For most girls going through puberty, feminine hygiene products become just another part of life, but for many, here and in other parts of the world, the lack of sanitary pads results in missed days of school.
Linda Pastucha, president of the Zeta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an international society of women educators, discovered how this alarming situation affects girls living in countries throughout Africa when she read an article in Oprah magazine about four years ago.
“When I first read of this problem in ‘O’ magazine, I was horrified!,” she wrote in an email. “It never occurred to me that the young girls in the villages did not have access to sanitary napkins, or hygiene supplies, or even underwear. So, when I became president, I chose Sani Pads as my project. We buy fabric, cut and sew sani pads that can be used over and over again, and can actually be used a full year.
“The first year of my presidency, the members who can sew, made over a hundred pads, and we purchased over a hundred pairs of panties. But those ladies are all sewed out!
“It is estimated that the young girls in Africa miss 20 percent, or more, school days per year because of their periods. The young girls in the villages do not have sanitary supplies and, therefore, cannot go to school when they are on their period.”
Pastucha added, “One of DKG’s international projects is Schools for Africa, and DKG members and chapters are encouraged to donate to UNICEF in an effort to support quality education in different countries in Africa.”
To continue their Sani Pads project, Pastucha, who’s in her second and final year as president, is looking for sewing groups willing to volunteer their time to help make “another 100, or so, pads.” The chapter would provide all the necessary materials — fabric, snaps, thread, etc.
“There aren’t a lot of women in the group who can sew. Last year, we had 31 members, four active sewers, and 15 people who cut the fabric. And, we had one woman who did the majority of the snaps,” said Pastucha.
Once the pads are complete, they’re then taken to Rachel O’Neill of Brownstown Township, who, in 2008, founded Little Dresses for Africa (littledressesforafrica.org). Pastucha said, “She will have her group ready them for shipment to different countries in Africa.”
O’Neill said, “As we were distributing the little dresses, we discovered a very serious need with the older girls. We found that many were not in school because they were not able to manage their monthly periods. To meet that need, we developed the ‘Dignity Program,’ which includes the distribution of washable menstrual pads and a pair of panties for the girls. At distribution, we teach about hygiene and sanitation and encourage them to feel valued, instead of embarrassed.”
O’Neill, who travels to Africa twice a year, usually to Malawi, said, “Little Dresses for Africa has sent over 8 million dresses and millions of washable pads since 2008 to 84 countries in and around Africa.” More items are being mailed Saturday and should arrive in early March.
If you’d like to help members of the Zeta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International make sani pads, contact Pastucha at (313) 527-0495, or firstname.lastname@example.org, for instructions.
Correction: In last week’s column, the email address for wreath maker Jane Akers was incorrect. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Linda Pastucha at (313) 527-0495. Email: email@example.com.