An international charity is giving many girls their lives back with a simple feminine hygiene kit they create and hand out.
Linda Sidorow is a volunteer with the Springfield, Man., division of Days for Girls. She's been sewing for them for roughly six years since she retired. She spent 45 years as a Medical Technologist in Winnipeg.
After Sidorow's daughter told her about the Days for Girls organization and how they helped teen girls in developing countries by giving them reusable pads, she thought it a great way to fill her time. Sidorow loves to sew and volunteering with the charity allows her to do just that while blessing young women around the world.
"My liaison [with the charity] supplies me with the material. I sew the cloth shields that the flannelette pads go into. Mine is just a small part. When I'm done I send it back to be inspected," says Sidorow.
While many of the pieces are sewn in individual volunteers' homes, each piece is inspected before being shipped out, to make sure the quality is high so that it lasts for the girls.
"There are many things that compose a kit. They consist of a bag, two pairs of underwear, one moisture-resistant transport bag, a washcloth, a hotel size soap, two moisture-resistant shields which is what I sew, and eight high-quality flannelette pads. They also get care and instruction for these."
To create one kit costs roughly $15, but the value is far greater for the teenage girls that receive them. Each kit is created from donations that people give through fabric, money, or their time.
"Most of these girls, when they reach the age of maturity and start their menstrual cycles, they're not allowed to go to school [during their period] because they don't have any products."
The effects of not going to school for one out of four weeks a month can be life-changing for girls.
"They can miss up to 180 days of school a year and that puts them behind everything. A lot [of the girls] will drop out and become child brides, all because of being a woman. This is not something we ask for, but something we are born with," she says.
The kits have gone to help girls around the world including countries such as Beirut, Afghanistan, Kenya, Iraq, El Salvador, Cambodia, and Haiti to name a few.
"People in first world countries and in Canada, we don't know how lucky we are that we can go to the store and pick up disposable pads or reusable ones we can wash. These girls use things like leaves, moss, ashes, dirt. Anything that will absorb."
Once the girls receive a kit, it allows them to stay in school with their male counterparts. In reality, it changes their lives, according to Sidorow.
"Each kit is designed to last three years. Some of the countries set up sewing machines and fabric and then they have the women make their own, which really cut down on transportation costs."
The Springfield office of Days for Girls created and donated 855 kits last year during the pandemic before they ran out of fabric.
There are four Days for Girls chapters in Manitoba and many others all around Canada.