Fundraiser educates, empowers those in underdeveloped countries

By Miranda Manier

Women gathered in Wicker Park Sept. 28 to raise money and awareness for reusable menstrual hygiene kits that the group Days for Girls provides for women who cannot easily obtain these hygiene products.

Days for Girls provides these kits to women and girls in underdeveloped countries where menstruation is a taboo topic, and discretion is key. The kits are designed for users in areas where access to clean, running water might be a challenge, said Michele Auch, a Days for Girls team leader.

The kits contain a waterproof shield that wraps around underpants, a liner for the shield pocket and an additional flannel liner that provides greater absorption on heavier flow days, according to Auch.

Unlike disposable pads, the liners can be folded in a baggie after use, taken home and rinsed and then “put … in the sunshine in order to kill the germs,” Auch said. Then, the liners can be washed with other laundry and air dried, looking more like a handkerchief than a menstrual hygiene item to ward off suspicion, she added.

The kits also contain soap, a washcloth and two pairs of underpants because some kit recipients might not be able to afford any, Auch said. Also included are health and hygiene education materials such as a one-year calendar that encourages girls to track their menstrual cycles.

“When I learned about the organization, I was shocked to learn how widespread this problem is,” said Rebecca George, owner of Volumes Bookcafe,1474 N. Milwaukee Ave., which was the host of the Sept. 28 event. “I think that knowledge is power.”

George said there is also something powerful about seeing the physical item that will help someone.

“You can actually touch [the kits],” she said. “This is the thing that will help change women’s lives.”

At the fundraiser, Auch described the vision of Days for Girls: to reach every woman the world by 2022. Performers then shared excerpts from novels and spoken word pieces.

One performer, Alicia Swiz, a feminist writer and performer, said she was particularly troubled by the taboo that surrounds menstruation and hoped people would walk away from the fundraiser more educated on the matter.

“[I hope for] people to have a raised awareness, consciousness, and hopefully compassion around what it feels like to experience a very natural thing,” Swiz said. 

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