“Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,” this theme, for International Women’s Day 2019, perfectly describes the 158 participants from 79 DfG Enterprises who attended the Days for Girls East Africa Enterprise Conference held in Kampala, Uganda on March 4-6, 2019. Women and men came from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and the DRC for the second annual DfG Enterprise conference to sharpen sewing skills, tighten marketing plans, increase business skills, expand social media reach, and improve financial reports to ensure their DfG Enterprises are thriving within their communities.
The Days for Girls social enterprise approach supports local leaders who live in low-resourced communities to become agents of change by creating leadership opportunities in economic development and health education. Rather than being passive consumers, they step up to become leaders in the growing menstrual health and social business movement. Each workshop is designed to give local leaders the tools to drive community solutions. These leaders become both the creators and access points for MH products and MH education, as well as for bulk purchasers such as NGOs and schools. By empowering them to become educators, marketers and agents of behavioral change, they create a sustainable approach that meets MH needs in a way many current options do not.
Anna Okullo, an enterprise leader, grew up in Lira, Northern Uganda during Kony's Lord’s Resistance Army’s violent reign. At the conference she told how she fled with her family to Kampala where they lived in a refugee community. She met her husband there and was trained as a tailor. She often observed young girls walking home from school during the day with menstrual stains on their skirts. It made her wonder what she could do to help. When she learned about Days for Girls, she knew they had the answer she was looking for. After receiving training, she started her own DfG Enterprise and ultimately became a leader within her community to teach MH health and sell DfG Kits. Anna joyfully expressed that she has seen the difference her Enterprise is making in her community, “...the girls absolutely love the DfG pads and are now able to succeed in school.” She is now making more money selling Days for Girls Kits than she made in her tailoring job.
By utilizing human centered design, the Days for Gir program allows for high levels of adaptability to meet local contexts and needs. At the conference, participants were reminded that Days for Girls programs are designed “by them, for them”, as the local leaders, to take over and self direct. Each of the 158 participants who attended the conference is an engaged and active advocate for MH. With their leadership, their innovation for change, their MH education, their desire to ensure equality in menstrual health, and by providing one option to manage menstruation with a washable pad, they are turning periods into pathways.