Maritime seamstresses making a difference for African girls

Emma Childs
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Suzanne Lane owns a sewing shop called Quilting B & More in Prince Edward Island where she and a group of nine other seamstresses sewed more than 500 reusable pads for impoverished girls in Africa.

TC MEDIA

In 2013, Suzanne Lane and a team of Prince Edward Island seamstresses helped dozens of girls from African communities manage their menstruation by creating reusable pads.

Lane is the owner of Quilting B & More, a small sewing shop on Prince Street in Charlottetown, where a team of 10 set out to provide girls with ways to attend school while experiencing menstruation.

“They miss a whole week of school every month,” said Lane.

She explained that it is considered “taboo” for girls in Africa to be in public without concealing their periods.

The team donated more than 500 pads to an international non-profit organization called Days for Girls, which delivers sanitary kits to girls of impoverished communities across 60 countries.

Jan Link, a Charlottetown resident, brought the idea of creating these kits to Lane, who endorsed it immediately and provided a workspace. Their team quickly grew to 10 and they began sewing.

“We were like a little sweatshop,” Lane laughed.

Kits are comprised of eight flannel pads, a pair of underwear, a washcloth, a bar of soap, two moisture barrier shields, a zip-lock bag and a set of instructions all tucked into a colourful drawstring bag. A single kit provides 180 days of use over three years, the equivalent of six months of schooling, according to the organization’s website.

Lane and Link had set out to make 60, but ended up with a handful more.

“We did some math and figured out that the most economical use of the fabric would get us a hundred kits,” said Lane.

A single kit provides 180 days of use over three years, the equivalent of six months of schooling.

The team produced a total of 75, which provided more than 500 individual pads.

Once finished, the kits were immediately shipped to volunteer distributors in Africa.

Eliza Chard is one such volunteer who also acts as the national director of Days for Girls in Uganda.

Chard explained that girls in Uganda are “terrified” and “tormented” when they experience their periods for the first time, without any prior education of menstrual health.

“They think they’re dying. They think they have AIDS,” she said.

Without other options, Chard said that girls resort to using materials like “cotton wool, mud, rocks, leaves and old rags” to manage their bleeding.

Chard has been distributing kits since the establishment of the Uganda team in July 2013.

“The relief (the girls) feel is something we see every time we do the distribution,” she said. “They’re totally ecstatic. We are extremely indebted to those on Prince Edward Island getting involved,” she continued. “Their kits are really being appreciated and making a difference.”

Quilting B & More is the only known chapter of Days for Girls on the Island and one of only two in the Martiimes and nine listed in Canada. Lane plans to team up with Link once again this summer to launch another kit-making event.

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Africa Prince Street Uganda Canada

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