Days for Girls International: Will you join me to keep girls in school?

By Ruth Anne Shepherd

One of Ruth Anne Shepherd’s passions is making a difference: helping individuals recognize their worth, supporting their educational pursuits, and encouraging them to live their dreams to reach their potential.   Before graduating from San Jose State University with a BS degree, she served a full-time LDS mission in Colombia. Her career includes being a programmer analyst at Silicon Graphics, and a small business owner for over 25 years.  Many organizations have benefited from her expertise and knowledge as she volunteers her time. She has been on the board of Silicon Valley Women since 2014.  She loves her family and when possible includes them in her leisure activities: relaxing on the beach, horseback riding, and watching movies with strong female characters.


One year ago, I was once again in the presence of a remarkable LDS woman who radiates our Savior’s love and who has the determination, faith, and vision to change the world. She was discussing fundraising strategies with me, other Silicon Valley Women board members, and two advisors. This blog post was written at the personal request of Celeste Mergens, CEO/ Founder of Days for Girls International (DFGI).

Meeting Celeste in June 2015 at a Relief Society Humanitarian event was an experience that would change my global perspective on women’s basic health needs. I was deeply touched by the harsh realities that she so lovingly communicated and it was a message I could not forget. The content of Celeste’s presentation was heart-breaking and appalling. And yet her innovation offers unprecedented hope for the future.post

In the past, I had wondered what girls and women in poverty used for feminine hygiene; but I imagined they used some sort of cloth to manage their periods. I did not know of their actual suffering, confinement, and shame. While at home in the United States, Celeste described how she first became aware that in African orphanages, girls had no solution but to stay in their rooms sitting over a piece of cardboard (if available) and miss school. Because they were not educated about their bodies, when their periods began for the first time, they were terrified they would die, and some even believed they had AIDS. Heart-breaking.

Celeste soon learned lack of feminine hygiene products was a serious problem in many countries including the United States. “Girls worldwide suffer indignities, infection, even exploitation trying to stay in school.” Girls resort to using “leaves, mattress stuffing, newspaper, corn husks, rocks, anything they can find.” Girls can lose up to two months of schooling each year, and often drop out, which perpetuates the poverty cycle. Appalling.

Founding a grassroots non-profit to develop a solution was Celeste’s objective.

Eight years ago, Days for Girls International was established and a reusable kit was developed by consistently listening to feedback from the grateful girls and women. “Each DFGI hygiene kit lasts up to three years, which turns into three more years of education, income, and opportunity. Pure and simple, a kit is a small thing that changes everything.” Innovation.

Why Days for Girls? (video: 1:04)

DFGI recently won the African SEED award for gender equity and sustainable entrepreneurship. This organization is changing and strengthening the lives of girls, women, families, communities in over 100 nations on 6 continents with this vision: “Every girl and woman in the world with ready feasible access to quality sustainable hygiene & health education by 2022.” Thousands of volunteers in teams and chapters all over the world produce these kits. Ultimately, Celeste’s vision includes “helping ultra poor communities start their own programs to supply kits and training.” Unprecedented hope for the future.

Days for Girls International (video: 5:20)

The Revlon Love is On – Million Dollar Challenge is simple: the women’s health organization to receive the most donations will be awarded $1,000,000. Other prizes: 2nd place $100,000, 3rd place $75,000, 4th place $50,000, and 5th place $25,000. Awards are in addition to the amount donated by donors. Minimum/Maximum donation: $10/$10,000. Important: There is no restriction to the number of times an individual can donate. Donations are tax deductible.

Days for Girls – Revlon Challenge 2016

DFGI teaches girls their worth, how their bodies function, and how the human race continues because of them. Girls replace confusion and shame with knowledge and dignity. As I prepared this post, I wore a simple bracelet made by a thankful recipient of a hygiene kit. Celeste explains that upon receiving kits and health education, the girls’ joy and appreciation is immense. Each kit is a reminder to the girl who receives one “that she is loved, that she is worthy of education, and opportunity. That she matters.”

Days for Girls International was named by the Huffington Post as an organization that will shape the next decade. One million dollars would go to support in-country enterprises that allow women to earn income by meeting hygiene needs in their communities. One million dollars would literally change hundreds of thousands of lives. Please share this post and consider making a donation by Wednesday, Oct 26, 2016 1:59:59pm ET.

Notes:

1) All quotes are either from Days for Girls International (DFGI) or from an e-mail written by Celeste Mergens.

2) In 2015, this post originally appeared in Ardis E. Parshall’s blog Keepapitchinin. It has been updated for the 2016 Revlon Challenge.

Comments

  1. elizabethmorgan513 says:

    What a great cause. I have so much respect for people who start organizations like this one. The world needs our help!

  2. anon 4 now says:

    Our stake RS took this project on. A stake-ful of women of all ages, some bringing their teen and pre-teen daughters, in various rooms of our stake center, some tracing patterns at one station, some cutting fabric at another, another station of women sewing fabric at another station, and “quality assurance inspectors” (strict [not too bossy, okay, maybe a little] RS women who’d been trained on DFGI specifications) at every station. We got a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. We laughed, we gossiped, and we all thought about the recipients of these kits, girls like our daughters, girls like we had been. Along with the kits, we sent our love to these girls with the knowledge that they would soon be leaders in the world–maybe they would become mothers, too, maybe teachers, maybe politicians, who knows?

  3. This blogpost is perfect timing! Our relief society is making items for these kits for DFGI next month! I’m so thrilled to be adding to the goodness this organization is bringing to the world.

  4. Ruth Anne Shepherd says:

    @elizabethmorgan513 Yes! I admire Celeste. She has the perfect name for an angel of mercy.

  5. I hope that many of our BCC readers will donate to this very worthy cause.

  6. Ruth Anne Shepherd says:

    @anon 4 now Thanks for sharing how your stake participated by making the liners, shields, drawstring bags; and then assembling the kits to change girls’ lives. I know the young ladies are forever grateful.

  7. Ruth Anne Shepherd says:

    @Rachel I’m sure everyone in your Relief Society will be touched by the work you all will do to improve the lives of girls and their future families all over the world.

  8. Ruth Anne Shepherd says:

    @Jason K. Thank you. Even a “small” $10 donation will provide one kit to create a “big” difference in the education, dignity, and prosperity of a thankful girl.

  9. This is a great organization and a worthy cause. And I love this idea for a RS project! Just this morning I read an article on the internet of a 19 year old young man in the UK with seriously misinformed views on menstruation. https://www.yahoo.com/beauty/teens-ignorant-tweets-show-why-we-need-to-teach-boys-about-periods-212959568.html

    “This is actually a huge problem for many women worldwide, and it is not a joke,” Gilberg-Lenz stresses. “Girls are banished from school and miss educational opportunities and many cannot afford menstrual products. This further encourages oppression and misogyny and eliminates opportunities.”

  10. Ruth Anne Shepherd says:

    @Angie P Thanks for the link. Earlier this year, I was curious to know if any men had blogged about periods. Let’s just say there are some interesting posts out there.

  11. Ruth Anne Shepherd says:

    Thank you to BCC and everyone who donated to Days for Girls/Revlon Challenge. DFG raised over $750,000 in donations and came in 3rd place (two cancer charities took 1st and 2nd). Revlon will award DFG the $75,000 prize, which brings the total to over $825,000 to keep girls in school and fight poverty throughout the world.

  12. After all that the Mormon Church itself has now Officially admitted, confirmed and printed about Joseph Smith Jr., like:

    • He took the wives of other Men.
    • He could have sex with the wives of other Men.
    • He took a 14 year-old girl as a wife when he was 38.
    • He broke the laws of the God and Man in taking these Young Girls and the Wives and Mothers of his Friends.
    • He lied to his first wife (Emma) and ALL of the other wives as well, and to his own Church about his practice of Polygamy.
    • He lied to the Husbands of the Women he took as Wives.
    • He took sets of Sisters and Mothers and Daughters as Wives.
    • He took between 30 and 40 wives, so Brigham Young had to take 55 wives, and the Church named a School after him.
    • Then the Mormon Church itself lied about Joseph Smith’s Polygamy for more than 180 years.

    After all this and more… the Leadership of Young Women General Presidency of the Mormon Church has instructed… in YOUR LIFETIME, the millions of Young Women in the Mormon Faith, that Joseph Smith Jr. … Yes, Joseph Smith Jr., is the Example of man to seek as a Husband.

    Read for yourself the fact that this “Female Mormon Leader” told the world, and specifically her 16 year-old daughter “Becky” that, “I believe the most important quality to look for in a husband is Integrity.” Like that of Joseph Smith Jr.

    This so-called adult “Leader” told the Young Women of the Mormon Church that, Joseph Smith Jr. was the example and she even quoted a line that the Young Men of the Mormon Church might be able to use someday when dating someone like “Becky”: “If Joseph Smith could do it, so can I!.”

    Are you kidding me? Who would ever in their right mind repeat the phrase: “If Joseph Smith could do it, so can I!.”

    Can the Young Men of the Mormon Church meet the standard of Joseph Smith? I believe so… the Young Men of BYU have demonstrated that they know well how to handle “Becky” with knowledge that the Police and their Bishops will cover for them.

    Sister Carol B. Thomas, then the First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is what I would call an Enabler for a group of First Class Sexual Predators.

    With a Mother and a Youth Leader like this… “Becky” does not have a chance in the world of Mormonism.

    Former Mormon Bishop Lee B. Baker

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2000/04/integrity?lang=eng

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