When I’m on my period, I use tampons or pads, of course. I practically always have them somewhere dancing around in my bags and in my bathroom. And when I’m out, I just ask one of my friends or colleagues. Or I jump on my bike and go to the nearest supermarket. No problem.
Using tampons and pads is pretty normal for me. I’ve never had to worry about whether I have them and if I can afford them. But this isn’t a given for everyone.
Because what if you don’t have the money to buy tampons or pads or if there’s nothing even available for you to buy? For a lot of women this is their reality. I met Nick from Childrens Fund Malawi in our office and he explained how a lot of girls in Malawi struggle with this problem.
Malawi is known as ‘The warm heart of Africa’, but at the same time it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Around 74% of the population live below the income poverty line of US $1.25 a day.
As Robin Broadhead once said: ‘Poverty is the absence of choice. Choice requires opportunities. The possibility to learn. To grow. To be your own person.’
Without the resources and/or the availability of products to properly and hygienically deal with their periods, for many poor women getting their period is not only a fact of life but also a real problem.
Menstrual products are unavailable in most of rural Malawi, where 85% of the population lives. And where they are sold, they are often too expensive for the women living there.
In these areas, there is also a lack of proper hygiene facilities – often there are no toilets and sometimes only shared toilets. This is a big problem for the girls and women in these areas since menstruation is still a real taboo.
That’s why women in Malawi on their period often are forced to stay at home from school or work. And in this way, this miss out on their very much needed education and money.
Keep the girls in school
Childrens Fund Malawi wanted to address this problem and that’s why they started a project called “Keep the girls in school”. As part of their programs they offer various free courses for the people in the area so they can learn a craft.
Later, they can put this craft into practice by themselves. The main purpose here is to ensure students become self-sufficient.
One of these courses is a sewing course. Here, the students learn among other things to make reusable pads and to sell them. This offers the opportunity for Malawian women to not only gain access to affordable products but also for the women sewing to gain an income.
Pictures by Julia Gunther
They make reusable pads because these are much cheaper than disposable products and this is, of course, an environmentally friendly option.
Childrens Fund Malawi wants to share how they’ve set up their programs as well as their pads with other NGO’s who can share the pads with girls and women who also struggle with a lack of access to menstruation products or who can share their program to teach women how to make the products themselves.
Because hey, by then the women can earn money, use pads and they do not have to stay at home during their menstruation. Three flies with one stone!
Helping other women to get through their periods. We’re in love with this initiative and it’s fits perfectly with what we envision: a world where all women can not only know what goes into the products they use but also have access to safe products.