Friday, May 16, 2014

Our Maturation Project – “I Enjoy Being A Girl!”

I am serving on a committee called something like “Sister Power”.   

The sister that is serving with her husband as being over the Humanitarian service of the church had put it together with 3 caucasion women living here.  Two  of their husbands work for the church and the other husband works for US Aid (an arm of the US Embassy.)  They are great dynamic women.  (Manon, Elza & Megan).   There first project is called the “Maturation Project”.  We have just changed the name to “I Enjoy Being A Girl”.   I have never appreciated the fact that we have easy access to sanitary pads and Tampons.  I am extremely humbled again.

Evidently when most African women menstruate, traditionally it is extremely embarrassing.   In the past women were sometimes sent out of the village to live out in the jungle or the savannah by themselves.  Now, they just stay home for the week.  The worst thing about this is that they have to drop out of school, because they miss so many classes.  This is a huge reason that girl’s don’t get as much education, and therefore they have another strike against them.   When we asked some of the Relief Society sisters what they use for pads… some of the responses were, “A piece of a rag”, “Leaves” or “I just stay home and sit on a towel.”  We realized that the Primary president had missed primary and when someone asked if she had been ill… she said “No, I was at my house sitting because I was bleeding.”  The more we have investigated, the more we have found out what an extreme need there is to help these women, so they can attend school and other responsibilities. 

We spent 6 weeks planning a huge project with all the women and young women in the stake.  Manon and Elza shopped for weeks buying up hundreds of old, used terry cloth towels.  They also bought flannel, big snaps, and panties… scizzors, pins, etc.  They paid a seamstress to make 250 cute little bags.  We spent the day before cleaning and scrubbing tables in preparation for the big event. The setup was major.  All of the tables were stolen from the stake center, so we had to drive around and round up 25 tables from various ward buildings and the embassy.

We met on May 1st, which was a holiday here.  We planned it on a day that the young women could help.   We had 80 people in attendance.  We set up 15 sewing machines.  All but one were were run with a foot treddle, without electricity.   We completed 1/3 of the 250 packets that were proposed for the project.  We have a year to finish them up, but hope to have them completed in a couple of months with mini sewing workshops for the next few Wednesdays.  In a month we will have a big celebration of Womanhood, which will also be part of this project. 
All Ages helped.

 I was in charge of registration and assembling the packets.... and of course refreshments.  We had cupcakes, and each person was able to choose two.  These sweet people don't get to make many choices in life... and for many it was very difficult to choose.  But they did love them!

We massed produce enough “Pads” and “Pad holders” to give out 62 “sacs” which each held 6 pads and 2 pad holders which wrap around the girls panties, secured with a snap… and then they have 2 pieces of elastic to slip the pads in.  They got to choose their own print of “sac” and their own pair of new, pretty underpants.  The girls were thrilled. 

The first day that the announcement was made in Young Women’s the girls were mortified that it was being discussed… let alone have an activity based around it.  On our project day, the young women all attended one of two 45 minute workshops… One of 12 and  13 year olds, and one for 14-18 years old.  Our most darling and educated (University of Utah graduate) young adult girl… age 23… gave the workshops and discussed the facts of life with both groups.   They were allowed to ask questions.  Almost none of them had ever been taught anything about menstruation or sex.  

By the end of the day, all of the girls were not only comfortable, but excited about the subject and their cute bags. 
It was a wonderful day of working together and building a sisterhood.   In a country where women are climbing out of obscurity, this was a confidence building project, and every woman left the project being proud to be a Daughter of God.  I am honored to be a part of this group of women and girls.



1 comment:

  1. Oh my word! So great! I am so glad you are getting to experience such amazing things! So sad that they don't have such a basic things as pads and tampons!