Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sewing to Empower Girls in Zimbabwe

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sewing to Empower Girls in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Kathy Surma and Linda Ambroso are on a mission to make sure girls in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to sanitary products.

"Girls miss school because of lack of protection," during menstrual periods, said Ms. Surma, who lives in Bridgeville. She added, "It's such a basic thing for a girl to be able to go to school. It's something so small, but so important."

The calling to help girls in Zimbabwe came few years ago when Ms. Surma watched a documentary titled "Tapestries of Hope." The film tells the story of Betty Makoni of Zimbabwe, who overcame being raped as a child. She went on to become the founder of Girl Child Network, an organization that helps to empower young girls. Ms. Makoni also started "empowerment villages" in Zimbabwe that encourage girls to overcome abuse.

Ms. Surma and Ms. Ambroso, of Upper St. Clair, are hosting a sewing party Sept. 21 to cut fabric for the "girl empowerment pads" so the girls can learn to sew the pads.

Ms. Surma has taken several trips to Zimbabwe and has plans to go back in October with the intent to deliver fabric to the orphanages there so the girls can make their own reusable sanitary pads.

"We'll take any fabric we can get our hands on," she said.

She has the opportunity to go back to Zimbabwe through the Nyadire Connection, a non-profit organization based at Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park. The organization seeks to support and sustain the Nyadire United Methodist Mission in rural Zimbabwe. According to its website, the Nyadire Mission offers a hospital, a school system ranging from preschool to high school, an orphanage, a farm and other services to the surrounding community.

The Nyadire Connection has also helped to ship samples of "girl empowerment pads," fabric and a sewing machine to Zimbabwe.

The pads are made of the fabric and filled with cotton batting and have straps that the girls can tie or attach to their undergarments with Velcro. Although they are reusable, the pads last only about three months, Ms. Surma said, so the girls need to sew several.

At the sewing party, Ms. Surma said the main focus will be to cut fabric, but they will also make a few sample pads so the girls in Zimbabwe can get an idea of how to do it. …

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