At the start of 2019 three organisations Chifundo UK and Chanasa Malawi joined forces with Gift of the Givers, a large relief NGO based in Blantyre Malawi, to provide needy school girls in both rural and urban areas with information about menstrual hygiene and to give them Lotus Packs (resusable santiary pads, panties and other items) so that they have a positive experience of menstruation and do not miss lessons each month. From the start of November 2019 Chifundo UK and Chanasa Malawi have taken over the project. During 2019 girls at seven schools in and around Blantyre have received training in menstrual hygiene. Over 800 girls received a Lotus Pack. In addition changing rooms were built at five of the schools to give the girls a suitable place to wash and change in (the other two schools already had changing rooms). At the start of 2020 we have been asked to provide training, packs and toilet facitiles for 575 girls at a large, very needy school of over 3,000 students, Chisombezi. Money was raised to building a toilet block with toilets, changing rooms inclduing disabled access. 575 girls received packs and training, mothers, teachers and boys also received some training. The mothers were taught how to make the sanitary pads and provided with equipment and materials to make more and start a small business. This work was halted during part of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but was completed in the autumn of 2020. Another small school also recieved packs and training in December 2020. In the first half of 2021 almost 500 girls at three different schools have received packs and training together with training for mothers, staff and boys. The mothers at each school have been taught to make the sanitary pads. In addition at three of the schools we have been able to provide treadle sewing machines for the mothers to use to make pads. We are now working to fund the work at a large school where over 2,000 girls need packs in a poor suburb of Blantyre. At the end of July 2021 almost 2,000 girls across11 schools in Blantyre and surrounding rural areas have received Lotus packs. There are many, more who need this help.
Each Lotus Pack consists of a set of four washable, reusable santitary pads, a small waterproof bag, 2 new pairs of panties, a cotton flannel, a bar of soap and a packet of salt all stored in a cotton drawstring bag. This will be given to the girls together with information about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). The pads and bags are made by the Chanasa Women which empowers them economically and this in turn benefits their families. The training is provided by the Chanasa women who are paid for their work. Some of the Chanasa group leaders are also teaching the mothers to make the sanitary pads with the aim of them starting small businesses.
A first period should be a welcome rite of passage for young girls. One to be celebrated and marked with honour. This, however, is not the case for many girls in Malawi. Instead menstruation rings shame, embarrassment and isolation. Instead of this being seen as a natural act of the body and empowering aspect of femininity, many young girls are left unsupported, and reduced to some of the most unconventional methods to help them through. The Lotus Project aims to help girls preserve their dignity, allowing them to take pride in their bodies as well as concentrate in school.
The aim is to continue this much needed work in other schools. If you would like to sponsor a pack for a girl for £7.50, please go to www.chanasachifundomalawi.org/lotuspack. You can also give money for this work through the Donate Now button above right, telling us in the special instructions that your donation is for the Lotus Project. If you include your email address we will send you a special thank you email.
If you would like more information about the Lotus Project or would like to arrange an illustrated talk about the Lotus Project in the UK please contact Susan Flynn using the Contact Form.
This project has been supported by the Irish Embassy in Malawi and the US Embassy in Malawi. It has been assisted by a grant from the Peter Stebbings Memorial Charity in the UK, Little Gransden Church, the Grace Charitable Trust in the UK, The Carmela and Ronnie Pignatelli Foundation and The Souter Charitable Trust in Scotland. We are are very grateful for all their support.