Creating enterprises, ensuring sustainability

Nine seamstresses demonstrate their new skills at making feminine hygiene kits

At Self-Help, we’re all about helping people help themselves. So after we heard from the girls that they definitely liked the Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits and were using them, and then heard from their mothers and sisters that they wanted kits too, we knew it was time to put our sustainability plan into action. We couldn’t have the women dependent on us; they needed to be able to make the kits themselves.

Enter Kay Hertz, Iowa’s leading Days for Girls guru, and Gail Stelmacher and Barb Dahlby, seamstresses extraordinaire! After learning from Kay all the ins and outs of how to make the feminine hygiene kits, Gail and Barb traveled all the way to Ghana to teach nine seamstresses from five villages in Ghana how to make the kits themselves! The women were eager to learn and paid very close attention every step of the way.

This transfer of knowledge is both helping the women expand their existing sewing operations by creating this new product that’s already in demand, and ensuring that these innovative reusable feminine hygiene kits are available for all women who need them without depending on us to bring the kits over to them.


Gail offered to share her journal (below) so you can all get a sneak peak into what our training workshop day was like – enjoy!

Nora Tobin, Executive Director

. . . 

Monday, February 20: My 6th day in Ghana, by Gail Stelmacher
My teaching day has arrived! We traveled to the SHI training center in Nkwakrom for the sewing workshop. It was a long day today, but rewarding. Barb Dahlby and I met 9 lovely ladies who are seamstress and expressed a desire to learn how to make the Days for Girls sanitary kits.

The idea was that we would give these ladies the basic steps in of making the kits. They would then decide if they would be interested in obtaining further instruction so they could make it one of their micro-credit businesses. I had never taught anyone, other than my two boys, how to sew, so I was a little nervous. But then, these ladies are pros at using a sewing machine. The sewing machines were hand crank machines except for one powered by electricity. I was amazed at how fast and accurate the women could sew on the hand crank machines.

Barb and I worked together to tag team the explanation of the how the kit is used and then how to make them. The ladies listened closely as Victoria Yamson, Self-Help’s program coordinator in Ghana, translated into Twi. One lady who could speak English, Olivia, asked very good questions along the way.

The women were very open to learning. Every now and then I would have to have them re-do a piece and do it over to ensure it was right, and they did so enthusiastically. Even though most of them did not understand English, I felt I had no trouble helping them learn. It was exciting when they would finish a part correctly and I would give them a smile and two thumbs up. The look of pride was written all over their faces.

After we did the first run through of a shield, Victoria had us give them more fabric and then they were timed to see if they could correctly make a shield without being told how. I was totally impressed. Only one lady needed a very little guidance. Then I “judged” them and the best 3 got prizes! Very cool.

I think they all learned a lot and truly appreciated the lesson. I know it made me feel good to know I could use a God given talent that I have had all my life to help in just this little way.