Days for Girls began in Australia in 2012 after Gloria Buttsworth had a visit from her friend, who runs a children’s home in northern Uganda. The two got talking about the girls in the home and particularly their hygiene needs. Most of the girls could not afford sanitary products, resulting in many of the girls missing school repeatedly, with many eventually dropping out. The question occurred to Gloria: ‘‘What can I do?’’
The answer appeared in the form of the Days for Girls International (DfGI) Menstrual Health Programs. Gloria contacted Celeste Mergens, the founder of DfGI and the rest is history. Since beginning in 2012 with 4 teams, Australia now has a network of volunteers who sew and distribute from every State and Territory Australia-wide.
Days for Girls Australia (DfGAL) partners with YWAM via their Medical Outreach Program in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to reach girls in some of the most remote parts of PNG. YWAM is based in Townsville, in Queensland, and conducts about 11 outreach missions over a 10-month period. PNG has a population of around 7 million people, 800 languages and some of the worst health statistics in the Pacific: 1 in 13 children don’t live to see their 5th birthday, there is one dentist for every 100,000 people, and 84% of the population live in remote rural areas scattered over rugged terrain, complex river systems, vast expanses of ocean and an extensive coastline.
The YWAM Ship goes where it is needed most, in consultation with PNG Government. The program is designed to deliver healthcare services and supplies, and to support rural health workers. Outreaches range from 7 to 17 days and they typically visit around 20 to 25 villages during that time. They visit Western, Gulf and Central Provinces (from Port Moresby) and the sandy, sunny eastern provinces of Milne Bay (Alotau), Oro (Lae, Popondetta), Marobe (Lae), out to Goodenough Island and the Trobiands. DfG Kits and reproductive education are delivered via the Community Engagement Team on every outreach, in every village visited.
In 2015, Kerrie Huxham was on-board a YWAM Ship immunising children when she saw DfG Kits being distributed there and began asking questions. Seeing the great value of DfG to the YWAM Program, on her return home, she joined the Iluka NSW Team, where she has volunteered ever since and is now the co-leader.
Kerrie has now been volunteering on the YWAM Ship for over five years, delivering DfG Kits and education to some of the remotest villages in PNG, most without a common language. Before receiving a DfG Kit, girls were using coconut coir and rags to manage their period – if they were lucky enough to be given some by their mother. In the coastal villages, girls stay in the water all day to keep clean. This means many days every month missing school – creating an education and opportunity gap that can only be bridged by equipping these women with knowledge and tools, such as those DfG provides.
This project is coordinated by the Iluka Team, with Kits provided by many Teams and Chapters across Australia. Over the last three years, 6,317 girls in remote locations in PNG have received DfG Kits and education through this joint effort.
Most recently, the YWAM medical ship departed Townsville for PNG on February 6, 2021 full of a few thousand of our DfG kits and over 1,500 washable masks. It plans to stay up there for approximately six months, with the first outreaches commencing in the Western Province and much of the initial work occurring in and around Port Moresby. This symbiotic, productive and life-changing partnership DfGAL has with YWAM is incredibly valuable to DfGAL and the people in PNG.