In Malawi, I started with a passion to empower young girls. I knew many girls dropped out of school when they got their periods because they did not have pads. So before I went to ARI, I visited the Ministry of Education to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding to work with the government to address the issue of sanitary pads and female empowerment in schools.
Learning at ARI
While I was at ARI, I heard Tomoko-san (director) talk about the Mooncatcher project. I was inspired to keep working on my plan to make pads. I thought of local resources and decided to use the resources in my area to help make the pads.
After returning home, I began by visiting tailors around my community and talking with them about how girls are dropping out of school due to a lack of access to sanitary pads. Many of the tailors began giving me their leftover cloth and I used the cloth to sew the sanitary pads by hand. I tried to make 5 or 6 pads every day after I got home from work.
Working with Schools
Once I had made a few pads, I went to the schools to discuss if we could work together to inspire girls and give them sanitary pads. The school leaders agreed and were so happy to move forward with the project. We meet the girls every Wednesday after their classes. We empower them by occasionally bringing in role models for them to talk to and showing them how to make the pads. In 2019, we gave out 200 sanitary pads to students and teachers.
The biggest challenge for this project is that the schools in our area are far from each other. We have to walk long distances to go to the schools. It becomes even more difficult during the rainy season. Another challenge is that sometimes these rural girls come to school without breakfast because of different problems in their homes. When they come to school hungry, they lose interest, ability to pay attention, and their focus is not on what we are trying to teach them. Still, I am proud to help these girls after all that they go through in life.