Print this page

Teach them how to make own reusable pads

Written by  Yamikani Yapuwa
Girls showcase  reusable sanitary pads Girls showcase reusable sanitary pads

Blantyre, January 30, 2019: It is 9 am at Namphungo Teachers Development Centre ground in Mulanje.

The place is littered with a group of adolescent girls and young women carrying pieces of cloth and sewing needles.

They belong to Tikondane Girls Club and have gathered to make reusable sanitary pads.

Tikondane is one of the girls’ clubs that Youth Net Counselling (YONECO), through the Comprehensive Action for Adolescent Girls and Young Women project, taught how to sew reusable sanitary pads.

The club’s chairperson Stella Chipwere, 19, says they were taught how to make pads using locally available resources in 2016 for distribution and sell to other girls to help them have confidence whenever menstruating.

“After the training, we started doing piece works in people’s maize fields as a group to generate money which we used to buy pieces of cloth for making the pads,” Chipwere says. 

“We normally distribute the pads freely to girls who are in school and sell them to out-of-school girls in surrounding areas at K250 each,” she adds.

Chipwere further says proceeds realised from sales of the pads have assisted the club to buy school uniforms, pens and notebooks for 22 orphans and needy girls from surrounding communities.

Similarly, Steria Nyale from the area of Senior Chief Mabuka says girls and young women from Nandolo Village have also distributed 200 pads to girls at Bango Primary School.

“For a girl in the village, it is hard to find K700 or K1000 to buy pads every month.

“As a result, most girls find it hard to associate freely with their colleagues during their monthly periods. Those in school could abscond for fear of soiling their clothes,” Nyale says.

She adds that the club wants to start teaching girls how to sew their own pads.

Thokozire Saikonde from the area of Traditional Authority Mkanda weighs in on the initiative saying it has changed girl’s lives and that, so far, they have given out free reusable sanitary pads to 35 girls.

“We would like to deal with the issue of school dropout among girls in our area to ensure that they complete their education and, thereafter, meaningfully contribute to the development of the country,” Saikonde says.

Area Development Committee Chairperson in Senior Chief Mkanda’s area Alex Bonongwe expresses satisfaction with the impact of reusable sanitary pads on school girls.

“We have seen many girls attending classes without fear of period spillage and facing embarrassment,” Bonongwe says.

Executive Director for YONECO McBain Mkandawire notes that it is gratifying for the girl clubs to be helping other girls in and out of school with the pads.

“Our target was the out of school adolescent girls and young women.

“However, these girls and young women have managed to use the skill and even take an extra mile to distribute the pads in schools,” he says.

Mkandawire adds that the development means that the girls will be able to complete their education as they cannot drop out of school on the basis of menstrual periods.

“On the other hand, for one to buy pads at a grocery, she will need at least K1000 which is not easy for a young school going girl who might want to engage in sexual activities to afford the commodity,” he says.

“In this case, the girls cannot engage in transactional sex to source money for pads since they are getting them already for free,” he adds.

Mkandawire says in the process the girls have been saved from early pregnancies and HIV/AIDS that can come as result of dropping out of school.

Mulanje District Education Manager, Enock Chumachao admits that through making and distribution of the reusable sanitary pads, absenteeism rate has dramatically decreased in many schools in the district.

“Usually girls dropout or abscond due to monthly periods.

“However, with this kind of initiative in the district, many girls are able to attend classes without being nervous of what will happen to them while at school,” Chumachao says.

“Even their performance is improving because they no longer miss classes,” he says.

Chumachao adds that apart from nongovernmental organisations, government’s Malawi Education Sector Improvement Project (MESIP) also has a component of making resusable sanitary pads to reduce dropout among girls in upper classes.

Primary Education Advisor for Mathambi Zone Rosemary Mnyaka concurs with Chumachao, saying the zone has registered no single dropout as a result of menstruation issues since the girls were empowered to make self reusable pads.

“We have 15 schools in Mathambi Zone; eight are under MESIP and are involved in making sanitary pads, an initiative that has enabled girls to remain in school.

“There is need to spread the skills to girls in all schools in the country so that every girl is able to make her own pad,” Mnyaka says.

“For those who are selling, we would want the price to be reduced somewhat to make them affordable to even girls who are less privileged,” she adds.