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Girl EmPOWER

Girl EmPOWER Project

A Project for Mwalawatongole, Chilimani and Chankhokwe Schools

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Background

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities is a major reason why many children, particularly girls, fail to attend school in Malawi. The lack of facilities also affects the performance and achievement of those who do attend, and is detrimental to the working conditions of the teachers as well. Sanitation, therefore, is not only important for health, it is central to the effective learning and management of a school.

The school environment need to meet some of the basic hygienic needs to lead to improved sanitation for girls in school, especially in primary school.  For most girls, their first mensuration period occurs when they are in primary school. A poor sanitation structure, few female teachers to support girls and attitude to girl child education, means that just 37% of girls finish primary school (UNESCO, 2010; Maluwa-Banda, 2004). Poor menstrual hygiene management in schools has been shown to cause adolescent girls worry and humiliation, contribute to absenteeism and lead to poor performance in schools (UNICEF, 2010; Water Aid, 2009; Lidonde, 2005).

Ignorance about menstrual issues is prevalent not only among school girls but also in communities in Malawi. Menstruation is strictly a secret and is not openly discussed with others. It’s treated as a taboo in some cultures. In some communities girls first menstruation is seen as readiness for marriage even in young girls as young as 11years old. Starting mensuration is seen as an end to childhood and when girls begin menstruation, often, they do tell a female relative and rarely their mothers. The profound silence around the topic combined with lack of access to information results in girls possessing very little understanding of their own bodies. Many girls are left to manage their menstruation periods in unsafe manner, using old rags, leaves or other unhygienic and ineffective materials. The problem is exacerbated by very limited access to hygienic products, safe private sanitation facilities and inadequate disposal options. As a result of all the above, girls become isolated from family, school, and their communities. They miss school and productive work days thereby falling behind their male counterparts. The proposed project is looking at addressing some of the challenges primary school girls face regarding menstrual hygiene management.

Project Concept

This project will be implemented by the Tongole Foundation in partnership with Souljourn Yoga. This will be a collaborative project that will both create sustainable revenue for the women of the communities around Mwalawatongole, Chilimani and Chankhokwe primary schools in Nkhotakota district (especially the "mother helpers" that are already present at the school), encourage more girls to continue to secondary education, and ultimately lead to more female teachers in the schools.

It is purposed that , "Girl emPOWER" will be a two tiered project that will have life and community changing effects for years to come. First tier that will be deployed will be to have the mother helpers start making, selling, and using reusable sanitary napkins that will not only provide them with their own personal revenue, but will continue to encourage girls to stay in school passed puberty as they will have access to clean, sanitary supplies and will not feel ashamed, embarrassed, or get sick for using/not using clean materials such as banana leaves or dropping out of school all together since there is a lack of support and education about female wellness and health.

The project will of course employ a local woman to oversee the production and manufacturing of the materials and will additionally be ecological as the reusable sanitary napkins will be both affordable, natural, and made hopefully from local materials at low cost and affordable for all.

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Second tier will be the "Girl emPOWER" after school club in which both girls and the mother helpers will have access to information on health, wellness, support, and guidance on female issues, a place where women can talk openly about any issues they may be experiencing and also receive positive encouragement to continue their education and build an internal female community. All of this will be done so that more girls will go to secondary school and continue their education to give back to their community by returning as female leaders and inspirations for other generations of girls to come. 

It is planned that the project will start in September 2017 and end of August 2108 covering one year. The Tongole Foundation will monitor the production of the sanitary napkins and start the girls club only to then pass on the content and knowledge to a qualified, local female teacher/leader additionally providing employment.  The project will be implemented in three schools covering 40 girls. It is hoped that the project will be able to be self-sustained with bi-annual check-ins from Souljourn Yoga with hopes to expand. The initial financial need is $20,000 to efficiently start the project which has to be fundraised as it is a collaborative venture with the Tongole Foundation, being on the ground.

Project Goal

  • Empower girls to manage their mensuration in a hygienic way, in privacy, safety and with dignity at home, at school and in the community

Project Objectives

  • Provide cheap, washable pads to help girls manage mensurationbetter at school and at home
  • Build the capacity of mother helpers (groups) around each school to provide support to the girls
  • Increase access to information to girls regarding wellness,  body changes, sexual and reproductive health

Activities

  • Employ female community worker
  • Sensitize the chiefs, mother groups, education and health officials
  • Procure Motorbike for use by community worker
  • Make sanitary pads using appropriate local material
  • Training mother helpers how to make pads
  • Training female teachers and mother helpers
  • Producing information charts, leaflets and posters about mensuration issues
  • Forming Girl emPower clubs in each school
  • Conduct community campaigns highlighting girl emPower
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Expected Results

  • Teachers, parents, chiefs and mother helpers and general community listen to what girls want
  • Information on wellness, sexual and reproductive health, management of mensuration period available
  • Bullying and sexual exploitation of girls eliminated in schools and community
  • Sanitary pads available and environmentally suitable disposals mechanisms available
  • Positive changes to traditional beliefs, practices and cultures