Reusable feminine hygiene kits India-bound
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).”
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.