“I just wear my second pair of pants and stay in my house until it is over.”
This was the response from one of the young West Papuan women when asked what she usually does when she gets her period.
In many countries and regions, including West Papua, it is not uncommon for women and girls to withdraw from school, employment and social connection when they are menstruating. This can put them persistently behind in their education, risk their income security and place unfair stigma upon them. Coupled with poor hygiene practices and limited access to appropriate sanitary materials, girls can end up falling well behind in many of the development outcomes that groups like the UN suggest we should be trying to improve.
Enter Ann Gobby and Days for Girls.
Ann is a Uniting Church member and part of the Black Pearl Network that supports the development work of Uniting Church partner church, Gereja Kristen Injili Indonesia di Tanah Papua (GKI-TP).
Ann is also a keen quilter and passionate about women’s empowerment.
“Why not bring these loves together,” she thought?
The idea was relatively simple. The Black Pearl Group could take some of the Days for Girls pre-made re-useable feminine hygiene kits that are carefully designed for culturally appropriate use and train local Papuan women in how to make them. The women would also be guided through a health and sexual education program so they know how to use the kits and keep themselves safe and healthy.
Eventually, Papuan women could sell or distribute the kits and provide accompanying educational information to girls in their communities. In the process, not only can Papuan women make some additional income but they can help to improve the lives of other women and girls.
Earlier this month the process began in earnest with the latest visit of the Black Pearl Network to West Papua. Following some discussions with our Papuan partner church and some research with Days for Girls, Ann got together with some of her quilting comrades to make a bunch of Days for Girls demonstration packs. The kits were loaded into suitcases and the sewing machines were booked at the GKI-TP Centre for Training and Development of Women (P3W).
Lee-Anne Burnett, from All Saints Floreat Uniting Church, reported the excitement of the young women involved as they discovered the simple benefits of the kits.
“It was so wonderful to see the girls’ faces light up when they understood what the packs were for and how they would benefit,” Lee-Anne commented.
Establishing the Days for Girls program into a fully functioning enterprise in Papua will take some time, but some solid foundations have been laid under the encouragement of the GKI-TP leadership. With some dedicated women driving the project, the days of Papuan girls hiding in their houses each month can begin to become a thing of the past.
Wembley Downs Uniting Church has also formed a group that is registered with the Days for Girls organisation and plan to make kits and raise funds to support the project in Papua.
Days for Girls is one of a number of projects supported by the Black Pearl Network in West Papua. Other initiatives focus on English language development and access to clean water.
If you would like to contribute to the work of the Black Pearl Network, donations can be made directly to the Creative Living Centre (CLC). All donations of $2 or more are tax deductible, and a receipt can be issued at the end of the financial year.
CLC bank account details:
Account number: 368982
Ref: Black Pearl