The Rotary Club of Cambridge has pledged to support the local Days for Girls NZ initiative on an ongoing basis.
News of the support was announced earlier this month when Rotary Cambridge president Ian Grant attended the group’s regular meeting. He said the pandemic had stalled many of Rotary’s activities over the past couple of years, preventing the club from achieving all it had set out to do.
“So many of our activities have had to be cancelled or postponed. But we are a strong club that is part of a strong global organisation, and have used the time to reflect on things,” he said. “We felt we were not supporting organisations like yours as well as we could have over the last few years and have put a plan in place to make sure that we do so in future.”
Ian was accompanied on the visit by Bronwyn Byers, who heads up Rotary Cambridge’s international committee and will steer the club’s support programme. She said the Days for Girls initiative was a good fit with her personally and professionally.
“My background is in education, so I see it as important to support an initiative that helps stop these girls from losing so much of their education because of issues around menstrual hygiene. Thousands of school hours are being lost because of it, with fewer girls going on to do further education. It is an issue of equality, and I think what this group does is wonderful.”
Days for Girls is a global non-profit organisation founded in 2008 by American Celeste Mergens. On a visit to Kenya she was astounded to find girls were barred from attending school when menstruating, thereby seriously affecting their education.
There are now over 720 teams of sewers in more than 100 countries, with the New Zealand group headed by Lissette Hulme. The Cambridge group of 32 meet weekly to sew shields for packaging into a neat backpack for girls containing everything they need to maintain menstrual hygiene and enable them to continue their schooling.
Cambridge’s Anne Blewden said the local group is one of the biggest in New Zealand. Members meet regularly, some bringing their sewing machines, others fulfilling different tasks. Anne buys the material which is then sent to Palmerston North to be machine cut to shape, and a group in Matamata makes the bags.
“At the moment, all ours go to the Pacific Islands… we have 1000 kits to be done by the end of May. There are some distributed in New Zealand, but those are predominantly for women in maternity hospitals.”
Ian launched Rotary’s support with a donation of $500 from he and his wife Liz, taken from the recent sale of his business. He said they had for years channelled money into different organisations.
Anne said each Days for Girls kit cost $25, and the windfall was extremely welcome, as was the pledge for long-term support.