Sewing for a cause

Ms. Rebecca Fillmore (FAC) sews reusable feminine products for girls in Malawi.


aerial stonis

Mrs. Fillmore sits with her hand-sewn feminine kits she plans on sending to girls in Malawi, Africa.

Aerial Stonis, Staff Reporter

In Ms. Rebecca Fillmore’s (FAC) free time, she uses her sewing skills to create reusable, washable feminine products for girls in Malawi, a country in southeastern Africa. She works with a group based in St. Petersburg that make kits consisting of soap, a washcloth, two pair of underwear, the reusable pads that they sew, as well as a drawstring bag also sewn by members to hold it all.

“It’s [menstruation cycles] something that people don’t talk about. It’s considered unclean; which is really sad. This gives the girls the freedom to stay in school and not be ashamed. They learn about their cycle and what it means. The whole goal is to help the girls stay in school,” Fillmore said.

When girls get their periods, they end up missing school for a week due to lack of products and menstruation being taboo in Malawian culture. Some girls are forced to isolate themselves, and some may restrict themselves from regular, everyday activities. Missing school so often causes the girls to fall behind and potentially drop out. These reusable feminine kits make attending school and living normally an option during their cycles.

“These girls have dreams. They want to become doctors and lawyers; and travel outside of their country to go to college. They look for opportunities worldwide, but then there’s things that hold them back,” Fillmore said.

After primary school, education in Malawi is not free. According to, about half of Malawian children drop out in their sixth year, most of them being females. Many factors such as poverty, teen pregnancy, or taking care of family members can be the cause of this. The missionaries responsible for getting the kits to Malawi support the school system by feeding the children, donating school supplies, and finding sponsors to aid with their tuition.

“We make them out of bright, soft flannel fabric, because in their culture you can’t hang bloody clothing out on the dryer line, it’s taboo,” Fillmore said.

Ms. Fillmore has been making the kits for 5 years, however she’s been learning the design change they made recently. The kits come with 2 pieces of bright, colorful flannel that snap into underwear. It also comes with 8 pieces of absorbent pads that snap on top of the flannel.

For donations and other ways to contribute, travel size soap bars from hotels and girls’ colorful underwear size 12-14 are greatly appreciated. These can either be dropped off with Ms. Fillmore, media, or Ms. Heather Daniel, room 811.