Pad making skill spills over to out of school girls

16 May 2017
Mercy and Evarista at Lifidzi Primary School in Salima

There is a special day every week that girls at Lifidzi Primary School in Salima district meet and make their sanitary pads using locally available materials. During such sessions, they are also provided with information on sexual and reproductive health including where to access services.

These sessions are done when lessons from the school have finished. For Lifidzi primary school, they meet every Friday.

The pad making initiative aims at ensuring that girls still attend classes even when they are doing menstruation. It is very common in many rural schools that when girls are menstruating, the stay away from classes because they cannot afford modern and hygienic pads to keep them clean and comfortable; rather they stay home. Eventually, they miss classes and their school performance is compromised.

From the time the pad making initiative started, the situation is otherwise. Girls comfortably attend classes throughout the month. They have a special changing place and it is only known to the girls themselves and teachers. “There is a special room here at school arranged for us girls where we go and change the pads comfortably” said Naomi Maulana, a standard seven girl at the school.

Transfer of skills to out of school girls

While the pad making initiative targets school going girls, the need for pads is not only for them; even the out of school girls face a similar problem.  They lack sanitary pads too.

Through interaction, the school going girls have transferred their pad making skills to out of school girls. Mercy Dyson from Lifidzi Primary school explains that she has been teaching her friends in her village, Mzembera, on how to make these pads;

“these are my friends, I play with them when I leave school every day and I have helped them to take care of themselves whenever they are menstruating; they are now able to make their own pads” she said

Mercy and Evarista, both 16 have taught a total nine girls together in sewing pads in their respective communities.

“It is always difficult to manage this situation when you don’t have money, therefore helping our fellow friends is an expression of good gesture and it makes them appreciate the importance of school” says Mercy.

The pad making initiative is very popular amongst girls from standard five to eight at this school and in many schools that UNFPA has supported in Malawi.

Jean Zangazanga who coordinates the initiative in Salima districts has seen significant drop in absenteeism among girls in several schools that she monitors including Lifidzi Primary school.

 

“The situation has improved tremendously,; we provide at least four to six pads per girl and this has really helped to maintain the dignity of girls when they experience their menstruation at school. We also keep some at school for emergency especially to help those that do not have the pads handy” she explains.

She further acknowledges that the spill over of this skill to out of school girls is a reflection of how convenient the pads are to girls.

Since the initiative started almost three years ago, a total of 64 girls have been trained at the school on how to make sanitary pads and several girls now benefit through the use of the pads.

UN Joint Programmes on Girls Education support to SRH

UNFPA Malawi with support from the Norwegian Government under the UN Joint programme on Girls Education, JPGE is providing pad making skill through the Malawi Girl Guides Association, MAGGA to school goring girls.

Besides the pad making skill, girls are also provided with information on comprehensive sexuality education through the mother groups’ network that exists in the district. The girls are also are linked to youth friendly health services that are deliberately positioned to help the girls that may need more information and services.

“The JPGE programme has successfully linked school going girls with SRH information and services and this is the main focus of our programme” says Cecilia Chinula, Youth Programmes Specialist at UNFPA Malawi country office.

The JPGE aims at ensuring that  there is quality integrated youth friendly services, resources and structures, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), SRHR, HIV/AIDS and gender based violence (GBV) for girls who are in or out of school among other objectives.