Making a debu

New product to help girls celebrate menstruation with parents

Dona Mondragon of Vancouver is not a doctor. But what she lacks in credentials, she said, she makes up for in experience.

"I’m a mother, grandmother and woman of 47 years," said Mondragon, laughing.

"I guess you could say I got a master’s degree from the university of life."

Inspired from a lifestyle makeover episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Mondragon spent the last six years developing Débu Inc., a line of tools to help girls celebrate their first period – what Mondragon calls her first rite of passage – with her parents at her side.

Mondragon quit her job at an insurance agency, cashed in her 401(k) and conducted focus groups with parents, medical professionals and marketing specialists. Débu Inc. launched on Jan. 1.

Débu’s premier product is the $65 Full Moon heirloom box, inside of which is an illustrated book, journal, parent’s companion book, silver moonstone necklace, tools for working through emotions creatively, feminine samples, girly surprises and a coupon book. The coupons allow girls to communicate with their parents without broaching difficult and sometimes embarrassing conversations.

A fierce genealogist, Mondragon consciously left room in the gold and purple box for family heirlooms or personal tokens, encouraging parents to explore family and women’s history.

A $39.95 Half Moon bag is also available with fewer products, and some of the products are available individually online.

Many of the educational tools on the market are geared toward older girls, but now girls are beginning menstruation earlier than ever – some as early as 8. Mondragon was conscientious to provide products appropriate for a young audience as well as appealing to older girls. She also was careful to defer sensitive issues such as religion, sex, STDs and drugs to parents. The products are generic, she said, and can be used by parents who are quite involved in their children’s lives or not as much.

"I felt that we need to do a better job of empowering and educating young girls," Mondragon said. "I wanted to use that moment (when girls enter puberty) to impart some ideas to help them develop strengths, connect them to history and talk to them about their body issues."

Mondragon developed the kits with input from her childhood pediatrician, and received an endorsement from Vancouver doctor Robin Worrell Virgin, with Family Physicians Group.

Her customers so far include a sixth grade teacher, pediatricians and single dads.

"Fathers are open to this," she said. "Having daughters, they’re prepared for this concept, but they’ve been looking for a tool to use. With this, they don’t have to do much."

Eventually, Mondragon would like to get it accepted as curriculum in public schools, but will start with private and home schoolers, Girl Scout troops and the YWCA. She also hopes to have it translated into other languages.

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