By Cedric Nkungula
In a move that is aimed at promoting menstrual hygiene among school going girls in the country, Malawi’s First Lady Madam Monica Chakwera on Thursday donated reusable sanitary pads and various learning materials to Likuni and Lilongwe Girls Secondary Schools in Lilongwe.
Madam Chakwera who is also a Patron of Shaping Our Future Foundation (SOFF) donated reusable sanitary pads as well as gift packs containing 1 ruler, 3 pencils, 2 erasers, 1 sharpener, 1 pen, 6 wood colour pencils, 1 triangle ruler and 1 protractor to 600 and 649 students at Likuni and Lilongwe girls respectively.
SOFF has partnered with Plan International Malawi (PIM) to implement a menstrual health hygiene project in schools and communities.
In her remarks Madam Chakwera emphasized that menstrual health hygiene poverty is the highest form of poverty in Malawi which affects 98% of women and girls.
She said due to the traditions of hiding menstruation to men, most women do not dry their menstrual materials in the sun and as a result, the materials become moldy causing a fungal infection (candidiasis) in most women and girls.
Madam Chakwera said the situation is even worse for girls who have just reached puberty and are in school because once they mess themselves, they become a laughing stock and are mocked by boys.
“Many girls end up missing classes for 5 days every month while the boys are learning. This loss in attending classes affects their performance leading to some girls to drop out of school because they feel humiliated, affecting their self-esteem,” she said
Madam Chakwera said her main target is to ensure that girls enroll, remain and complete their education.
” Time to overlook the menstrual health hygiene aspect for girls is over as long as it affects their school completion,” she said.
Madam Chakwera then encouraged girls to work hard in their studies as better educated women tends to be more informed about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and their children are usually healthier, should they choose to become mothers.
”Education, for any child be it a boy or a girl, can open the doors to a brighter future that would otherwise be locked tight. But it isn’t just about the future –children who stay in school are better protected from exploitation in the present,” she added.
“When girls have access to education, they develop the knowledge, confidence and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to an ever – changing world.”
Director for Secondary Education Dr. Florida Banda applauded Madam Chakwera for the initiative saying such gesture will help in energizing all those that are working tiressly in promoting girls education in the country.
“This donation is an answer to various challenges girls are facing in the country. Let me call upon organizations and individuals to emulate the gesture by the first lady,” Banda said.
Both Likuni Girls Headmistress Sister Amelia Nyendwa and Headmistress for Lilongwe Girls Secondary Bridget Nungu were all smiles and thanked Madam Chakwera for coming to the rescue of their students.