By Malcolm Baird, International Chair, Rotary Club of Brighton North
What started as a visit by a member of the Rotary Club of Brighton North to the Fiji highlands has helped to further stimulate the local Ba Women’s Community Forum sewing centre and the introduction of Days For Girls sustainable feminine hygiene products and awareness to schoolgirls in the highland region.
SEWAID was founded by Tony Castley, Past District Governor, District 9680 and is a registered RAWCS project. http://www.sewaid.com/
In May 2017, they provided 6 new domestic sewing machines and 2 overlockers along with a training programme of teaching sewing skills to 16 ladies at the Ba Fiji Women’s Community Forum. There were 6 volunteers from several NSW Rotary clubs and Days For Girls groups helping to teach how to make gift items such as bags and purses, basic dressmaking and Days for Girls (DFG) hygiene kit contents. The Centre is aimed at being a local community sewing enterprise and is open for business. A follow up training visit in September provided further enhanced sewing skills along with hygiene awareness for DFG kit introduction for distribution events. A local lady qualified to be a DFG Ambassador trainer for kit distribution.
Following the initial visit to the Fiji highland schools in the Ba region the Rotary Club of Brighton North decided to provide
suggested support to the forthcoming visit in November by Margaret Hamilton from the Rotary Club of Melbourne South who has assisted in making DFG kits in Bayside and with the delivery of several DIK containers and their contents to Fiji.
Margaret and her husband (with heavy cases) coordinated with the headmasters of two High schools, Nadarivatu and Ra, for local menstrual cycle and hygiene information sessions along with the distribution of 100 DFG kits between the 2 schools.
The kits last for 3 to 4 yrs. Transport for the school visits was provided by Valami Naloga from the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The programme and kits were enthusiastically received in the remote communities with very appreciative feedback.
A subsequent local industry leaders meeting was held in Ba with local support prompting donations of Fiji $1000 and NZ $1000- in support of the DFG kits production locally and for the procurement of the suitable materials. More donations to the Ba Women’s Forum would be most appreciated and used to conduct hygiene awareness classes, along with making and distributing more kits to Fiji remote highland schoolgirls.
The DFG programme has been supported and promoted across the world, and by many Rotary Clubs in Australia. In many developing nations not having sanitary supplies can mean days without school, days without income and days without leaving the house. Girls can miss up to 2 months of school every year. To address this issue and give girls across the globe education, safety and dignity, Days For Girls international was founded in 2008. DFG has provided approximately 1 million washable feminine hygiene kits to girls and women who would otherwise go without, enabling them not to miss valuable days from their education or employment. They also have a local Enterprise and Ambassador training program.
The Days For Girls Melbourne Victoria Chapter Director Inc, Margaret Cunningham who organised the 100 kits for Fiji, is known by and has supported several District 9800 and 9810 Rotary club projects, plus many Church groups and NGO’s and the Salvation army. Margaret currently has a volunteer group of 46 and has coordinated the making of thousands of kits for poor communities in developing countries. Margaret helped with the introduction of DFG into Australia via the Rotary International Convention in Sydney in 2014 and prior supported SEWAID as a sewing trainer in Tanzania and Uganda.
Margaret is willing to assist in any relevant capacity, with presentations and kits for Rotary club projects, to spread the word and work of Days For Girls. If you or your Club can foresee the potential to help girls in developing communities with a need for washable hygiene kits, then SEWAID and DFG can help, with Rotary making a difference.
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