Days for Girls… and Retired Women.

i’m old. It’s been many years since i’ve dealt with menstruation.* When i was new to the cycle, it was a pain in the ass – heavy, bulky, pads, anchored to elasticized belts that were all we had in the stone ages of the 70’s.

The liberation of tampons found me during high school! “You mean i can go swimming at the lake with my friends this weekend? Hell, yes!”

i was privileged. Globally, it’s not quite that simple.

Such conveniences are not readily available, and there are tremendous cultural barriers. Many girls are stuck at home – missing one week of school each month. Many are STILL forced to resort to rags, mattress stuffing, banana leaves, feathers – whatever is handy to manage menstruation.

Celeste Mergens was working with a family foundation near Nairobi, Kenya in 2008, assisting an orphanage.** She recognized that the options for dealing with periods were limited – she first tried supplying disposable pads, but that it was not viable, or sustainable. Days for Girls was born…

Kits, with cloth-based, pretty, washable, and long-lasting components — with education — were the solution. Since Days for Girls was founded, more than 1 million women and girls have been assisted, in over 125 countries world wide.

What's in a kit

Where do the kits come from? Volunteers. A global network of volunteers, organized in local groups, diligently make the kits to a prescribed standard. Other volunteers are trained to do distribution and education.

i stumbled upon a local group about a year ago. Went to a monthly gathering. Fell in love with the mission.  For two hours each month, i join a diverse group of retired women. The group leader has arranged work stations – cutting, ribbon sealing, folding, packing, grommeting. The sewing is done off-site during the month by a cadre of skilled volunteers (not me).


And now i am the Grommet Queen.

Happy chatter. “How are the kids?” “Has Marge recovered from the fall?” “Did you get tickets to the game?” But mostly we are focused on our tasks. i measure, punch holes, set up the grommet thingie, apply grommets. Repeat.

home of the grommet queen

i was happy this month – in 2 hours i completed 60 pad holders. As i make them, i offer kind thoughts and encouragement to the woman or girl who will someday use this as part of her kit. “You go, li’l sister! Being a woman should not get in your way.”

There was a time in my life where i enjoyed being in a leadership role. Helping re-start a bicycle advocacy group, being on a high-visibility board or two, being a mouthpiece for a cultural organization. What i’ve learned is that there is deep joy, and satisfaction, in being nothing more than a useful pair of hands.

i can’t fix all that is wrong in the world. All i can really do is chip away at it… one grommet at a time.


*After breeding, i opted for a tubal ligation in 1999. Ten years later, i chose uterine ablation – a procedure which fries the lining of the uterus, eliminating the montly cycle. Back then, i was recently divorced, and decided that the annoyance of a period would be a buzzkill to my aggressive “dating”… (cough, cough). Menopause, for me, was a year of being hyper-emotional, with the occasional ‘thrash night’ in bed, due to overheating. 

** More about Celeste, and Days for Girls at their website.

14 thoughts on “Days for Girls… and Retired Women.

  1. Brilliant initiative.
    Sadly in my well off culture (and I suspect yours) products to manage menstruation are expensive. To the extent that women (particularly but not exclusively) homeless women can choose dignity – or food.
    There is a dignity drive over here to which I happily contribute, pads, tampons, menstrual cups, incontinence products.
    I believe Scotland has decided that pads and tampons should be free. Loud applause from me.

    • Even better? There’s an education/entrepreneurial aspect – they teach women how to make their own kits with local materials, making it even more sustainable. i love this organization!

      i’m cranky because in the US, food is not subject to sales tax, but feminine hygeine products are. As if they’re not pricey enough… and it’s not an optional supply. As you say, ‘dignity or food’. Grrr….

      we also have organizations here that collect and distribute supplies to those in need. i’m a fan of the menstrual cup – once people shake off the psychological barriers, it’s a most affordable, practical, approach!

      • Feminine hygiene products FINALLY were exempted from sales tax here a little over a year ago. A step in the right direction, but they are still expensive. Too expensive.
        Love that ‘make your own’ philosophy and education.

        • That’s progress! There are a few states that have started exempting them from state tax, but it’s not enough. As you say, they should be available, and affordable.

    • Trying to keep this habit. Target is to still write something about once a week… it really helps me organize my thoughts and feelings, and i enjoy the interaction with readers! i often gain valuable perspectives from the comments!

  2. Brilliant iniitiative for one of nature’s rare design mistakes! If men had periods we’d all have statutory time off each month. And these things always work ten times better when it’s done with others. Well done, power to your grommet!

    • If men had periods – or something similar where all of their sperm migrated en masse from their bodies, potentially leaking on their clothing, accompanied by cramps and irritibility – the world would be such a different place.

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