“Being in a gender mixed school, the kits provide much comfort and security in class as well as during study time, and I can fully concentrate. So there is no need to miss classes due to menstruation!” - Princess Chirwa
Who does it help?
Secondary school aged girls, and women in poor communities in Malawi.
What does it involve?
GATEWAY provides girls with a reusable sanitary hygiene kit in order to encourage them to attend school during their period and ultimately complete their education.
Women from the surrounding communities are trained in sewing so that they can make the packs for the girls. They women are fully involved with the project and sometimes the kits are also distributed to women in need, within the community.
Why are we doing this?
Without sanitary protection the vast majority of girls and women in Malawi are confined to their homes during menstruation and unable to participate in everyday activities. Therefore female students miss up to one quarter of school time, often including vital end of year exams, because of their menstrual cycle.
If you educate a girl she will:
- earn up to 25% more
- reinvest 90% into her family
- be three times less likely to become HIV positive
- have fewer healthier children who are 40% more likely to live past the age of five.
It has been almost two years since GATEWAY was introduced at Chitiwiri by its partner school in the UK, through the Starfish School Linking Programme. Before its introduction the school had very few girls registered with far more boys attending the school. When the programme was introduced at Chitiwiri, the whole community welcomed it so much that they formed a women’s group which now produce the GATEWAY packs and distribute them to every female student who starts menstruating.
Teachers at Maganga Secondary School, who are working in partnership with the Gateway project, described how girls distance themselves by minimising their interaction with others.
“We easily notice that our girl students are in their monthly days because they shun themselves from us teachers as well as their fellow students. They feel uncomfortable to work in groups with the boys and this also affects their overall performance.”
Naomi Lameck, a prominent member of the sewing group at Chitiwiri, said this about Gateway:
“The project has helped to improve school attendance for our girl students, and has even encouraged more girls to resume classes after dropping out”
Having been involved with the GATEWAY project for two years now, the women at Chitiwiri have a vision of reaching out to the whole community with the programme by producing even more packs and selling the excess to other girls and women who are not in school. The idea came with the aim of raising money to use when students are in need of school materials.
The ladies at Katitima had an introductory meeting with Starfish staff to discuss the project on December 1st 2015. There is a great amount of enthusiasm in the centre and they are looking forward to officially launching in the New Year.
The next step for the group will be to visit the Gateway group at Glad Tidings Orphan Care to see the project in action before receiving their training. Lenia Chiweyo gave them a basic introduction on how to use sewing machines and provided a practical demonstration. She will be responsible for training the group in January.