Gateway - Girls' Access to Education
An effective, sustainable and affordable solution to monthly periods for Malawian schoolgirls
School Attendance made Easier
Sanitary kits (see below) have been distributed to 160 girls at Kaputu School, Malawi. From a questionnaire at that school, 80% of the girls reported that they would miss 3-4 days of school during their period. Now they have their kits it is expected that the number of school days they miss will be dramatically reduced. We will let you know what happens.
A grant of £300 has been provided to help increase girls' attendance at Kaputu School, Malawi, by supplying the girls with sanitary pads which are locally-made, reusable, and last about 2 years. The pads will go to all 100 of the girls of the appropriate age who have not yet received them.
Provision of the pads to schoolgirls in that country is the object of a programme called ‘Gateway’ – Girls’ Access To Education – which is run by UK charity Starfish Malawi.
Attendance figures for the last 6 months show that girls' absences have reduced by two-thirds in the five schools where kits were distributed - down from 404 days to 128 days. We are expecting a similar effect at Kaputu.
Lahema, a pupil at Chitiwiri Primary School, comments, “Normally I don’t go to school during my first 3 days of my period. Although I go to school for the remaining days, I don’t concentrate in class and it is also difficult to interact with boys and male teachers. With the kit I have received, I believe I feel safe and will be in school always”.
Bahati is a 13-year-old pupil at Chigombe Primary School. She explained that she started having periods at the age of 10. “My parents cannot afford to buy sanitary pads at the shop for me, so in the end I was forced to use pieces of cloth, which were not secure as they used to leak especially if I was travelling a long distance. Ever since I received the Gateway kit I am able to use these hygienic washable sanitary pads without having to stress my parents for money. Having the ability of going to school and enjoying my school days even in my period days is remarkable.”
Phales is a pupil at Msalura primary school. She has multiple disabilities due to cerebral palsy, including speech problems and difficulties in walking. Her mother explained that the sanitary kit is of great help to her daughter: “Before the kit it was very difficult for my daughter to go to school since I could not afford to buy disposable sanitary pads for my daughter to use at school. As a result, she was always absent from school when having her menses." She added that now her daughter is no longer absent from school, and she ensures her kit is packed whenever her daughter is having menses.
The mission of Starfish Malawi is "to reduce extreme poverty and build the Kingdom of God in the lives of children, through collaborative work within communities, schools and churches in the UK and Malawi." We envisage our grant as only the start of a partnership which will grow and may embrace other needs at the school as well.
Local project leaders have promised information from Kaputu School towards the end of next month, so watch this space for updates.