New student group aims to provide girls in other countries with menstrual products

Each kit provides a girl with items such as liners, underwear, a bar of soap and a washcloth.

Natalie Paulson shows members of Days for Girls sanitary pad kits that will be distributed to women in rural countries in Bruininks Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Days for Girls is a non-profit that provides communities in need with supplies for sustainable menstrual care. 

Jiang Li

Natalie Paulson shows members of Days for Girls sanitary pad kits that will be distributed to women in rural countries in Bruininks Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Days for Girls is a non-profit that provides communities in need with supplies for sustainable menstrual care. 

Jiang Li

More than 30 girls gathered at the University of Minnesota’s Bruininks Hall on Sept. 18, sharing ideas about the best ways to donate menstrual products to girls around the world.

The girls are part of a new University chapter of Days for Girls, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate and increase access to menstrual products for girls in rural areas of other countries. This fall semester, the group will meet weekly to make sanitary pad kits. Each kit provides a girl with items including eight liners, two pairs of underwear, a bar of soap and a washcloth.

“I am kind of excited about the group because we are doing things to help people,” said Emily Vaillancourt, a University freshman theater major, adding that she looks at this as a chance to get to know people who have the same values as her. “We are not just sitting here to talk about stuff but we are actually doing things.”

For example, many girls in countries like Kenya have to drop out of school and sit on cardboard in their rooms during some days of their period, according to the Days for Girls website. The organization was then established to make washable, long-lasting pads for girls who may be in these adverse conditions.

As of 2017, the organization has reached one million women and girls in over 123 countries, according to a Days for Girls annual report.

Sophomore Natalie Paulson, founder of the student group, said she first found herself obsessed with this volunteer work when she got involved with the organization’s Plymouth, Minnesota chapter. The new University chapter is affiliated with the Plymouth chapter.

Paulson spent early January 2017 in Haiti, helping distribute pads to the girls there. She said the kids were very sweet.

“We were passing [the pads] out. They love the colors and design. The room was filled with so much excitement,” Paulson said. “They traded the pads back and forth. It’s adorable.”

Paulson also said she loved working with other women at the Plymouth chapter, and this inspired her to start a chapter at the University. 

“I was in the Plymouth chapter, and we met once every three months for a massive, all-day workshop,” Paulson said, adding that she loved talking with the adult women there and enjoyed working with them. “I was thinking that I want to do this more often, and I want to bring this to girls of my age,” Paulson said. “…So, why not, if no one has done it yet?”

Sharada Srivatsa, a freshman in the Carlson School of Management, who is also the vice president of the group, said they plan to do the work step-by-step. Each meeting, the group will complete a part of the sanitary pad kit and hold a few sewing workshops to make the pads.

Daryl Yap, a University sophomore studying computer science, joined the group with her friend and said she was looking forward to doing volunteer work.

“[My friend and I] thought it was cool because it is kind of like a volunteering opportunity almost,” Yap said “I thought it was really interesting. I will see where it goes, I guess.”

The pads the University group makes will go to girls in need through the Plymouth chapter’s arrangement.

“Because we are also a part of the Plymouth chapter, we do have to coordinate with them so [the kits] will probably go wherever they go,” Srivatsa said.

Paulson said she enjoyed her experience in Haiti, and encourages students to help those in need.

“I really want people to think of it as a social club with a really meaningful work behind it,” Paulson said. “I think this is a great way to broaden your horizons and really get a perspective on how much need there is out there.”