A 16-year-old Mary Jeremia from Mwawalo village in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mkanda in Mulanje, is a standard seven (7) learner at Nkanda Primary school. She was missing classes four to five days every month whenever she was menstruating. Growing up in the village, where menstrual matters are still forged in myths and misconceptions, she has been missing from school on pretext that it is a taboo to mingle with people, especially boys and men, when one is menstruating.
“We are told that girls should not socialize with boys when they are menstruating because doing so may bring bad luck or negative consequences to our monthly periods. Some say this may result in prolonging menses. Therefore, most of the times I was indoors or being confined to my home campus.” She says the myths and misconceptions about menstruation have not only prevented her from participating in public, but also affected her performance at school. “My performance at school declined the moment I started menstruating. This is because I was missing important lessons every time I am menstruating.” Mary adds that she has been using rugs during her monthly periods. I was not confident to come to school in fear of spoiling myself.
Mary says her life began to change when she received a training on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and reusable sanitary pads from Give Girls Wings project which is being implemented by Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) at her school. She describes the intervention as an eye-opener, which has saved her from dropping out of school. “I have been a believer of so many myths and misconceptions about menstruation. But the menstrual hygiene education cleared my mind and fed me with the right information about it. For example, I realized that there is no harm to socialize while menstruating. What matters is taking care of yourself,”
She adds that through the project, her school has established a girls’ club which meets every Thursdays to discuss issues that affect them and she happily participate in all session.
“I find the topics very interesting! We were also taught how to make sanitary pads using locally available resources. This is a valuable skill which saw me making my own pads. I also received some made by our mother group. Now I sew pads for my sisters and also teach my peer,” says Mary.
Mary says she is thankful to the project for empowering her with rich knowledge and skills that are going a long way to improve her hygiene and school attendance. “What I can simply say is that I have been given wings to fly and the sky is a limit,” she says. Mary is one of many girls whose mindset on menstruation has been changed and skills horned to make sanitary pads by themselves.