It’s been running for six years, but the Yorkits scheme continues to grow in popularity.
Organised by York Ainsty Rotary, they run a series of workshops at the Methodist Church Hall in Copmanthorpe, four miles south-west of York, where the volunteers produce feminine hygiene kits.
In many developing countries, many girls have no provision so can’t go to school during menstruation, missing out on large parts of their education.
“Our aim is to help the girls by providing access to uninterrupted schooling,” explained organiser, Issy Sanderson.
“We run workshops and use brightly patterned cotton to make up the low-cost cleverly designed kits, which are packed into attractive drawstring bags. They typically last each girl for up to three years.
“Each kit also contains panties, a washcloth, a carry bag for soiled items, and a strong polythene zip-locked bag for washing the items in small amounts of often scarce water.”
Some of my workshop team actually take the kits out to the projects themselves and work as volunteers in schools, orphanages, community initiatives and slums.”
Over the past six years, York Ainsty Rotary has sent the kits to 12 African countries – Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Eswatini, and to The Gambia.
Kits have also been sent to India, Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan.
Issy added: “We have also sent kits to refugee camps in Europe.
“Some of my workshop team actually take the kits out to the projects themselves and work as volunteers in schools, orphanages, community initiatives and slums.
“In all of these places, we have seed-funded schools and self-help community groups to start making the kits themselves out of local materials.
“In all, we have sent over 2,000 kits overseas, and helped hundreds of women and girls to make their own.”
Issy explained that the impact on local communities has been tremendous. It helps empower the girls and women to take charge of their own menstrual health situations.
“This has also had an unexpected positive result of reducing the incidence of sexual abuse and childhood pregnancies,” she added.
The volunteers gather once a month on a Saturday in Copmanthorpe, but they have also run workshops in York women’s prison, the Refugee and Asylum-Seekers’ project in Middlesbrough, a women’s refuge in Grimsby, and at the Women’s Support Centre in York.
They also run an annual ‘Big Workshop’ in York Minster once a year to make the kits, which attracts hundreds of people from all over the UK who get involved. This is always held in March, close to the date of International Women’s Day.
“This, in itself, has had an amazing impact, with 100% support from the Dean and Chapter of York Minster, and spin-off in local groups requesting help to start up their own workshops,” added Issy, the Immediate Past President of York Ainsty Rotary.
The Yorkits project is very eco-friendly and has a self-help approach.
“We are ‘eco-warriors’ in that we are firmly committed to helping to rid the world of unnecessary plastic, which we all know is harming the environment,” added Issy.
“Our type of washable feminine hygiene kits reflects Rotary’s fight against plastic pollution.”