MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — A local organization's mission to empower young women across the globe with health education and the resources to care for themselves began with Celeste Mergens' 2008 visit to an orphanage on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Mergens said she discovered the girls didn’t have access to feminine hygiene care and were left to sit on cardboard for days at a time during their periods.
She founded Days for Girls International, which was honored this week for its work to de-stigmatize menstruation for women and girls everywhere.
Mount Vernon-based Days For Girls International was named the .ORG of the Year by the Public Interest Registry — which issues .org, .ngo and .ong internet domains to mission-based organizations worldwide.
Days For Girls International specifically focuses on access to menstrual care and shatter the stigmas often associated with it.
The organization helps women get access to menstruation care products, including providing a washable and reusable sanitary pad kit for women and girls who might not have access or the means to buy the types of disposable menstrual products available in the United States.
They also help people build businesses creating these products for women in their communities.
Days for Girls also advocates for women and girls in parts of the world where women and girls might be ostracized or endangered during their periods as a gender equity issue.
It’s a movement that’s reached millions of girls and women around the world.
Mergens says it’s a massive volunteer effort that amounts to around 1,000 teams in 17 countries. An impressive volunteer base of more than 70,000 people works around the globe to change an unacceptable culture of shame that’s often associated with the menstrual cycle.
Days For Girls International was established to change the culture and to provide young women with dignity, health and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.
Being named .ORG of the year in 2020 comes with a unique honor.
“Periods don’t stop for a pandemic," the organization said.
The honor also included a second award for their work during the pandemic.
Days For Girls launched the Masks4Millions campaign, and itsl volunteer base worked to educate remote populations about slowing the spread of the coronavirus through hand-washing and wearing masks.
Days For Girls International will receive $45,000 in award money to continue their work towards improving the health and education for girls and women in more than 125 countries on six continents.