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A holistic approach girls’ education

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

You’ve probably seen the simple messaging. If you give $xx amount per month, a girl in another country will get the gift of education. But it’s not as easy as just money or desks or school buildings. The Malawian organization Hope for Relief, assisted by a Spirit in Action Community Grant, uses a holistic approach to girls’ education in their community.

1. Meetings with Parents

Last year the team at Hope for Relief held two engagement meetings with parents, teachers, and committee members on girls’ right to education. Part of the discussion was talking to parents about the challenges that girls face when they don’t complete their primary and secondary education. Recently a young woman from the community was selected to a nursing school college! Richard Mwanjasi, Hope for Relief director wrote, “We have a big passion for girls education now. This young woman has shown that a girl child can make it.”

2. Assisting with School Costs

Hope for Relief also works with parents and the District Social Welfare Office to increase the number of girls receiving government scholarships. Elementary schools in Malawi are free, but High School costs around $60 per year (or around $185/year for boarding school). Parents and guardians also have to buy school uniforms and school supplies. This is a lot when a family is just barely scraping by.

Before Hope for Relief’s advocacy work, parents and teachers often sent requests for boys to benefit from the government scholarship program. Now, more parents and teachers are also recommending girls. The social welfare department choose the most needy girls by looking at the kind of housing that the family lives in and the number of meals they have per day. Sixty-three girls are now benefiting from the government scholarship program!

3. Providing Cloth Pads for Girls

Women in the community have been busy sewing reusable sanitary pads and so far they have distributed 4,553 pads to 1,133 girls in both primary and secondary Schools in Rumphi District. Tamika Gondwe is 15 years old at Phalasito Primary School. She is one of the beneficiaries of reusable sanitary pads in the project ‘Keeping Girls Safe in School.’

Victoria Mhango makes pads for Hope for Relief out of absorbent cotton.

Last year Tamika received five reusable sanitary pads from Hope for Relief. Before receiving them, she was using cotton and cloth pieces. Now, she feels safe and comfortable at school because no one knows that she is on her period. And she doesn’t miss classes because of it either!

4. Changing Rooms at Schools

I wrote before how bathrooms can be a path towards girl empowerment. A typical bathroom in this part of Malawi would be a simple pit toilet. Not ideal for sensitive feminine hygiene. Having overcome the hurdle of quality pads, the next practical challenge was to provide the girls with a place to change their pads while at school.

One of the finished changing rooms for girls.

The last SIA grant paid for the construction of five more bathrooms, which double as changing rooms for the girls who need to change their cloth pads and wash the used ones. The girls enter though a central door and then the space opens up into a change room and a toilet. The single door means that people don’t have to know if they are going into the changing room or simply using the bathroom.

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