Gateway - Girls' Access to Education
An effective, sustainable and affordable solution to monthly periods for Malawian schoolgirls
Around 100 girls free to attend school
27 November 2023
We sent £300 today to Starfish Malawi to fund sustainable and re-usable sanitary kits for around 100 girls at Kaputu School. Past experience indicates that this will result in a dramatic reduction of absences among girls. Thanks to our supporters for enabling this to happen.
Environmenstrual Week (16-20 October)
11 October 2023
A new cohort of girls at Kaputu School, Malawi, is needing effective protection during their monthly periods. The Gateway (Girls' Access to Education) scheme provides kits containing environmentally sustainable pads which are washable and reusable, and last two years, all for about £3 per girl. So we are raising £300 to free 100 girls to continue going to school during their monthly periods. Otherwise they tend to miss several days each month and that badly affects their progress, putting them at a severe disadvantage. By supporting this project you will also be supporting the local women in sewing groups that make and sell the sanitary kits.
If you would like to donate please see here. (Any excess will go towards Gateway at other schools in Malawi.)
We were not able to provide a grant at the beginning of their school year in September as hoped because our funds were earmarked for another project. We therefore decided to raise the funds this month during Environmenstrual Week.
“My name is Saliza Karim [not her a real name.]. I am 14 years old, I remember when I was at school fetching water from the borehole, a friend of mine rushed to me and informed me that my uniform had red stains. I froze that instant, tears rolled down my cheeks.
"The following day I did not go to school because I was ashamed. I was in standard 5 then, sometimes I would skip classes when I was in my monthly periods because I was unable to afford sanitary protection as I come from a very poor family and none of my parents can afford to give me money for pads. This has been affecting my performance and this is my second time repeating standard 7.
"Now that Starfish has given us these packs am very happy because it will help me reduce stress when I am approaching my monthly periods because I always stress about where to get sanitary protection. This was also affecting my activeness in class because I would always ask myself that what if the blood comes out while in class. The sanitary packs will also help me improve my performance as I will be attending classes even when I am in my monthly periods and I believe that this term I am not repeating standard 7 again.”
A welcome gift for a new school year
23 August 2023
We are continuing to collect funds to provide upcoming girls at Kaputu School with sanitary kits. To supply a complete year's cohort costs about £300, and any excess we collect will go towards other schoolgirls in Malawi under the Gateway scheme. We plan to give a grant in September, to coincide with their new school year. The grant will go to Starfish Malawi, who administer the programme.
Confidence for another 140 girls
13 December 2022
Today we transferred £427.85, the total collected including some Gift Aid, to Starfish Malawi for their Gateway project at Kaputu School, with the excess to go to Gateway at nearby school(s). Judging by previous results, that sum should make a huge difference to the confidence and attendance of 140 girls.
We are continuing to support this project, as every year there will be new girls needing the kits.
A fast and generous response
25 November 2022
Thank you for responding so quickly and generously to our Environmenstrual Week appeal. So far we have received £424.10, plus some Gift Aid due and a further donation promised.
It's Environmenstrual Week!
(17-21 October 2022)
17 October 2022
To mark Environmenstrual Week we are raising funds to buy sustainable sanitary kits for a new intake of schoolgirls at Kaputu Primary School, Malawi. By raising just £300 we will be able to supply 100 such kits, giving 100 girls the freedom to attend school without embarrassment during their periods. The kits will not need replacing for two years, as they are washable. Are you able to help? A donation of £5.80 will make a big difference to two girls.
Environmenstrual Week is run every year by WEN (Women's Environmental Network).
Huge reduction of schoolgirl absences
5 July 2022
In Kaputu primary school there has been a dramatic reduction in schoolgirl absences since re-usable, sustainable sanitary pads were made available. In the 7 months before the pads were provided there were 192 days lost. That compares to a mere 6 days lost in the 12 months since their introduction - a huge reduction.
One girl reports, "I am a standard 8 student at Kaputu Primary School. Ever since I started learning here 2 years ago, this was my first time to receive such an amazing gift - it has honestly changed my life in all aspects. Now I won’t be skipping any more days at school because of my periods and I’ll be coming to school every day even when I am in my periods since I now have the sanitary kit to protect me from leakages at school. It is important as I am also getting close to writing my Primary School leaving certificate and I’ll be able to write them freely without a problem if am to be in my periods. Honestly this has helped me a lot as I used to use small pieces of cloth, which used to leak on my school uniform and I would get embarrassed with people laughing at me and boys would point fingers at me. In the end I would choose to stay home to avoid all this”.
A correspondingly huge 'thank you' goes to all who have given to our general and Where Needed Most funds, which provided the £300 for the pads.
We are considering whether to continue our support for Kaputu school through Starfish Malawi. If you feel strongly about this, or would like to donate, please let us know via our contact form.
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.