Investing in Girls’ Education!
Investing in Girls’ Education!
help2kids is committed to ensuring that every child is given equal access to education! In Malawi, a number of social, cultural and economic factors cause many pubescent aged girls to be absent or drop out of school. Enrollment and attendance rates remain the same for girls and boys until the age of 15, where the percentage of girls becomes significantly lower. According to the Malawian government, 54.2% of boys completed their primary education in 2015, but only 38.1 % of girls did so. Enhancing girls’ access to quality education has significant social, health and economic benefits for girls, their families and wider society.
help2kids works closely alongside the Girls Guide clubs at both Kazembe and Lifuwu Primary School to encourage girls to stay in school. The clubs create a safe space for girls to learn about important issues such as human rights, sexual and reproductive health, child marriage and HIV prevention. Girls also meet to play sports and visit venerable members of the community to provide them with necessities such as soap.
This past year we have been developing the clubs by inviting role models from the community to come and speak with the students. The Lifuwu Health Center Drama Club has held workshops at the primary schools, run by older female students who have finished their primary education. They performed several sketches that gave positive messages about the importance of staying in school. The workshop ended with a mentoring session, in which the students could talk to the girls about any questions and concerns that they have. The drama girls spoke openly with the Girls Guide and spoke about their own experiences and how they managed the challenges faced by many girls, and continued their education.
help2kds is working at both schools to create a comprehensive Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Program. UNICEF defines MHM as:
‘Women and adolescent girls using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management material. MHM involves the practices, culture , education, facilities and materials linked to menstruation.’
Currently neither Lifuwu nor Kazembe primary school meet these standards. Lack of adequate menstrual sanitary products and facilities in schools contributes to the higher levels of absenteeism and dropout rates amongst pubescent girls. It also negatively impacts their school performance. In Malawi, lots of girls start their periods whilst at primary school due to high repetition rates and many students starting school at an older age. UNICEF found that 1 in 10 girls living in sub-Saharan Africa miss school due to their periods.
Although some girls are able to buy disposable sanitary pads, the majority of students simply cannot afford them. Most girls have to use scrap pieces of material tied onto their underwear with string, which easily leaks and falls out. This is a huge source of embarrassment for many girls, who are harassed by boys and younger students. When speaking with the students at the Girls Guide, they said they often leave school early when they are on the periods. When they are in lessons they are preoccupied, worrying about whether they have leaked through their clothes. As classes often take place with students sitting on the ground, many girls are too scared to stand up until all the boys have left their classrooms. Some girls do not come to school at all during their period, and therefore miss school for up to five days a month.
The leaders of the Girls Guide clubs at Lifuwu and Kazembe are trained in how to make reusable sanitary pads. Kazembe’s pad making club has been up and running for a while and has been very successful. This term, thanks to the generous donation of a former volunteer, we are able to provide the materials for Lifuwu girls guide to make their own sanitary pads. The pads are designed to be very absorbent, easy to wash and secure to attach to underwear. They are very durable, meaning that one pad can last several months.
A key proponent of our MHM program is providing students with adequate menstrual hygiene education. Menstruation is still taboo in Malawi, and is often seen as a shameful, dirty and embarrassing process. Starting your period can be a scary time for many girls, who have not had sufficient education on menstruation. Most girls are told about menstruation by their aunts and are often told that it marks the end of their childhood. They must no longer play with their childhood friends or speak to boys whilst menstruating. Many girls recall being sad, scared and embarrassed as they didn’t not understand the changes they would go through during puberty and menstruation. It is important that girls are given adequate information and advice about how to manage menstruation before they start their periods.
However, making sanitary pads and educating girls about menstruation alone is not enough. ! Neither school has adequate girls’ changing facilities, with no water or soap to wash their pads. Therefore, despite having made their own, more absorbent sanitary pads, girls will still have to leave school to change their sanitary pads, or else store dirty pads in their pockets. The current pit latrines have no door and many girls feel too embarrassed to change their sanitary towels in case younger students walk in. Not being able to change their sanitary pads in a hygienic and private place causes many girls to leave school early to change their sanitary pads. Girls are still faced with the decision between staying at school, and risking the embarrassment of bleeding through their uniforms, or missing a significant part of the school day, just to change their sanitary pads.
We want to build changing rooms at both schools that have washing and drying stations as well as disposal facilities. This will provide a space for girls to change their sanitary pads hygienically, with privacy and dignity. Girls not only have the right to equal access to education, but also equal access to quality education. Not having access to adequate menstrual management obstructs these rights for many girls. help2kids wants to support the female students at Lifuwu and Kazembe and give them the best opportunity to thrive in the school environment. But we need your help! If you believe in investing in girls’ education, then please support our upcoming help2kids crowdfunding campaign to build changing facilities at Kazembe and Lifuwu.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information about how you can support the project!