Sidney mother launches underwear venture to help African girls

An old joke has two little boys discussing what to ask from Santa. One wants a bicycle, the other a tampon.

The would-be cyclist asks: “What’s a tampon?”

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“I don’t know,” replies his friend. “But the TV commercials say when you get one, you can go parachuting, sailing, scuba-diving, skiing, all sorts of things.”

The joke made Sidney woman Christina Norman laugh, but it doesn’t alter the horror she felt when she learned that young woman in Africa leave school at puberty because they lack menstrual pads or even underwear.

It’s a basic middle-school education being denied these young women, not parachute sessions.

“It was something so simple yet the effects were so huge,” said Norman, 25, a mother of three-year-old twins (a girl and a boy) and an 18-month-old girl.

Norman has founded you&her, based in Vancouver, to make and sell underwear and put the profits toward a sewing centre in Kitwe, Zambia, to make more underwear for young women.

Norman said she opted for underwear since without it, menstrual pads are practically useless. She hopes that, at some point, you&her can partner with a supplier of pads as well.

The sewing centre will hire and train young Zambian women, supply them with material to make underwear for themselves.

In North America, Norman plans to sell the underwear mostly to online customers, but some stores in Victoria and Vancouver have agreed to carry it, too, she said.

Eventually, Norman said she hopes a non-profit foundation can be formed to take over the sewing centre in Zambia.

She hopes it can also mentor, assist and counsel young women as well has help them stay in school.

“These young women are the ones who will change the culture of the next generation,” Norman said. “If we can help, just help impact eight or 10 schools, we can shift the next generation in a good way.”

You&her launches its underwear today at 8 p.m. at a special charity event at the Parkside Hotel, where underwear will be auctioned off. Tickets are $50 available at the door, or online through you-her.com.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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