First Lady Monica Chakwera has asked people to break their silence on issues surrounding menstruation and regard it as a natural part of a woman.
She said this Thursday at Nthunthama State Residence in Lilongwe, where she made a symbolic presentation of menstrual health kits to students under her Shaping our Future Foundation.
Chakwera bemoaned that, due to lack of access to menstrual health education and information, some girls and women did not have access to menstrual products or safe, clean and private spaces for managing their menstruation.
“These limitations have led to challenges at school, including dropping out and absenteeism. When girls cannot attend school because of poverty, this impacts their self-esteem and their opportunities for a decent livelihood,” Chakwera said.
United Nations Population Fund Country Representative Won Young Hong said people could not talk about menstrual health without recognising sexual reproductive health rights.
She, however, said gender-based violence and harmful cultural practices affected sexual reproductive health rights of women and girls.
“For Malawi, one of the commitments is zero child marriages by 2030. This commitment includes ensuring girls’ rights to education and health, eliminating child marriages and other harmful practices and meeting special needs of adolescents and reproductive healthcare,” Hong said.
Days for Girls International Country Director Eunice Banda said they partnered Shaping our Future Foundation to help the First Lady achieve her goal of reaching out to girls.
She said menstrual health should be tackled by both male and females if girls were to be respected.
“The rate of teenage pregnancy is at 29 percent while 30 percent of all maternal deaths occur in adolescents. Adolescent girls are at special risk as 20 percent of girls experience sexual abuse before the age of 18 years. These statistics affirm that girls in Malawi are in a very precarious position,” Banda said.
The sanitary pads that have been donated would be in use for about three years.