Ten years is a lot of days and a lot of menstrual cycles. In August, Days for Girls New Zealand celebrated 10 years of working towards a world where periods are never a problem.
The New Zealand chapter was started by Palmerston North mother and daughter Helen Griffin and Kate Boyle.
Griffin had read a letter in the New Zealand Listener about girls living overseas who didn't go to school when they had their period as they didn't have sanitary products. She also read how the relatively new Days for Girls International, based in the United States, was trying to address the problem with reusable pads.
Boyle, who was 18 at the time, said mother and daughter could sew reusable pads for DfG. Griffin replied she did not think there was a group in New Zealand. She contacted DfG International founder Celeste Mergens who confirmed there wasn't a NZ group but she would love it if someone started one.
Boyle told her mother they could do that and the result is countless hours of voluntary work. Griffin is now country coordinator and Boyle board chairwoman.
Reflecting on that discussion 10 years ago, Griffin says how do you say to an 18-year-old you don't care enough, you don't have the time. It could have been her daughter experiencing period poverty if she was born in a different country.
Mergens says few people have been with DfG as long as Griffin and Boyle.
"The fact that almost no one was talking about nor addressing menstrual health didn't stop Kate and Helen and team ... You saw the need and dove right in, and haven't stopped."
Mergens started DfG in 2008 when she was working with a foundation assisting an orphanage near Nairobi. She learned many of the girls were sitting on cardboard in their rooms for several days each month as they didn't have access to period products.
Griffin says she and Boyle didn't have a clue what they were getting into. Asked what keeps her going, she replies: "You see that you make a difference in somebody's life and you see how easy it is to make that difference."
Even sewing at home for two to three hours can make a difference in a young woman's life for at least three years, which is how long DfG kits last if properly cared for.
"It's so simple yet it has such an impact."
The concept is simple and making kits is simple.
She feels "surprised" about the anniversary. Griffin spends more than 20 hours a week on DfG activities. "It's taken over my life and my house."
During the past decade DfG NZ has helped distribute more than 20,900 kits in more than 35 countries. There is increased demand among New Zealand girls and women for DfG's reusable pads, partly due to an increased focus on period poverty and partly due to increased environmental awareness.
With estimates that it can take at least 500 years for a disposable sanitary pad to decompose some schools are keen to distribute reusable pads to their students, Griffin says.
While she welcomes the Government's access to period products initiative, she's frustrated it is only distributing disposable pads and tampons and not menstrual cups, period underwear or reusable pads.
"We have to start somewhere but environmentally it's a disaster."
DfG International has a four-prong approach - distributing menstrual kits that include washable pads; menstrual health education that includes versions for men and boys; supporting the development of social enterprises in developing countries to make the kits and deliver educational programmes; and advocacy to advance menstrual equity.
Griffin says DfG is most in need of money but sewers are also welcome. Money is spent on fabric for shields, liners and bags and kits sent overseas include underpants and face cloths. DfG accepts donations of suitable fabric.
DfG has monthly sewing bees in Palmerston North and Feilding on weekdays. Every couple of months it holds one at Blueprint on a Sunday.
Griffin says there have been lots of changes to the kits in the 10 years, not least in the pattern for the pads. All these changes have been driven by the users of the kits.
A highlight for Griffin was DfG's New Zealand conference in 2018 attended by Mergens. Griffin says the conference was grassroots, informal and with time to chat - just how she hoped it would be.
"It was just amazing what some women had done in their lives and their commitment to DfG and women around the world."
An ongoing highlight is the satisfaction of sending kits off.
On the flipside, money is always an issue and another low is people not following through with their offers of help.
Griffin says it is time for more young people to get involved and there is a role in NZ for an advocate.
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