At the start of 2019 three organisations Chifundo UK and Chanasa Malawi joined forces with Gift of the Givers, a large relief NGO based in Blantyre Malawi, to provide needy school girls in both rural and urban areas with information about menstrual hygiene and to give them Lotus Packs so that they have a positive experience of menstruation and do not miss lessons each month. From the start of November 2019 Chifundo UK and Chanasa Malawi have taken over the project. During 2019 girls at seven schools in and around Blantyre have received training in menstrual hygiene. Over 800 girls have received a Lotus Pack. In addition 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). At the start of 2020 we have been asked to provide training, packs and toilet facitiles for 825 girls at a large, very needy school of over 3,000 students, Chisombezi. We have raised the money for the building work and for 420 packs so need 205 more. There are also other schools which need our help.
Each Lotus Pack consists of a set of four washable, reusable santitary pads, a small waterproof bag, 2 new pairs of panties, a cotton flannel, a bar of soap and a packet of salt all stored in a cotton drawstring bag. This will be given to the girls together with information about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). The pads and bags are made by the Chanasa Women which empowers them economically and this in turn benefits their families. The training was initially provided by Gift of the Givers, now the Chanasa women are teaching the girls. Some of the Chanasa group leaders are also teaching the mothers to make the sanitary pads with the aim of them starting small businesses.
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. Instead menstruation rings shame, embarrassment and isolation. Instead of this being seen as a natural act of the body and 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.
The aim is to continue this much needed work in other schools. If you would like to sponsor a pack for a girl for £7.50, please go to www.chanasachifundomalawi.org/lotuspack. You can also give money for this work through the Donate Now button above right, telling us in the special instructions that your donation is for the Lotus Project. If you include your email address we will send you a special thank you email.
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 Susan Flynn using the Contact Form.
This project has been 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, Little Gransden Church, the Grace Charitable Trust in the UK, The Carmela and Ronnie Pignatelli Foundation and The Souter Charitable Trust in Scotland. We are are very grateful for all their support.