Our purpose is to lift children out of poverty through education. To do this, it is vital that all children are able to access full time primary education as a minimum. This can be especially difficult for girls, their participation in education is affected by hygiene issues and the lack of access to appropriate hygiene facilities. In particular, girls are prevented from accessing education because of lack of facilities to help them attend during menstruation.

In 2020, in partnership with WildHearts Group and Days for Girls we delivered free period products to 679 girls at 3 of our partner primary schools, Chilandepa, Lirangwe and Chisenjere.

We have a close partnership with Ngumbe Community Day Secondary School and have been working with them to improve conditions. In 2021/22, in partnership with Holyrood Secondary School, Celtic Charity Foundation and St Margaret’s Academy, we renovated three girls’ hostels and two shower rooms. We also built a brand-new girls’ pit latrine with changing room facilities, incinerator and handwashing points.

The work done at the girls hostels led to an increased number of girls opting to study as boarders. This has, in turn, led to improvement in their performance compared to previous years. The new bunk beds in the hostels were extremely well received!

Rose Namakhwa, School Boarding Mistress at Ngumbe CDSS said, “I wouldreally like to thank Classrooms for Malawi, Holyrood Secondary School, Celtic Charity Foundation and St Margaret’s Academy because now there is order and hygiene at the hostels making it a conducive environment for students to live in. The students are happy and their mental health has really improved. They are less anxious and worrisome.”

Classrooms for Malawi aim to address period dignity by rolling out the provision of reusable sanitary products to all our Secondary Schools. We believe that menstrual health management is a matter of human rights and is critical to achieving gender equality. Studies have shown that one in 10 girls can miss up to five days of school a month due to menstruation.

In 2023, we provided supreme reusable sanitary kits combined with menstrual health education to all girls at Ngumbe CDSS. Each kit is designed to last for up to four years. This was delivered by ‘Days for Girls’ who in themselves is a local enterprise group based in Blantyre, Malawi. They enable local women to start their own Days for Girls business.

“I have learned many new things that I never knew before e.g. when we can expect our next period. I also learned that wearing a pad for a long time without changing can result in some health issues. I have also learned the importance of cleanliness at all times. The reusable sanitary pads will help us a great deal. They will help us focus on our education and reduce absenteeism. My class hopes that our performance will also improve. This is because sometimes we are confronted with a period during classes and we do not have any pads. We end up begging from friends because at times we also do not have money to buy them. In the course of the hunt, we end up missing some classes.’’

Men and boys are crucial partners in efforts to shatter the stigma and limitations associated with menstruation. The Days for Girls ‘Men Who Know’ curriculum equips men and boys to support women and girls. All male pupils at Ngumbe attended these workshops and received soap to help prevent viruses and bacteria.

Mothers’ Groups, PTA members and teachers also had their own sessions; they learned about the programme and how best to support the 990 pupils from Ngumbe.

“When girls miss school due to period poverty, it puts them 145 days behind their male classmates. This prolongs gender inequity on every level.” Our work has just started. Our aim is to build on what we have done and support more girls into education and provide them with necessary life skills.