International Friendships Inspiring Grassroots Change
Each Days for Girls Kit tells a story. It tells the story of the person who made it, sewing together the bright patterns with love & care so that a girl could continue going to school once she came of age. It tells the story of the woman who receives it, and uses that DfG Kit each month so that she can continue working, providing for her family, and supporting her children as they go to school. Each DfG Kit tells the story of a friendship forged across international borders & different cultural contexts as women (and men!) unite together to create increased access to education and menstrual hygiene management.
One of the most powerful aspects of the Days for Girls Global Network is the amazing friendships that are created in the name of uniting behind menstrual hygiene management. Around the globe, these connections are made each day. This is a beautiful story of a friendship between Alicia and Virginia, two women who have united together to advocate for women throughout Maasai Communities in Kenya.
Alicia Wicks first fell in love with the African Continent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia back in the late 1960s. Over the course of the past ten years, Alicia’s love for Africa has grown through visits to Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Malawi. On each visit, Alicia has worked closely with women & girls who produce traditional artisan crafts as a means of supporting themselves and their families. Combining her love for Africa with the sewing talents of local women, Alicia has inspired countless women, encouraging them to invest in themselves and in their futures. Virginia Turasha is a Maasai Woman from Kenya. She’s a community advocate for the traditional Maasai Bush Community, and works closely with neighboring communities on advocacy and community development projects. Virginia and Alicia first met back in 2013, when Alicia lived with Virginia’s family in Kenya. And ever since, they have felt like family.
Alicia first discovered Days for Girls International back in 2014, and instantly knew that it was for her. Her friends with Soroptimist International helped her to form a Days for Girls Chapter in Thurston-Lewis County, Washington, and Alicia was eager to bring Days for Girls to Virginia in Kenya. On her next visit to Kenya, Alicia introduced the Days for Girls model to Virginia, and together, they decided to visit Days for Girls Uganda to learn more about the DfG approach to menstrual hygiene management. Together, they boarded a bus from Nairobi, Kenya and journeyed 16 hours to reach Kampala, Uganda, excited to visit DfG Uganda and to learn about the enterprise model that had worked so well in Kampala.
“The staff and volunteers in the project, from director to cook, were wonderful, gracious, and knowledgeable about the needs and methods for a successful DfG program, as well as beautifully hosting their two guests from Kenya,” writes Alicia about her experience with DfG Uganda. On their first day in Uganda, Alicia and Virginia were able to accompany the DfG Uganda Team to a site visit to the Kampala Micro-Enterprise, a newer project that started in late 2014. They were able to observe the women who worked with the enterprise project, and found it exciting to talk to the group members about their experience with DfG.
The Kampala Micro-Enterprise is a great example of how the DfG Model can be innovative & adapted to the needs of different women’s group. Most of the participants in the Kampala Micro-Enterprise are mothers, and structure their schedules around their responsibilities of raising their young children. The supervisor at the project also came up with a creative idea to create bed liners for immobile patients, a project that is continuing through the trial phases today. Coupled with producing the DfG Menstrual Hygiene Kits, the Kampala Micro-Enterprise is excited to move into the next phases of production, simultaneously serving community members while generating an income for its sewists.
Alicia and Virginia were able to observe the importance of marketing and outreach during their experiences in Uganda. “The women leaders in the enterprise group all use the kits themselves, making these ladies the best advertisers and sellers possible,” Alicia tells us. And she’s right! Part of the beauty of the Days for Girls Model is creating a movement – one that includes women from around the globe uniting behind a sustainable solution for menstrual hygiene management.
On their second day with DfG Uganda, Dorcus, a team member with DfG Uganda, took Alicia and Virgina to the bazaar in Kampala. Both Alicia and Virginia have a deep passion for African handicrafts, and they were ecstatic to visit the different fabric shops in the busy city center. The ladies had a great time visiting the wholesale ships where DfG purchases its fabrics, and made some time for some shopping, too!
“[We] were so impressed with the staff and [were] so graciously treated by the staff and volunteers in the office that [we] changed our plans for the bus ride back to Kenya from day to night, allowing for additional time with these wonderful individuals,” Alicia recalls. Alicia and Virginia left the DfG Uganda staff with gifts from the Maasai, and again boarded the long bus ride back to Nairobi, excited to share their knowledge from their Uganda experience.
Alicia and Virginia are eager to teach girls to sew the DfG Kits, and look forward to teaching them about the importance of menstrual hygiene management and women’s health. In the Maasai Communities, it is common for girls to drop out of school after 8th Grade, oftentimes due to the poor educational facilities or lack of family income to support education. Alicia explains that “When they go as far as they can in their education, they ‘hang around’ until their parents marry them off… as young as 13.” Her and Virginia are hopeful that a DfG Project can change that. With the additional income from sewing DfG Kits the girls can begin to financially support themselves, giving them more flexibility with their decisions to continue education. There is a song that the local Maasai girls sing, which goes like this: “You want to marry me off young for a bag of rice and cooking oil. Let me remain in school and I will buy you the rice and cooking oil.”
Alicia and Virginia are already looking forward to planning another visit to DfG Uganda, eager to return to see their new friends and to learn more about starting a DfG Micro-Enterprise. We hope to see them again soon! And we wish them luck in their future endeavors to spread the DfG Model to the Maasai Communities in Kenya.