April Haberman, one of our agood foundation partners, who has been working with women, children and youth over 20 years in various roles in Days for Girls(DfG) over the past 9 years.
So, we interviewed her to get an insight into her life as a Senior Development Director in Days for Girls and what’s it has been like working with Days for Girls and any advice she has for others.
Pleasure to meet you. I already know about you April, but I would still like you to introduce yourself to our readers. So could you please tell us about your humble self and Days for Girls?
Thank you, I am currently the Sr Development Director for Days for Girls International. I have a diverse background in sales and marketing, indirect distribution, administration, public speaking, training and development, fundraising, event planning, curriculum development, and healthcare. I’ve had the privilege of working with women, children and youth for over 20 years in various roles, including my work with Days for Girls. Over the past 9 years, I’ve built long-term relationships with partners and have had the wonderful opportunity to help establish the DfG Eswatini Enterprise. I currently serve on the Women’s Global Health Seattle Advisory Panel where I’m able to advocate for diverse, gender-balanced leadership in the global health sector.
On a more personal note, I live in Seattle, WA where I have called home for over 30 years with my husband. I have two young adult children who are also in WA state. When I’m not working and advocating for women and girls, you’ll more than likely find me walking my dog or in a yoga studio.
How long have you been in Days for Girls and how did your life look like before being where you are today?
I just celebrated my 9th anniversary with Days for Girls. I can’t believe it! I started with the organization through volunteer efforts when I started the DfG Edmonds WA Chapter. Chapters consist of volunteers that make the washable pad kits either send them to our resource center to be used for humanitarian projects or distribute them in blue zones in other countries. I never thought I would end up in the global health space and certainly never thought I would end up advocating for menstrual health.
Periods were always such a private subject and years ago, weren’t really talked about in public. My daughter is the reason I found DfG in the first place. I had taken her to a puberty class when she was 10 and on the way home she asked me what girls do if they can’t afford to buy pads. I didn’t have an answer, but sought to find one because she wanted to gather friends to do a service project to hand out pads to homeless girls in our community. That question opened up a door that I ended up walking through and never looked back!
I realized through research that there were 200 homeless girls within our school district who didn’t have access to menstrual products each month. That’s how I came upon Days for Girls. I started a Chapter with a few volunteers and began distributing the washable pad kits to girls within our community, as well as at large in Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Africa just to name a few.
I came to DfG with a background in sales & marketing, fundraising and event planning as I mentioned before. I quickly moved into a staff position where I was able to utilize my skill set to secure funding for our organization. I’ve worked on and off in this position for a number of years.
I really can’t imagine not being involved with the organization. In fact, I have moved out to part time roles and even took a hiatus during covid, but always come back. It’s like coming home. It’s what I do and DfG is like a family.
Can you describe your career journey from colleague and onwards?
I mentioned a bit of my journey before. Earlier in my career, I worked in the for profit world, mostly in telecommunications in the early days as systems were just beginning to build out. As I grew my family, I stepped away from the corporate world to be at home more with my children. I’m really not the personality type to sit around! I’m always moving, thinking, brainstorming, and starting new projects! All that to say,
I worked in various part time roles in the nonprofit sector and eventually landed at Days for Girls. As I mentioned before, I started a local chapter and moved into a staff position. I have had the opportunity to work in the volunteer side of our organization, as well as in development. I’ve also been to Eswatini Africa 8 times over the past 5 years and assisted in setting up and mentoring one of our enterprises. That has given me a very broad perspective of the organization, enabling me to see, experience, learn and grow.
I’ve recently joined the Women’s Global Health Seattle Advisory Panel where I can further advocate for more diverse, gender-balanced leadership in global health.
Day for Girls is an award-winning Global NGO bringing together menstrual health, dignity and education to around 2.6+ million women & girls all over the world. I can have encountered a situation that challenged you and how did you overcome that?
Oh, yes… I can think of several examples that are quite different. It’s hard to pick just one!
When I first started my chapter in Edmonds, which was 9 years ago so in 2013, no one wanted to talk about periods. I knew that there was a desperate need for menstrual products, as well as a health curriculum for thousands of women and girls, so I began to reach out to local community organizations and schools to offer our products. Some of the meetings I had with even women were extremely uncomfortable. I would sit down to talk to them, explain who we were, what we provided and why it was important.
As I gave my presentation, I’d pull out the washable pads and/ or menstrual cups (by the way we do distribute menstrual cups when appropriate). I had a few people tell me to “put those things away.” It was surprising and took me back a bit. Some were just horrified. Everything in me wanted to scream, “BUT LET TELL YOU WHY THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!” But I recognized that that’s not the way to open ears that will listen. So, I took a step back and tried to remember to meet them where they were, to take baby steps, and to ask permission to share. Those small changes made all the difference in the world. Menstruation is a sensitive topic. We talk more openly about it now, yet we all need to remember to be respectful of other people’s comfort level, cultural practices, family history, and willingness to talk about hard topics in order to affect change.
What has been your proudest moment and what was the impact?
I’ll share one example that is still very “raw” and close to my heart. I traveled to Eswatini to visit the enterprise we had set up in October. It had been 3 years since my last visit due to covid. Myself and our team decided that we were going to host a celebration event the first full day we were there. We wanted to visit with our enterprise leads, sewers, and ambassadors, to spend time with them and to celebrate their accomplishments over the past few years.
Our in-country leads organized a beautiful event on the back lawn of one of the local hotels. We had one of our ambassadors who is an artist walk them all through a paint class where they painted canvases together, we handed out goodie bags, and hosted a nice luncheon. Our leaders kicked off the event and then passed a hand held microphone down to anyone who wanted to say a few words. What happened next is hard to put into words. Each of the 33 Eswatini team members began to share their personal testimonies. Each story was filled with overflowing gratitude for the opportunities they have been afforded through their work with Days for Girls. They mentioned that DfG changed their lives, that they were able to provide for their families, to feed them, and to send their children to school. They mentioned the opportunity to see places in Eswatini outside of their own communities, to meet people, and to empower other women and girls. Men talked about how important it is to each boy about menstruation and how it matters to our sisters, mothers, and Gogos (grandmothers).
One by one, they thanked us for supporting them and encouraging them. The impact? Women and men are earning a living, girls now have the menstrual products they need to manage their periods AND have the education they need to make health choices about their bodies, boys are encouraged to support girls and understand that without periods there would be no people. And the impact on me, on us? Well, it’s priceless and truly cannot be put into words.
May I share one more with you?
One of the proudest moments I’ve had personally is when I took a group of high school girls to Eswatini to lead distributions alongside our in-country ambassadors. My daughter and 4 schoolmates led several distributions with confidence, courage, respect, and love. I was incredibly proud of them as they stood in an unfamiliar country teaching girls their age about puberty, menstruation, sexual reproduction, sexually transmitted infections and self defense. They delivered with poise and grace!
When they got back to the states, two of the girls ended up writing about period poverty in their English class and my daughter wrote a speech for her speech and debate competition in which she ended up going to nationals with!
That’s impact and that’s ripple effect.
What do you think events like International Day of the Girl can contribute to and what progress have you seen?
It’s very important for us to have a specific day in which we focus our attention on the needs and challenges that girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment. It’s a day in which we celebrate achievements! IDOG is recognized internationally - even by the UN, which brings greater awareness to the need to fulfill girls’ human rights. Menstruation is a matter of human rights. This day allows non-profit organizations to highlight their work, which in turn raises awareness. This can bring in critical funding that allows them to continue their work. We’ve seen many organizations use this platform to collaborate with one another, further elevating women.
We want to continue to open doors and set the stage for girls to continue to break boundaries and barriers. We want to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Int’l Day of the Girl is a day set aside for us to focus efforts together as a larger, international community.
What do you think covid-19 pandemic affecting people's ability to manage Menstruation?
Covid 19 absolutely affected people’s ability to manage their menstruation. In fact, with girls unable to attend school they were forced to stay home. In many countries this put girls in precarious situations. We saw pregnancies increase as a result.
Bear in mind in low to middle income countries, if girls were at home this meant they were in very rural areas without access to transportation or the ability to get to stores. Many stores were closed & supply chains were an issue.
The good news is that we were able to continue to distribute our washable menstrual pads. Our leaders and enterprises rose to the occasion. We distributed products outside, in smaller groups with social distancing, AND included washable masks in our kits.
What has been the most rewarding part of your role and what did you learn from it?
I’m currently in development. This means that I have the privilege of working with corporate partners, individual donors, and grantors who fund our programs. The most rewarding part of my job is meeting and interacting with so many amazing people who are passionate and incredibly generous. Those relationships are what gets me up each day! I see small to large organizations making a huge impact. I get to see the full picture, from funding to program implementation and outcome.
What have I learned? Well, as far as fundraising goes, I don’t look at it as asking for money. I see my role as inviting people to participate in our mission and to create a better world. I’ve also learned that there are good people in this world. There is a lot of sadness in this world and there is also a lot of good!
What would be your favorite agood company product?
What advice would you give to girls who want to become experts in their chosen field?
Go for it, girl! Don’t listen to the naysayers or your internal thoughts of doubt that may creep in. Just take baby steps toward your goal. Read, listen to podcasts, take classes, volunteer, join groups and associations, get your hands dirty - get in the field, and find mentors who will share their knowledge, walk beside you and encourage you. Oh, and remember that no one becomes an expert overnight. Have patience- you’ll get there.
According to you, how is DfG working to end period Poverty? How does period affect the environment?
We come at this from many angles. We have a 3 pillar approach. We have our Days for Girls washable pads that meet the immediate need for menstruators. That’s the tangible product that we are known for. Yet, there is SO much more!
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to menstruation. Access to timely, accurate health information is critical to shattering the stigma around menstruation and building a more equitable world. That’s why our DfG washable pads are always paired with comprehensive menstrual health education – for menstruators, families and entire communities.
We also empower local leaders through our enterprise program, as we recognize that local leaders are best positioned to lead and drive sustainable change in their communities. At Days for Girls, we recognize that local leaders are best positioned to drive sustainable, long-lasting change in their communities. And then last, but not least, in order to see a meaningful impact that lasts, Days for Girls pursues advocacy work that shifts social norms and creates more supportive policy environments for menstruators worldwide. From campaigning and capacity-building to cultivating strategic partnerships, our advocacy efforts are critical to shifting the menstrual health space in a way that stands the test of time.
To answer the latter part of your question, periods can have a lasting impact on the environment if we continue to dispose of waste, just like with any other product. Disposable pads and tampons end up in landfills. We promote reusable, washable products that are better for our bodies as well as the environment.
How do you feel about working Business activities and collaboration with agood company in partnership?
This is a fantastic partnership! It’s truly a win-win. I think consumers want to purchase products that give back in some way and are better for the environment. Consumers want to do business with companies that they can trust and who are transparent. We want that in our personal relationships. Why wouldn’t we want the same for our business relationships? Agood Company is all of that. Working with them has been a joy. There is nothing but honest conversations along the way and they make products that are good for the earth, the consumer and for the cause. Win-win.
Who is your biggest inspiration and motivated you to be successful in your role?
There isn’t one single person that has inspired me. Is that okay to say? I think we always feel as though we should have one single role model. I have many. I have purposefully surrounded myself with strong, courageous, brave, women- women who keep going even when the mountains they are climbing seem too steep to summit, who have grace under pressure, encourage other women, have compassion for others, serve and share their skill set for the greater good and not just for themselves, and women who can laugh at themselves and find joy in life. These women are my family members, friends, and colleagues.
Finally, how do you think we should feature in agood community?
I love agood company that features stories of their partners and brands. It's a perfect way to connect consumers to their brand. It tells their story and has a way of "inviting everyone into their home," so to speak. It's personal, real, and connects readers to the mission.