The Kits Go to Guatemala

Graciela, a Maya medicine woman, cried as she held the colorful cotton pads in her hands for the first time.  “This is the answer to my prayers.”

In May of 2017, the Guatemalan Rural Adult and Children’s Education (GRACE) Project traveled to several Maya villages in the Lake Atitlán basin.   As part of the Women’s Reproductive Health workshops, local Maya facilitators (trained and paid through GRACE) taught 200 teachers and community leaders about family planning, women’s rights, prevention of child and sexual abuse, the realities of human trafficking for girls who emigrate, sexually transmitted diseases, and, beginning this year, the Days For Girls (D4G) menstrual management Kits. The D4G Kits are part of a global effort to enable poor and rural girls around the world to attend school, instead of staying home and missing school for four to five days a month when they have their periods and no menstrual pads.

Over the previous year, volunteers in Fort Myers, Florida gathered the materials and sewed 300 Kits and made 2,000 Fertility Bracelets to send to girls and women in rural Guatemala.  While the Days For Girls website, www.daysforgirls.org, sells the Kits for $25 each, the local sewers gathered donations of fabrics and held Sewing Bees at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers to create the thousands of pieces necessary for the 300 Kits, at a much reduced cost.

The Kits are given to each woman within a colorful hand-sewn drawstring bag, and they include: two shields with polyurethane flow barriers that snap around the base of the underwear, eight flannel cotton pads that fit into the shields and can be washed, a pair of panties, plastic bags in which to wash the pads and a bar of soap.  The GRACE Project adds a Fertility Bracelet and instructions for use (rhythm method, 85% effective) to each Kit.  When a woman or girl receives the Kit, she has menstrual coverage for three years and birth control for life: a truly empowering package.

Graciela, the medicine woman, says that women come to her every week with serious vaginal infections from the disposable napkins, which they use at length because they cost so much.  She uses herbal remedies where possible, but these infections can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome, which could be fatal.  Disposable napkins are not available everywhere, and some rural stores sell strips of towels, which indigenous women have been using for millennia.  The disposables are not biodegradable; hence these Kits are also very beneficial for the environment.

In a culture where the word “menstruation” is barely whispered, even the men in the workshops wanted Kits for their wives and daughters.  It was touching to see all teachers, male and female, leaving the daylong workshops wearing the Fertility Bracelets and carrying the Kit bag on the drawstring, also around their wrist.  Revolutionary.

The GRACE Project will continue organizing sewing groups and delivering the Kits through the Women’s Health Workshops in Guatemala.  The next trip will be in November.  For people interested in sewing, contributing materials or funds, or in traveling with the group, please contact Genelle Grant, Ed.D. at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Please send monetary donations (tax deductible) (to pay for some materials, shipping and the Facilitators in Guatemala) to the GRACE Project at the UUCFM, 13411 Shire Lane, Fort Myers, FL 33912.