In 2008, Celeste Mergens was working in community development for a non-governmental organization in Kenya.
In the wake of the country’s post-election violence, she witnessed a tremendous rise in the number of girls in orphanages. Mergens wondered: What happens to these girls when they menstruate?
She quickly learned the girls stay in their rooms, sitting on a piece of cardboard, missing out on school and work. What they desperately needed, in Kenya and many other parts of the world, was access to feminine hygiene items. Thus, the nonprofit Days for Girls was born, which provides washable, sustainable hygiene kits to girls and women all over the world.
Days for Girls (www.daysforgirls.org) envisions a world where menstruation is no longer a source of shame and taboo. Through volunteers, enterprises and public and private partnerships, Days for Girls is working to shift how women and girls see themselves and are seen by their communities. Days for Girls envisions a world where every woman and girl has ready access to hygiene solutions. Hygiene solutions are a little thing that becomes a big thing quickly when millions of women and girls suddenly have what they need to stay in school, pursue opportunity and succeed.
Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Greenville, is taking a stand for women by creating kits for Days for Girls, holding donation drives for the Period Project and educating themselves about local and federal laws.
In the United States, women living in poverty or who are homeless also struggle with access to products for their period. Aldersgate volunteers said another frustration is that South Carolina imposes a sales tax on pads and tampons, considering them a luxury item when there is no sales tax on soda or candy.
As Aldersgate said, on any given day there are more than 500 million menstruating all over the world. Every woman deserves to have the supplies, sanitation and information to understand and care for herself.