News / Africa

Education Activists in Malawi Fight Absenteeism With Pads

In this photo dated June 12, 2007, school children are seen in a classroom in the village of Chiseka, outside Lilongwe, Malawi.
In this photo dated June 12, 2007, school children are seen in a classroom in the village of Chiseka, outside Lilongwe, Malawi.
Lameck Masina
The Forum for African Women Educationists in Malawi (FAWEMA), with funding from a Canadian organization, is working on a pilot project to provide affordable sanitary pads to school girls to reduce absenteeism.
A recent study by FAWEMA shows that many female students in rural areas stay away from schools for at least five days during their menstrual periods, a development that affects their performance in class.

Cecilia Njoka is the project officer at FAWEMA.

“The challenges that these girls, mostly in rural areas, are facing is that when they are menstruating, they would not go to school. And [another problem is about] the sanitary menstrual hygiene, because if they go to school they fear messing up their uniform [since] they have nowhere to change their clothes and make themselves clean and comfortable so that they go back and attend classes.”

Njoka says to reverse the trend, the organization has engaged women volunteers known as mother groups who are producing reusable sanitary pads from local materials, which help improve hygiene among adolescent girls in both primary and secondary schools.

“To help them remain in class, what we are doing is to ensure that the girls have sanitary pads that they are able to use in school, and at the same time change into another one, and also have a washroom where they can get into the room, clean themselves and attend the class.” 

NGO assistance

The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) provided funds to pilot the project which started in October 2012.

Lesley Kitting is a Canadian volunteer with the project.  She told Malawi’s state television station that the pads are approved by hygiene experts.

“The pads are made of towering flex form and washable fabric, so as long as the girls wash the pads properly and not share the pads, they are determined to be quite safe.  We have consulted with the Canadian doctors and Malawian gynecologist as well as an American nurse. If anything, it requires washing.” 

Girls themselves, agree. Joyce Mkandawire is the communications adviser for Girls Empowerment Network, a Blantyre-based NGO which works to advance the rights, status and well-being of adolescent girls in the country.

“The pads have proven to be effective, because pads which we use are not affordable and we use it once and then you throw it way. And it’s also expensive. But these reusable sanitary pads you can use it and wash it and use it as long as you may want to. It is something that you can use it at home and dry it, so you can use it for over a time rather than the pads we use today, you use it today and then you junk it.”

Similar projects are reported to have helped keep girls in school in many African countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

In Malawi, the project is being piloted at Mwasibu Community Day Secondary School in the capital, Lilongwe. Funds permitting, Njoka says, it is expected to spread to other schools.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs