Sylvia’s Sisters began with a friendship between two women separated by over 7,000 miles. The all-volunteer organization was founded in 2014 by Jennifer Taylor, a resident of Chesterfield, Virginia. It is named after Sylvia Namukasa, an environmentalist based in the rural village of Kirinda, Uganda.
In 2012, Sylvia hosted Jennifer’s son Mike when he traveled to Uganda for a student environmental project with the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. When Mike returned home from Uganda, Jennifer and Sylvia kept in touch and became friends over email. Sylvia had noticed that a lack of reusable period products prevented girls from attending school in Kirinda, and she requested assistance from Jennifer. In 2013, Mike and the CREATE Lab returned to Sylvia’s village with 300 kits of handmade, washable period products sewn by volunteers. One year later, Sylvia’s Sisters was founded.
In 2016, Sylvia’s Sisters began supplying central Virginia schools with period products, collecting donations via volunteer product drives and monetary contributions. 2016 also marks the year that members of Sylvia’s Sisters joined with the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition at the Virginia General Assembly to advocate for the removal of the period tax, as well as the inclusion of period products in local schools. Four years later, legislation was passed that lowered the period tax and required school boards to make free period products accessible to students.
In 2017, the group began providing reusable pads to Uganda via AFRIpads, a menstrual kit manufacturer and social enterprise committed to hiring Ugandan women. Sylvia’s Sisters became a partner of the national organization the Alliance for Period Supplies in 2019 and received $35,000 worth of period products from APS sponsor U by Kotex.
Sylvia’s Sisters expanded its mission during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide period products to menstruators from diverse communities in Richmond and its surrounding areas. Sylvia’s Sisters is proud to work alongside local groups like Communities in Schools, Diversity RVA, Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, Sacred Heart Center, and World U.P. to distribute quality menstrual hygiene products to communities in Central Virginia.