When I was selected as one of nine participants from my company’s (Classy) fundraising challenge, I could barely contain my excitement to meet the Days for Girl team in Uganda and see them in action. Although I knew menstrual health and access to sanitary pads was an issue for women and girls, I did not realize the magnitude of the problem. It was not until I had sat and listened to girls talk about their lack of access to clean water and menstrual supplies, the embarrassment and shame they felt around their period, and the many days of school they missed as a result, that the need truly sunk in.
During my time in Uganda, we had the opportunity to visit a school in the Central Region of Luwero, just north of Days for Girls’ headquarters in Kampala. Seeing the shining faces of these young girls, anxious to learn and grow, was as awakening as it was inspiring. With their whole lives ahead of them, they craved nothing more than opportunity, in every sense of the word.
Days for Girls staff member and their amazing trainer, Shefar Kaita, began the informational session by conducting a quick exercise with the girls. “Girls,” she began, “we’ll begin by all closing our eyes.” This simple instruction ensured that no girl would be judged or shamed for her response to the questions that were soon to come. Shefar continued by taking a poll of the following questions:
Do you have access to clean water, do you currently experience menstruation?
Are you embarrassed to talk about menstruation?
Do you have adequate supplies during menstruation?
Are you comfortable during menstruation?
Have you missed school because of menstruation?
Their answers were overwhelming; I could feel the warmth of a light turning on in my head and heart, grateful to be part of a practical solution.
These girls, longing nothing more than to learn and grow and better themselves, were at times quite literally unable to do just that because of a natural bodily function. Their days have been taken from them, unfairly and inexplicably. But Shefar explained to each wide eye student, that there was a solution.
One by one, these girls aging from roughly 9-15 came up and curtsied as they were given a kit, from our hands to theirs. This exchange represented so much more than a basic transaction; it represented a message and a movement—one that said ‘you matter; your dignity matters; your education matters; and we are here to stand beside you and ensure that you have the tools to keep moving forward.’
I’ve found throughout my time spent traveling with Days for Girls that each individual has a story to tell. It takes a village to change social perception; to change the way we think, the way we feel. Without women, there would be no life. Period. Yet without an outlet to tell their stories and to learn of their struggles, there is no way to find a solution. The woman who trekked three hours down a dirt road in the middle of the night to dispose of her menstrual pads is now a member of Days for Girls’ entrepreneurial program. The young girls that learned to sew these kits are now distributing them somewhere, changing lives for years to come, in a world far away that still somehow feels close to home. While the train of life stops for no one, it’s moments like these where the engine seems to slow down. It is our duty not only as a volunteer or a traveler, but a human being to live with purpose. The incredible individuals I met with Days for Girls will remain a part of me for the rest of my life, serving as a daily reminder of the importance to continue empowering Every Girl.Everywhere. Period.
Emily Binkowski works as an Enterprise Development Representative at Classy