The vision guiding the work of the Chifundo and Chanasa charities is the empowerment of women and girls through access to a good education and work which gives them income and dignity. The Lotus project is one way we help girls through a menstrual health project.
Why women in Malawi need this vision:
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. Part of each school year is lost for these girls when their menstruation brings shame, embarrassment and isolation. Instead of it being seen as a natural bodily process and an 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.
Chifundo and Chanasa’s Response: the Lotus Pack and menstrual education:
At the start of 2019 Chifundo UK and Chanasa Malawi joined forces with Gift of the Givers, a large relief NGO based in Blantyre Malawi, to provide school girls in both rural and urban areas with information about menstrual hygiene. Where there was need, girls were each given a Lotus Pack, made up of four washable, reusable sanitary pads, a small waterproof bag, two new pairs of panties, a cotton flannel, a bar of soap and a packet of salt, all stored in a cotton drawstring bag. This basic kit ensures that they can manage their monthly menstruation in a positive way without missing lessons each month.
Each Lotus Pack was be given to the girls together with information about Menstrual Hygiene Management. The pads and bags are made by the Chanasa Women which in turn empowers them economically and benefits their families. Some of the mothers are also being trained so that they can start small businesses. The training of girls, mothers, staff and boys is provided by the Chanasa women who are paid for their work.
What has been achieved so far:
From the start of November 2019, Chifundo UK and Chanasa Malawi have taken over the project and by the end of 2022 over 3,200 girls had received Lotus Packs and training.
During 2019 girls at seven schools in and around Blantyre have received training in menstrual hygiene and over 800 girls received a Lotus Pack.
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).
Teachers and boys also received training, and the mothers were taught how to make the sanitary pads and provided with equipment and materials to make more and start a small business. Money was raised to building a toilet block with toilets and changing rooms including disabled access. The work with the girls was halted during part of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but was completed in the autumn of 2020. Another small school also received packs and training in December 2020.
In 2021, just over 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 and we have been able to provide treadle sewing machines for them to use in making the pads.
At the end of 2021 and the first part of 2022, a large school Mbayani in Ndirande (a suburb of Blantyre where two of our sewing groups are based) hosted the Lotus Project with 772 girls being given training and packs.
The project then moved to another very large school, Nkolokoti, outside Blantyre, which has two intakes of students. 2,500 attend school from 6am to 12 noon and another 2,500 from noon to 6pm. 967 girls have received packs and training at the end of 2022 and the start of 2023. In July 2023 two small rural schools in Ng'onga and Nthawira about 30 miles outside Blantyre including 5 miles along very slow, dusty roads received the Lotus Project. 173 girls received packs and training.
To date nearly 4,000 girls have received packs and trainng alongside boys, staff and mothers groups.
Chifundo UK with Chanasa has developed a range of fashionable, beautifully designed, fully lined bags to support the work of the Lotus Project. The pricing of these three bags includes the gift of a Lotus Pack and Menstrual Health training to a girl in Malawi. All have been made in Malawi by Chanasa Women’s Enterprise. Two of the bags use a sturdy, hard wearing denim, and one uses cotton polyester combined with the vibrant colours of traditional African fabrics. They are decorated with the Lotus Project’s logo of the Lotus flower, Malawi’s national flower. Buy a bag and the Chanasa Women will not only be empowered but a girl in a state school in Malawi will receive a Lotus Pack and Menstrual Health Training - all available in the Shop.
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 us using the Contact Form.
It is 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, Great and Little Gransden Churches, the Grace Charitable Trust, the Farthing Trust and the Eleanor Rathbone Trust in the UK, The Carmela and Ronnie Pignatelli Foundation and The Souter Charitable Trust in Scotland and many individual donations. We are very grateful for all their support.