Her Education Matters update: “Creating lasting change”
Think Malawi teamed up with African Vision last spring to launch an incredible campaign which supports school girls in Malawi during menstruation. Think Malawi sourced the funding and African Vision carry out the project on the ground in Malawi. Girls miss as many as five days a month of school due to inadequate menstrual materials such as pads and washrooms for privacy.
The Her Education Matters programme started last April with the training of two women from M’teza Mothers Group. Both women were trained and began making washable sanitary pads in Sam’s Village for the girls at M’teza Primary School.
The first school to be selected for the programme, M’teza Primary School has a total of 904 pupils of which 477 are girls, and 29 of them are orphans. In total, 71 girls’ packs were created and distributed. Each pack contained 3 pants, 3 pads, soap and a bag to use at school. In addition, a washroom/toilet was built to offer privacy for the young ladies while they attend school.
Namanyanga Mothers Group receiving two sewing machines.
The second school to be selected was Namanyanga Primary School. In Namanyanga, a washroom has been built and was officially opened by the TA (Traditional Authority) and the PEA (Primary Education Advisor) in M’teza Education Zone. During the opening, the girls were presented with bowls and buckets for fetching water and washing. Two sewing machines were given to the Mothers Group and two women from the group have been trained to start making more sanitary pads.
Presenting buckets to the girls.
The Namanyanga build has 3 rooms (one toilet, one washroom, one drying room). This means the girls can wash their pads and hang them to dry in private. During school hours, the toilets are kept locked for the girls security. To use a room, a girl can ask one of the designated female teachers for the key.
The completed washroom at Namanyanga.
The project will have a positive impact to both the girls and the school. The washroom will help the girls easily wash and change when they have their periods. In addition, 28 girls' packs were donated to girls in standards 7 and 8.
28 girls receiving their girls' packs.
As with any new programme, there are always lessons to be learnt. here are a few of the things which we weren't expecting:
The plan was for the women who were trained to make the sanitary pads for the entire year, but once the rains came and it was planting season, they stopped to tend to the fields. This results in zero sanitary pads from December to February.
The women were able to sell extra sanitary pads for income (for food, which is priority) but people in these rural areas usually only have income after harvest - rather than all year. To encourage these women to continue making the sanitary pads, African Vision are considering offering them free soap as a "thank you" for their continued work.
the budget was for £500 per washroom, but it actually costs £787 to build one. This brought the amount of washrooms we could build from 6 to 5.
The young ladies who received girls' packs are worried they will not be able to afford soap once the free soap which was included in their packs is gone. To resolve this issue, African Vision are looking into making their own soap which can be used to distribute to the girls who already have packs, and to sell to generate extra income.
To determine whether or not the programme has been successful, school attendance has been measured. As of February 2020, it's hard to say whether or not the project has increased the number of female students who attend school. We're hoping that within the next year or two, we will start to see an increase in attendance rates.
As of February, future plans were to build washrooms at M’bang’ombe Primary, M’lumbwira Primary and Chitsime Primary over three months, and to provide girls' packs to more young ladies. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus mitigation going on in Malawi, the progress of the project has slowed down. We will keep our supporters updated as we find out more on how the pandemic is affecting Her Education Matters.
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