In Malawi less than ten (10) percent of girls earn a high school diploma. About fifty (50) percent will be married, and/or raising children by the age of eighteen (18). About twenty (20) percent of school aged girls are prevented from continuing their education beyond primary school due to lack of menstrual health education and access to menstrual pads during their periods. Girl children are forced to stay away from school during menstrual periods, causing them to miss nearly twenty five (25) percent of school days each year. Unfortunately, cultural taboos and myths about menstruation confuse these children and mislead them to downplay the importance of education and school attendance. Absence from school leads to poor performance and pushes girls into early pregnancy and marriage.
Overcrowded schools, lack of adequate toilets, water and poor sanitation compound the problem for girls. The school curriculum does not teach them menstrual health hygiene management. The culture discourage discussion of the subject which is considered taboo and prevents girls from asking questions or learn how to manage the issue when they start experiencing changes in their bodies. They are left confused and associate menstruation with shame and embarrassment and fear of humiliation from boys and even teachers at school cause them to stay home during menstruation.
Ulemu, meaning dignity in the Chichewa language, is the name of the project whose aim is to keep girls at school so that they can complete their education and achieve their potential in life. The goal is to empower the girl child in Malawi with knowledge of menstrual health hygiene and sanitation through education and provision of re-useable sanitary pads so that they can remain in school during menstruation.
“When they are educated, girls and women drive development in their families, communities and nations”. (UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon)
A pilot project will be carried out in Mulanje and Migowi districts in the southern part of Malawi and will aid girls from the Khombwe Community Day Secondary School, Namphungo Community Day Secondary School, and Nyezerera Primary school. These schools together represent about four thousand (4,000) children more than half of whom are girls. The project will empower about one thousand women (widows) in surrounding villages in Mulanje and Migowi districts.
* Education and counselling in menstrual health and hygiene for girls (age 10 to 18) at “Girl Shower” sessions at the 3 schools
* Awareness campaigns on menstrual health and sanitary issues across the three communities
* Empowering “Mother group” (women/widows) in the three communities by providing them with training and equipping them to make reusable sanitary towels which will be used by the girls and also sold to generate income in a sustainable way. The Mother group training will also cover inheritance rights, HIV/AIDS prevention and other valuable leadership skills.
The project will educate more than two thousand school girls about menstrual health management, provide them with re-useable sanitary pads and deal with cultural myths around menstruation which affects girl’s confidence.
It will motivate them to aspire to higher education rather than the cultural trend towards early marriage. This will increase school attendance, improve performance and pass rate to secondary school.
It will provide training for unemployed women in making re-useable pads from which they will be able to generate income and improve their quality of life.
The project will raise awareness of sanitation issues in the community which will help to improve understanding at home and address issues concerning the value of girl child education.
Project Cost is £9,600
£15 can keep a girl in school and improve the chances for her future life and the life of her family.
£100 provides materials to produce re-useable pads and underwear (no-sew knickers) for 100 girls
£250 provides a health education “Girls Shower” for 60 girls. This weekend Girls Conference helps to build support structures around these vulnerable girls.
£750 will fund training of mother group and provide a whole village with the equipment to make their own ‘sanitary towels’. It will allow the purchase of sewing machines, tables, chairs, scissors, threads, materials and needles. Empowering the girls and women to provide for themselves restores dignity and shame falls away.