Every women and adolescent girl, regardless of where they live or how affluent they are, should have access to hygienic sanitary products and information about reproductive health. Using old rags, toilet tissue, banana leaves or coconut fibre to manage menstruation is totally unacceptable.
But this is the reality facing extremely disadvantaged women and adolescent girls living in remote villages in Papua New Guinea, as I was shocked to discover while volunteering aboard a YWAM Medical Ship outreach in early 2017.
Learning of their struggles to access safe and hygienic sanitary products, combined with cultural taboos which can require women to withdraw from family duties and girls from school while menstruating, I was driven to find a product that would help in a practical and affordable way.
Moon Sick Care Bags were developed to enable women and girls to manage menstruation with dignity and confidence. Each hand-made, colourful drawstring Bag contains:
· 4 washable sanitary pads
· 2 pairs of underwear
· a face washer
· a bar of soap
· a small material bag for soiled pads
· a menstrual cycle educational card
Initially, the Bags were hand-made by volunteers in Australia who cut the materials, sewed all the different elements and packaged them up with the purchased soap and underwear.
Through partnering with RRRC Connect, the philanthropic arm of the Cairns-based Reef & Rainforest Research Centre, the first batch of bags were delivered in September 2017 to women and girls living in the 13 isolated Treaty Villages located closest to the Australian border.
In my role with RRRC Connect I was fortunate enough to see first-hand the recipients’ surprise and gratitude that Australian women were so kind and cared so much about their wellbeing. The women called them their Magic Bags so the men would not know what was inside.
When I shared this story with a group of women in the remote Queensland Aboriginal community of Doomadgee, through my work with community and economic development organisation My Pathway, the women felt so sad they wanted to help.
I introduced the Moon Sick Care Bag initiative in late 2017 as part of our Empowering Women Program. The Doomadgee ladies decided to make 250 Bags to gift to women in PNG. They learned how to make all the elements, including creating their own bush medicine soap, mastering many technical sewing skills together with learning about the importance of teamwork and production processes.
The team worked tirelessly and made 330 Bags that were delivered to PNG in October 2018 and distributed at a women’s gathering in the village of Mabaduan. It was a life-changing experience for two of the Doomadgee ladies, Women’s Activity Supervisor Veronica Walden and team member Anthea Chong, who accompanied me on the visit and made firm friendships with the PNG women.
If you would like to support this initiative, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Yolonde Entsch 2020