A group of students at Oxford College used one of their snow days off from classes to complete a service project geared toward young girls and women globally who don’t have the means for feminine hygiene products.
More than a dozen students gathered at the student center at the college Tuesday to learn more about the "Days for Girls International" program, which is a nonprofit group that makes and distributes sustainable feminine hygiene kits by partnering with other nonprofits, groups and organizations.
According to information from Days for Girls, with the lack of sanitary supplies in a number of countries, young girls and women often miss school, days from work and don’t leave their homes. Some girls miss up to two months of school per year and some are even exploited in exchange for hygiene.
However, the Days for Girls project help these young women by sending off washable feminine hygiene kits, which are made by volunteers and groups. According to DFG, these kits help to give back up to six months of living in just three years of use — about 180 days of education, health, safety and dignity.
Students at the college spent the afternoon making soft flannel liners with donated fabrics. Crystal McLaughlin, the director of student development at Oxford College and organizer of the project at the college, gave students a tutorial on how to make the products.
"I originally learned about the Days for Girls program through an Oprah magazine. Oprah commented about trying so hard to provide resources for her girls’ school in Africa (school, teachers, etc.), but I never realized they didn’t have the most basic feminine hygiene products," McLaughlin said. "I wanted to try this project with Oxford College students and a snow day seemed like a perfect opportunity to do it."
She said 16 students have been involved in the project so far. However, the group only completed part of the work on Tuesday and more volunteers will be needed in the future to finish the project.
"The kits have to be made with fabric that minimizes visible stains because of the cultural shaming about menstruation. It’s also fascinating that the kits are packed in large Ziploc bags. The girls can then use a small amount of water to wash the reusable liners in the plastic bags," McLaughlin said. "It’s a very rewarding project to be involved in. but in all honesty, more time-consuming than I imagined. Although we got all the fabric cut out and pinned together, we have a lot of sewing left to do."
McLaughlin said students at Oxford are constantly involved in service, and last year collectively completed approximately 15,000 hours of service. She said students are very service-minded and aware of global issues and there aren’t as many opportunities for them to be involved in local projects that address global needs. She added that students are also very aware of women’s issues and said the project was a great fit for students.
"I do some quilting as a hobby and knew of other staff members who were also quilters. Quilters almost always have a stash of leftover fabric they can donate. I had bought several fabrics that I changed my mind about, but they were perfect for the needs of this project," McLaughlin said.
"It made me happy to see beautiful fabric going to such a good cause. I can just imagine how the girls who receive the kits will love the bright colors and patterns. The website for the organization has a lot of videos about the impact of the menstrual kits and testimonies from the girls who have received kits. I think everyone involved was struck by how much we take for granted."