Empowering girls and women in Malawi through the Her Education Matters Umodzi project
Updated: May 7
The Her Education Matters Umodzi project
Her Education Matters is a series of education-focused projects, funded by Think Malawi aimed at addressing the issue of girls in Malawi missing up to five days of school per month when menstruating, due to a lack of access to sanitary pads or a place to change at school.
When launched, the Her Education Matters Umodzi project set out to achieve its objective through a number of initiatives including menstrual health management training, the construction of changing rooms, equipment to produce reusable sanitary products, and the provision of school uniforms. Additionally, the project aimed to increase participation of parents in supporting girl’s education at the school. The project was carried out by Umodzi Youth Organisation, whose Her Education Matters project aims to promote access to education for girls in Malawi and ensure that they can attend school regularly without any barriers.
Think Malawi funded the Her Education Matters Umodzi project in Malawi through the generous donations of its supporters. The results shared in this blog were made possible through the generosity of donors, the efforts of Think Malawi’s volunteers, and our partners on the ground at Umodzi Youth Organisation in Malawi who proposed and carried out the project.
Think Malawi funds sustainable, grassroots projects in Malawi which help improve life outcomes for underserved children and young Malawians through access to education. To find out more, learn about Think Malawi together here.
Challenges faced by girls at Umodzi Youth Organisation
In Malawi, girls and women face significant challenges in accessing education. One of the main challenges faced by girls is menstruation. Many girls miss up to five days of school per month due to a lack of adequate menstrual materials, such as sanitary pads. In interviews by Umodzi Youth Organisation Malawi, it was found that girls often used found cloth as a substitute for pads, and though they washed the cloth when they bathed, they were too embarrassed to hang it out to dry. This not only affects their academic ability but also their social life.
Another issue raised during pre-project research was that girls at Likulu Primary School were sometimes unable to participate in physical activities such as netball because they did not have pants. Moreover, there are no designated places for them to wash or change during their menstruation, making it difficult for them to manage their periods at school.
Getting the support of parents at Likulu Primary School
A further objective of the Her Education Matters Umodzi project was to increase the participation of parents by 60% in supporting girl child education. This objective aimed at enhancing collective efforts at the grassroots level in supporting girls' access to education.
Steps taken to improve girls’ access to education
The following initiatives were completed to achieve the projects objectives of increasing girls school attendance and encouraging parent support of girls’ school attendance:
8 girls' changing rooms were constructed
700 girls received sanitary pads
90 girls were trained in menstrual hygiene management (MHM), and each was encouraged to instruct three others
4 sewing machines were provided
10 mothers were trained to use sewing machines
20 leaders were trained for mother-for-mother self-help groups on girls' right to education, money savings, conservation agriculture, and advocacy
20 learners were given school uniforms, without which they are often not permitted to attend school
Community sensitization meetings were held promoting girls education, and encouraging openness to encourage girls who drop out of school to return. These took place targeting parents, local leaders and girls
Results of the Her Education Matters Umodzi project
Results of the Her Education Matters project have been positive, showing a significant increase in girls' enrollment and attendance at Likulu Primary School. The project has made a significant impact in increasing girls' enrollment and attendance in school, contributing to a brighter future for girls in Malawi. Here are the results of the project:
Increase in girls' enrollment
Girls' enrolment increased by 31% at Likulu Primary School.
In 2019, 622 girls were enrolled at the school before the project began.
In 2020, this number increased to 726, and in 2021, it further increased to 813.
During the 2022 school year, there were 1,732 girls enrolled, representing a positive difference of 919 from the 2021 enrollment, a 113% increase.
Improved girls' attendance
95.7% of girls attended school during the month, surpassing the project's target of 92.4%.
Only 29 dropout cases were identified, beating the target of 35.
Improved MHM practices
90 girls at the targeted school were provided with MHM training.
In the end-of-project survey, 93% of the girls reported that they were effectively practising MHM.
Impact on girls' attendance
The project was able to increase the attendance rate from 35% in 2019 to a consistent attendance rate of 95.4% in 2021 and 1732 girls enrolled in 2022.
This achievement was facilitated by the provision of sanitary pads to 700 girls, which helped to address a critical need for girls in the targeted community.
Increased parental participation
The project’s second objective to increase the participation of parents in supporting girl’s education also saw successful results. From a total of 3,462 actively participating parents and guardians, the project was able to surpass its target of increasing parental participation by 60% by November 2022.
The response from the community, especially parents, to various training activities and participation in the construction of changing rooms and community gatherings, were clear indications of increased participation in supporting girls' education throughout the project. Parents were engaged through regular community meetings, where they were sensitised on the importance of educating girls and how they could support their daughters to remain in school.
This achievement was facilitated by the training of 10 mothers to use sewing machines and the development of 20 trained leaders for mother-for-mother self-help groups on girls' rights to education, money savings, conservation agriculture, and advocacy.
The local leaders in Malawi also played a significant role in sensitising parents and the community on the importance of education, especially for girls. Additionally, stakeholders, including local organisations and individuals, were engaged in promoting and supporting girls' education.
Overall, the project successfully achieved its objective of increasing the participation of parents in supporting girl’s education. The project's impact on the community is likely to be sustainable, given the strong community engagement and commitment towards educating girls.
Hear from those who benefitted from the project
Think Malawi and Umodzi Youth Organisation have received quotes from students, teachers, and mothers group members connected to Likulu Primary School who benefitted from the project.
Quotes from female students before the project
“Problems that we face when menstruating… we do not have changing rooms. We end up being absent from school”
“I am very excited to receive sanitary pads”
Quotes from female students after the project
“I am very happy and appreciate Umodzi Youth Organisation for giving sanitary pads to us”
“We were absent from school due to lack of sanitary pads. Now we are happy that we will not miss classes any more.”
“The changing rooms will help us a lot because we will go there to change”
Quotes from teachers
“The whole management of this school is happy and appreciates Umodzi Youth Organisation. This will really help our girls to attend classes all the time”
“Girls were going back in their homes and were staying for some days when they had their periods. Because of that they were failing to attend classes. Not only that but the pass rate for girls was low.”
“We are encouraging girls from the school to tell their friends [who may have dropped out] that at school we are receiving sanitary pads. They will be encouraged to come back and attend classes.”
How your donations enhanced the lives of girls and women in Malawi
The Her Education Matters Umodzi project, funded by Think Malawi, aimed to increase the enrolment and retention of rural underserved girls in school, specifically targeting the issue of menstrual health management. The project constructed changing rooms, provided sanitary pads and school uniforms, and gave MHM training to girls, mothers, and leaders. The project also aimed to increase parent participation in supporting girl child education.
Results of the project showed a significant increase in girls' enrolment and attendance, with girls' enrolment increasing by 31% at Likulu Primary School, surpassing the project's target, and the attendance rate consistently improved from 35% to 95.7%. The project was able to provide MHM training to girls effectively, with 93% reporting that they were practising MHM. Overall, the project has made a significant impact on improving the lives of girls in Malawi, contributing to a brighter future for them.
The success of the Her Education Matters Umodzi project is a testament to the impact that can be made by supporting the development of education in Malawi. By joining Think Malawi as a regular donor, you can play an important role in continuing this progress and improving the lives of young people in Malawi. As a member of Think Malawi together, our regular donors network, you will be the first to hear about updates on projects in Malawi and can help make a difference in the lives of those in need. Additionally, you can consider joining Think Malawi as a volunteer, as we are volunteer-run and give 90% of donations directly to Malawi. By becoming a part of the community, you can help improve life outcomes for young people in Malawi.