By Wezzie Gausi
Days for Girls International has said Malawians need to break the silence and understand that menstruation is a natural part of a woman.
The organisation has since disclosed that 76 percent of women and girls in Malawi do not have access to underwear and a sanitary pad.
Days for Girls Country Director Eunice Banda said this in Lilongwe yesterday ahead of International Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28.
Banda noted that menstrual hygiene remains a big challenge among women and girls in Malawi.
“We have all seen and known girls who have experienced negative health challenges, harmful cultural practices and shaming because they have no access to resources to manage their periods and because our communities have limited knowledge on the subject.
“These limitations have led to challenges at school, including dropping out and absenteeism. When girls cannot attend school because of period poverty, this impacts their self-esteem and their opportunities for a decent livelihood,” Banda said.
Mother Group Chairperson for Msauka Primary School, Kayisa Education Zone, in Lilongwe, Lutiya Dawe, said only four girls at the school had underwear before the non-State actor introduced a project there in 2021.
She said many girls used to be absent from classes when menstruating.
“It is from last year that we have seen an improvement at this school after we had the Days for Girls sanitary project. Now the girls are aware of how best they can take care of themselves and have the needed kits, which they received through the project,” Dawe said.
Secretary for Pastors Fraternity in Lilongwe, Paul Chikagunda, said the church has a role to play in breaking menstrual hygiene silence.
“The time is now for the church to take a leading role in civic educating members on menstrual hygiene. We have a lot of women and girls that suffer in silence on such issues,” Kachigunda said.
A report by the United Nations Population Fund indicates that menstrual hygiene management is a major concern for young women in Malawi and other developing countries.
Lack of menstrual hygiene products, such as sanitary napkins and tampons, as well as lack of sanitary toilet facilities in schools, has led to embarrassment and stigma for girls.