A global organization with roots in Newton is working to do its part to give girls a brighter future. Nora Tobin, executive director of Self Help International, spoke about the program Days for Girls and the work it is doing to help girls stay in school on Sunday morning at St. Luke United Methodist Church.
The program is geared toward helping girls in countries, including Ghana and Nicaragua, stay in school every day of the month and avoid pregnancy until they have completed their education and are financially and developmentally ready to care for a child. To do that, volunteers, including many in Newton, create kits for sanitary care that include a drawstring bag, two moisture barrier shields, two one-gallon sized Ziploc bags to transport soiled items, absorbent tri-fold pads, a washcloth, two pairs of underwear, a travel sized soap and an instruction sheet.
Day for Girls came from the need to address teen pregnancy prior to girls becoming pregnant. An already successful micro-grant program was used to help mothers expand their businesses to care for their families and keep their children in school. While that was going well, those involved were still seeing a problem.
“We’re meeting women where they are at, and they are better off because of it. What we are not doing is preventing them from being in that situation,” Tobin said.
The organization found that girls were not educated on the changes happening in their body or any sex education. Because of that, men in positions of authority were often taking advantage of them sexually.
To combat this issue, the organization started forming girls clubs in a few of the villages. In the clubs, girls learn about what their monthly cycle, how to deal with it and how to protect themselves from becoming pregnant.
“When girls can stay in school past seventh grade, past puberty, they are less likely to die in childbirth, they have fewer children, better fed children and better educated children,” Tobin said. “That is our new target.”
The Day for Girls kit is also utilized to keep girls in school during their monthly cycle. Previously, the girls had no way to care for themselves and had to stay home for the four to seven days of their cycle, often making them get behind in their school work. Now, with the kits, girls can address what is happening in their bodies while still staying in school.
“Girls are no longer staying at home when they get their periods,” Tobin said. “The girls loved it; they were so excited.”
The organization plans to continue the groups and hopefully grow them to bring more education to the region. Currently, about 150 girls take part in three different groups.
For more information about Self Help International and the Days for Girls kits, contact Tobin at email@example.com or 319-352-4040.
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at
641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or