UN Women, a United Nations entity that promotes gender equality, has asked Malawi and its partners to find mechanisms of breaking barriers between male teachers and female learners, especially when the latter are menstruating.
The call was made after some Civil Society Organisations have reported that some menstruating learners do not want to go to school because they feel uncomfortable with male teachers.
Speaking when Girls Empowerment Network (Genet) and UN Women distributed sanitary pads to adolescent female learners at Koche Primary school ground in Mangochi on Thursday.
Genet Project Officer, Twambi Kayuni, said in an interview that there are a lot of factors that make girls uncomfortable to freely interact with male teachers the way they interact with female teachers.
Kayuni blamed the culture of treating menstruation as a taboo.
“If we can get rid of these issues and other social and cultural believes, we can create a safe place for our girls in school. And there is hope that we can manage to stop the issue of high school dropout rates as well as teenage pregnancies,” Kayuni said.
UN Women Country Representative, Clara Anyangwe, said, just like boys, girls deserve the opportunity to be in class throughout the school period.
Anyangwe said UN Women will engage the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on measures that would improve the number of female teachers so that girls can be assisted by female teachers when menstruating.
“But, in the meantime, we need to continue engaging male teachers to help them open up to female learners. This, we believe, can help in dealing with the present situation where girls are afraid of going to school for fear of meeting male teachers,” Anyangwe said.
According to Genet, the sanitary pads were bought with funds sourced by musician Tay Grin and the government of Iceland, which was represented at the function by Iceland Ambassador to Malawi, Agusta Gisladottir.