When I spoke to members at our National Conference in November 2013 as a candidate for the Young BPW Australia Award, I was able to share my passion for education and in particular for girls’ education. Now as Award Winner, I have the chance to bring to you a project focusing on girls’ education that our members and Clubs can engage in at different levels. We are partnering with Days for Girls, a not-for-profit organisation that approaches obstacles to girls’ education in a unique way.
The idea was first brought to former President June Kane by Faye Helou, President of BPW Strathfield, and it was June who put Faye in touch with me and suggested we talk. BPW Strathfield has been piloting the project and Faye and I will continue to work together to support Clubs and members who take up this great project.
We are all committed to this initiative because it is not only about education but the very fact of being a woman. And what we propose to Clubs and members is a practical way of making a difference to girls in developing countries whose education is so vital to their own futures and that of their families and communities.
Education is at the very heart of a successful working life for women and girls all over the world. We know, though, that in many countries girls do not get the education they need to start them on the path to a successful working and personal life. Schools may be remote from where they live; parents may not see the value of education for a girl or at all; even where school is free, the costs of uniform, book, insurance and even photocopying may be passed on to children and make it impossible for them to go to school – and where a choice has to be made between sending a boy or a girl to school, the girl invariably loses out.
What most people do not know, though, is that many girls are kept out of school either permanently or every month because they do not have the skills nor the materials to cope with something as ‘fundamentally female’ as menstruation. Day for Girls raises awareness of this obstacle to girls’ education, and produces and distributes sustainable feminine hygiene kits. By addressing the menstruation issue, Days for Girls deals with a taboo subject to help girls with period management and education as a key to social change.
In only six years, Days for Girls has supplied kits to more than 70 countries. A Days for Girls sustainable feminine hygiene kit gives girls more days in school, reduces her chances of becoming a sexual target by making her maturation less obvious, and is instrumental in breaking the poverty cycle when girls stay in school. The initiative is demand-driven: girls are asking for this, not having it imposed on them, so we know that it is worthwhile.
This project is a good fit with BPW Australia’s position on education, work equity and women’s rights. We believe that education is a key aspect in promoting and facilitating gender equity in the world of work.
By helping young girls stay in school, we are empowering future leaders and making huge steps in gender not being an issue.
This project is very close to many women’s hearts and hopefully all can identify with this cause. Days for Girls’ slogan says it all: “Days for Girls: Every girl. Everywhere. Period.”
So what will your resolution be for 2015? Whatever you hope to achieve, add “get involved in the BPWA/Days for Girls project” to the list! All Clubs have now received kits, and we hope that BPW Clubs across Australia will use the opportunity of International Night to launch the project and get things moving. Meanwhile, here is an update on what is already under way:
In November, BPW Strathfield reported that they had received a generous donation from a visitor that almost completely funded the materials for their first production run of the girls’ kits. BPW Strathfield has set a goal of 50 – 60 kits “ready to go” by International Night, where they plan to get people to pay $20 to choose a kit to be sent to a girl overseas (and so also fund a second production run!) Approaches were made to various community groups to provide volunteers to sew the kits and team leaders attended a DfG sewing day to gain knowledge and contacts. BPW Strathfield President Faye Helou made a presentation on the BPWA/Days for Girls project to a Probus club in November and received $1,090 in donations – third and fourth production runs, here they come! So far BPW Strathfield has raised $1,760 for the project.
YBPWA Award winner 2013 Mayase Jere organised a Cocktails Trivia Night for a Cause fundraiser in December. The numbers may have been lower than anticipated but the event raised $600 which will go towards BPW Strathfield’s efforts. Mayase has also spoken to a number of Clubs about DfG and her passion for girls’ education that drives our involvement in the project.
BPW Melbourne North-West is gearing up for a formal launch of the project at its International Night event in February. Fabric has been purchased and a small team is getting all the materials together. Fortunately, BPW Melbourne North-West boasts an active member of the local crafts group and is hoping that she may be able to bring some first-class cutters and sewers on board!
Please let us know what your Club is doing.
Days for Girls website: www.daysforgirls.org
More resources including PowerPoint presentation are available in the Club Resources section of this website (you’ll need your log in).