Periods; Let’s talk about it!

Menstruation is the most dreaded time for adolescent girls and women in poor communities such as those in Mbando village, Machinga District, Malawi, where Abundance works. Why is such a natural health cycle, so difficult for them? The girls describe it as a time of anxiety and worry.

“When I get periods, I use pieces of cloth and am worried that it will fall off when I walk. That would be so shameful! So I don’t go to school those days. Also, it is difficult to sit on the floor while having periods, as our school does not have desks and chairs and we sit on the classroom floor.”

-A girl in Chirimba Secondary school, Mbando village.

Our rapid assessment in the village revealed that lack of access to and inability to afford proper sanitary napkins, caused the girls to resort to poor menstrual hygiene practises. Only three out of 53 girls surveyed at Mbando village have ever used proper sanitary pads. Lead by Abundance Director Ruth Mumba and her team, a one day training workshop (22 July 2017) was held at Mbando village on production of reusable sanitary napkins. The training was in response to a request from mothers in the village, who were concerned about young girls’ menstrual hygiene and related impacts.

Abundance Menstrual Hygiene Training

Grace Moyo began the training by first removing the “social stigma” on menstruation. “It is healthy to menstruate and you should not be ashamed of it. If you are a girl, you will menstruate”, she told the girls. She reiterated that being teased by their peers should not let them down, in fact, menstruation should be viewed as a sign that they are fit. Reusable sanitary napkins are made from used cloth and shaped like proper sanitary pads, but have an addition of buttons on the sides to secure them. Thus the worry that the cloth may fall off is no longer there and this gives confidence to the girls. Furthermore, the pads are something the girls can make on their own with a little training. They can be washed and reused, thus being an inexpensive and sustainable solution.

In the large classroom of Mbando village’s Community Based Child Care Centre, girls grouped themselves into groups of 6 and began making the pads with help from Ruth Mumba and Grace Moyo. Used cloth was sourced by Ruth from the local markets and sewing kits were purchased which was distributed to each group. Every girl got a small sewing pack which she could take home with her and continue making pads at her home. Care was taken to include aspects of washing pads with soap and drying them thoroughly before use, in the training.

Present at the workshop was the “Mothers Support Group”, which is a volunteer group of women in Mbando village who support women and children and help bring back children who drop out of school. They welcomed the training as a means to reduce girls’ absenteeism in schools. But there were also a pleasantly surprising cascading effect from the training. The Chairlady of the group said, “Because of this workshop, I believe that not only will the girls help themselves, go to school during periods, but, they can also use the skills to make pads and sell them for an income.” The possibility of income generation movement from this workshop was a positive spill-over that Abundance’s training did not expect, but happily welcomed.

Making reusable sanitary pads is not just a menstrual hygiene project, it has multiple benefits of improving confidence in girls, reducing absenteeism of girls in school and possible income generation venture. This is one small way Abundance is trying to help communities in Malawi. Let us break the silence about menstruation and promote dignity for girls!

Written by Deepa Pullanikkatil (PhD)

Founder & President of Abundance.

Follow Abundance on Facebook

 


Abundance: The “Giving and Training” Event

One the 24th May 2017 Abundance held a 'Giving and Training' event at Mbando Village, Machinga, Malawi. This was an event to showcase the skills acquired through the recent training programmes ran by Abundance. Attending and participating in the event alongside Abundance included the Wonderful Youth Group, Mothers’ Support Group, Home-based care, and Gogo Group, and the following guests: Representing the ward councilor: Mr Erik Kazithe, Senior Group Village Head Mbando and other Development Committee members and village heads. 

The Abundance team received a very warm welcome as songs were sung as women danced around as the materials were being offloaded from the vehicle. An opening prayer was made, followed by a poem by a member of Wonderful Youth Group. The poem highlighted some problems the youth are facing. The poem also hinted at massive deforestation that is happening in the nearby Chikala Mountain.

Read more


Sustainable Futures in Africa Network Botswana Symposium

Building Connections: Sustainable Futures in Africa

Research Symposium

Department of Adult Education, University of Botswana

27th and 28th March

From March 27-29 2017 the University of Glasgow in partnership with the University of Botswana hosted the inaugural symposium of the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network in Gaborone. This document summarizes the inaugural meeting of this newly emerging Network and documents the plans of action and commitments that arose.

The symposium welcomed the founding members of the network from Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, and the UK. We include academics, environmental activists, artists, and administrators. The symposium was designed to develop our relationships with one another, our knowledge and understanding of each other's contexts, and our collective plans of action. This was tackled through a two day event that included panel presentations, workshops, discussions, and social activities.

DOWNLOAD: For further information, download the SFA Post Botswana Publication.


Building Connections: Community-Based Environmental Sustainability in Southern Africa

On the 15 and 16 of December 2016 an International Symposium was hosted at the University of Glasgow, funded by the ESRC.  Building Connections: Community-Based Environmental Sustainability in Southern Africa. The event was organised and run by the University of Glasgow scholars, Dr. Mia Perry (School of Education), and Prof. Deborah Dixon of (Geographical and Earth Sciences), and aimed at fostering research collaboration and knowledge-exchange across disciplines and between institutions based in Scotland, Wales, Malawi, and Botswana. Invited participants included Dr. Boyson Moyo (agronomist, Malawi), Prof. Rebecca Lekoko (community and adult education, Botswana), Dr. Olekae Thakadu (environmental management, Botswana), Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil (environmental management, Malawi), as well as Elson Kambalu (artist and film maker from Lilongwe, Malawi). The UK based institutions were represented by Dr. Marc Welsh (remediation and resilience in Malawi, Aberystwyth University), and the University of Glasgow academics, including Dr. Neil Burnside (interdisciplinary geoscientist), Dr. Alan Britton (environmental education), Dr Carlos Galan Diaz (research impact), Dr. Margaret Smith (multidisciplinary agro-chemist), Dr. Ian Watson (applied physicist) and Kasia Uflewska (cultural sociologist and Ketso intern).

The Symposium opened with remarks by Prof. Mike Osborne, Director of Research for the School of Education, University of Glasgow, and was introduced by Dr. Mia Perry and Prof. Deborah Dixon. The activities, aimed at knowledge-sharing and presentations, commenced with a panel discussion addressing the environmental challenges in Southern Africa, and were followed by a briefing on funding opportunities for global challenges. The subsequent afternoon workshops focused on issues related to the community engagement, arts and public pedagogies, geographical and Earth sciences, as well as the research methodologies. The first day closed up with heated discussions on the challenges and opportunities for cross cultural, and cross discipline research in Southern African environmental sustainability, as well as on affordances and challenges of interdisciplinary research among academics, politicians and community members.

The second day of the Symposium commenced with introductions by Prof. John Briggs, (Professor of Geography, Vice-Principal for the University, and Clerk of Senate) and aimed at formalising ideas, and forming potential partnerships. The diverse ideas, perspectives, and interest areas were explored holistically and creatively through an employment of an engagement toolkit, Ketso. A brief Ketso introductory workshop was conducted by Kasia Uflewska to support participants in carrying out an extensive Ketso afternoon session aimed at formulating final ideas, collaborations and partnerships. The Symposium concluded with a formulation of actionable plans, including groundwork-planning, bid writing, and potential research collaborations.