DAMSEL & DAUGHTER: for the love of crafts & women's health
This week we got Mai Gornall, the woman behind D A M S E L & D A U G H T E R, to give us a run down on how her little leather and vegan leather coin purses are improving women's health in London.
It started with ... an interest in crafts
My mother is a fine artist, so I grew up in this eclectic environment surrounded by water colours, easels, modelling clay and every type of paint brush and art medium you could imagine. We were always encouraged to experiment with different materials and techniques, and this process has always been present throughout my life. I have her to thank for that spark! Even in recent years, one of my favourite things to do is experiment creatively, and that feeling when something comes together for the first time is electric (and addictive).
Purse-making is like therapy for me as my day job is very precise and technical. I play Fat Freddy's drop or Erykah Badu loudly while I'm cutting leather or experimenting with a new idea. I have to have a clean environment so my brain has space to think, then I lay out my materials and start experimenting.
Add that to ... an passion for women's health
I've been so blessed in my life to be surrounded by phenomenal women, and wonderful men who inspire and support those women. As a member of the Baha'i Faith, one of my biggest motivations in life is service, and it feels natural to me to align that spirit of service with advocating for women. Women are the first educators of our children but they are not afforded the same opportunities as men, especially in some developing countries where there is a stigma attached to menstrual bleeding. This is made worse by barriers to education and feminine care, which results in women missing out and it creates a negative cycle of stigma and ignorance. Here where I live, it bothers me on a very base level that our homeless sisters in a nation as developed as the UK, are unable to preserve their dignity without access to basic feminine hygiene products.
And you get ... "feminine hygiene packs"?
I wanted to figure out some way of giving women in disadvantaged positions back their dignity by providing them with regular feminine hygiene packs. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to make these packs by myself, so I had the idea of creating a brand of socially conscious crafts, where the proceeds could be used to pay for the packs.
D A M S E L & D A U G H T E R was born.
All the proceeds from the purses goes towards the care packs. Once I receive the money from the purses, I go on a big buying trip with friends. All women are different and my friends offer invaluable advice on what works for some women compared to others. So together we can provide the best possible pack.
Finding out where I could distribute the packs was a super simple process. I just had a look online at what shelters and initiatives were local to me, and contacted them. In particular, I've been in contact with The Manna Society, North London Action for the Homeless and the Night Shelter. The people who volunteer for these organisations are saints, and are so thankful for even the smallest bit of support offered.
Want to help?
Far too often, the subject of feminine hygiene is taboo, not to be discussed, meanwhile these women are reverting to extreme measures to deal with this natural process every single month. Homelessness is unimaginably hard, without the distress of bleeding each month. As women, I feel like it's our responsibility to advocate for other women. Please contact me at email@example.com if you'd like to make a donation of funds or spare Feminine care products, or buy a purse!