I’d like to spend a moment highlighting one of the organizations that has helped Think realize community need-based projects in Kellensoo and explain exactly what we accomplished with them on our most recent trip to Ethiopia.
Days for Girls International is a non-profit organization supplying feminine hygiene products and sexual health education to girls around the world who would not otherwise receive it. We first came into contact with Days for Girls when we asked representatives of the village of Kellensoo if there were any community issues they thought Think might be able to help them address, and learned that there was a huge problem with female students dropping out of school after hitting puberty. Supplying as many of the feminine hygiene kits that Days for Girls chapters make as we could was a perfect start to solving that problem. After four years and over 700 hand delivered kits, we’ve expanded the relationship between Think Coffee, the village of Kellensoo, and Days for Girls. Our most recent trip to Ethiopia was the first time that any individuals from Days for Girls and Think had actually met and worked together in person.
In February, Lacy, Noah and I from Think, Libby and Diana from Days for Girls, and Frehiwot from Nardos Coffee Exports (the Ethiopian company who exports this coffee to us and matches the contributions we make to our projects in Kellensoo), visited Kellensoo High School to run a sexual health and hygiene class and to teach a small group of volunteer students how to produce feminine hygiene kits for distribution at the school.
The one week program walked through each component of the feminine hygiene kit and its use for a sewing group made up of both sexes. By the time sewing machines were introduced, everyone learning had made a full kit by hand and understood how it worked. I was completely impressed with the way that both the girls and boys responded with enthusiasm and curiosity to the task of production and in learning the sexual health information. Where I remembered pregnant pauses and eruptions of giggling in my own sex ed, there were thoughtful questions and gentle corrections about misinformation. I left them feeling entirely confident that they would be good community ambassadors of the information provided by Days for Girls, and felt sure that they had taken to heart the task of providing kits for their classmates.
By giving them the agency to source their own materials, access to workspace and sewing machines, and the knowledge to educate the other women in their lives about sexual health, these students will no longer be reliant on the kits that Think could only bring once or twice a year. Instead, they will have the basic business skills, organization and production knowledge to meet the needs of their peers as they arise, and, if they decide to, build an inventory that they can eventually market and sell to neighboring communities. This is both the first Days for Girls operation in any area of Ethiopia and a large step forward for one of Think’s longest-running relationships with a coffee producing community. I can’t wait to see how the early months of the sewing group turn out, and to continue growing our relationship with Days for Girls and the community of Kellensoo.