OREM — Girls in some parts of the world are shamed, blamed and forced to stay home during their menstrual periods.
That's why Days for Girls not only sends reusable feminine hygiene kits to areas of limited access, but also conducts education efforts to teach girls that there is nothing wrong with the natural process. As she assembled kits Thursday, volunteer Sondra Hudgens said she often tells girls in India who are embarrassed by their periods how "amazing!" the process actually is.
The Days for Girls international charity and the Women's Success Center at Utah Valley University united for the service project in the UVU student center where volunteers cut, tore, sewed and folded materials for the kits.
Thursday also marked Days for Girls' 10th anniversary, as well as International Day of the Girl, a U.N.-recognized holiday.
Each kit Days for Girls sends out contains underwear, special pads called "shields," liners to securely hold the shields in place, soap and a cloth to clean the products, zip-close plastic bags, and a sewn bag to store it all.
The shields volunteers make are built to last three to five years, if not more, said Lisa Chudleigh, Days for Girls' Utah regional representative.
"It's something that you can wash and that will last," Chudleigh said. "Also, it has this layer in the middle that's waterproof, which makes these different from anything else."
Chudleigh said the group is called Days for Girls because of what it allows young women to do: "They get their days back."
Girls in some developing countries miss about five days of school each month because they don't have access to feminine hygiene products, she said. They often end up dropping out completely.
Having dependable, reusable pads allows them to stay in school longer.
"An educated girl can change an entire family, can change a community, and actually can change the world," Chudleigh said.
Eliza Jackson, a senior at UVU studying English, helped to tear and cut fabric for the hygiene kit bags.
"It's really unfortunate, and honestly wrong, that a lot of girls have to miss their education just because of a natural biological problem, and not having access to the supplies that will help them," Jackson said.
Chudleigh will head to Guatemala in December to distribute the kits and to educate girls and communities about feminine hygiene.
Hudgens has been to India multiple times with Days for Girls, where she is the Provo team leader.
She she has met girls who are told they have no contribution to the community except to get married and have babies, and that menstruation is dirty or unhealthy, even "cursed."
"So we educate that menstruation is healthy," Hudgens said. "Periods make people."
Hudgens said she loves seeing girls' and women's views of themselves change after learning that their bodies are "amazing" and "incredible."
Rachel Saunders, a coordinator in the UVU Women's Success Center, pointed out the similarities between her group and Days for Girls.
"We have the same mission," she said. "We want to keep girls in school."
Katie Brough, Women of UVU's student president, said she loves the event because those volunteering do so because they are passionate, not out of obligation.
"Coming here, it's very welcoming," she said. "Anybody can come, and it's just a great atmosphere."