Reusable sanitary pads to reduce absenteeism among girls

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In a bid to reduce dropout rate and increase retention of girls in school, Mothers Groups from some schools around Rumphi have been trained to make reusable sanitary pads for girls using locally sourced materials.

One of the beneficiaries of the California based Pollination Seed Grant, Tiyamike Gama, said in an interview on Monday that she came up with the initiative as a remedy to poor sanitary facilities which contributes to absenteeism among girls in schools.

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Most girls in Malawi miss classes during their menstrual cycle.(File)

“There are several challenges that girls face and one is inadequate sanitary materials when experiencing monthly periods. Most of these girls are vulnerable and can’t afford to buy artificial sanitary pads because of the financial constraints from families they come from.

“Such challenges increases absenteeism among girls especially when they are experiencing their monthly periods,” Gama observed.

According to Gama, the situation puts girls at the most disadvantaged position since they miss classes on average of 5 days every month during their menstrual cycle because they do not have the necessities to clean themselves while at school hence the initiative.

Deputy headteacher at Chankhomi Community Day Secondary School, Mbalanda Zulu, echoed Gama’s sentiments saying most of the girls prefer staying at home than going to school because they are afraid of staining their clothes and being laughed at by their colleagues at school.

Zulu also observed that girls’ performance is not equally fared with their male counterparts because mostly they (girls) miss some of the lessons taught during the period they are at home and it becomes difficult to catch up thereby affecting their academic performance.

“These girls spend a lot of time in school and staying for that longer period while experiencing menstrual cycle makes these girls uncomfortable and they are forced to abscond classes.

“Lessons continue normally and the trend affects their performance at the end of the academic year as compared to their boy’s counterpart,” Zulu added.

Statistics from district education office indicate that dropout rate has decreased from 2015 when 7 to 10 percent of 34334 girls dropped out of school in the district and now it has dropped to 2.1%.

Zulu however said although the district has registered progress in reducing the dropout rate among girls, there is a lot to be done as they are yet to achieve the desired outcomes where no girl child should drop out of school.

“Dropout rate among girls has indeed declined recently however that has not reached to what we expect of them. Nevertheless we appreciate the role of other stakeholders who have assisted in achieving the goal,” Zulu added.

Chankhomi CDSS Mother Group chairperson, Zione Jere, acknowledged the existing gaps in a girl child education saying her committee defend girls education rights by among other things sensitizing the community on rights of girls and taking to task any parent who do not support girl child education.

Jere added that with the knowledge acquired from the training on how to make sanitary pads using locally found materials, the committee will be sure no girl will abscond classes due to menstrual periods because the women will be giving the sanitary pads to girls for free.

The training attracted Mother Groups Committees from Chankhomi Community Day Secondary School and St. Denis Primary School and the groups were given two sewing machines for making of the reusable sanitary pads.

Tiyamike Gama is implementing the Girls Sanitary Pads Project in community day secondary and primary schools in the district with funding from the California based Pollination Seed Grant.

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