nor Damji had any sew­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore they launched into mak­ing the kits.

“It took a lot of prac­tice,” Trinh said.

They hosted sew­ing par­ties and many vol­un­teers helped to make and as­sem­ble the kits, which take about three hours from start to fin­ish and cost $15. Even those with­out sew­ing skills can help with cut­ting, iron­ing and other tasks, and the Water­loo Days for Girls group is al­ways look­ing for ex­tra hands.

All funds do­nated to the ef­fort went into kit sup­plies. The women are pay­ing for their own trip to In­dia, where they will hand out the kits at an or­phan­age in Mumbai and a board­ing school for un­der­priv­i­leged girls in Pune.

For Damji, it will be a lon­gawaited home­com­ing. She was adopted at the Mumbai or­phan­age when she was five and brought to Canada.

“I haven’t had a chance to re­ally think what it’s go­ing to be like,” Damji said. “I’m ner­vous. I’m ex­cited.” Damji could have be­come one of these girls with­out easy ac­cess to such a ne­ces­sity as fem­i­nine hy­giene sup­plies and be forced to stay back ev­ery month.

“Now that I think about it, I won­der what would I have done,” she said.

The women cre­ated a video through the process that they plan on show­ing to the girls who will re­ceive the kits.

A lot of peo­ple put in time, ef­fort and money into them and they want the girls to know that they’re sup­ported.

“It was re­ally im­por­tant for us to see the girls,” Trinh said.

“I think it’s also per­sonal for them to see the peo­ple be­hind (the Cana­dian project).”

DAVID BEBEE, RECORD STAFF

Kim Trinh, left, and Shamim Damji are part of a group of lo­cal woman who made fem­i­nine hy­giene kits and are trav­el­ling to In­dia to dis­trib­ute them.

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