In commemoration of the 2017 International Day of the Girl Child, which was held on 12th October 2017, the Government of Malawi in partnership with UN Women, the Embassy of Iceland and the Girls Empowerment Network (Genet) distributed sanitary pads to 200 primary school girls at Koche Model Primary School in Mangochi District to promote girls Access to Education through Male Engagement.
This year’s nationally localized theme was ‘The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030’, The HeForShe champion, a musician, Tay Grin performed at the event. Koche Model Primary school currently has 4 950 registered students from standard 1 to standard 8, with 1 690 girls and 1 250 boys in the senior section.
The distribution of sanitary pads was an activity under the Joint Program on Girls Education which addresses challenges that keep girls out of school by promoting favorable social norms and the elimination of harmful cultural practices. The distribution of sanitary pads activity aimed at improving the retention of girls in school .The intervention was a collaboration with other UN agencies; UNICEF and UNFPA in Malawi.
Many Malawian girls miss school or drop out due to menstruation as well as harmful cultural practices and negative social norms. High rates of absenteeism are registered particularly amongst adolescent girls who have reached puberty. The distribution of sanitary pads activity aimed at improving the retention of girls in school. The intervention was a collaboration with other UN agencies; UNICEF and UNFPA in Malawi. Data from the Malawi Schooling and Adolescent Survey (MSAS) which focused on examining factors that are associated with menstruation- related absenteeism amongst learners between the ages of 14-16, showed that 15 percent of students are absent from rural based school particularly when they are menstruating.
The activity at Koche Model Primary School was attended by the Mangochi District Commissioner, District Education Manager, and TA from Mangochi District and representatives from the Ministry of Gender, the Embassy of Iceland, GENET, UN Women, UNICEF, and UNFPA respectively. A grass roots model of awareness raising was used to reach out to students. Tay Grin led the performances with supporting acts from Koche Model Primary Schools Boys and Girls clubs, PTA and Drama groups. All the performances embedded the message of engaging men and boys as agents of attitude and behavior change in promoting girls access to education. A large number of girls, boys, men and women from the school and surrounding communities attended the event.
“These sanitary pads are coming as a major boost to the girls and we believe through this initiative, they will miss less classes and perform better during exams” - Ronald Mkwichi, Head Teacher, Koche Model School
“We need to help empower the girls to believe in themselves and they need to be able to come to school every day when all the other children are here, because missing out of school one week of every month is unacceptable” - Ágústa Gísladóttir, Chargé d´Affaires Embassy of Iceland, Malawi
“There is power within the adolescent girl, but we need to help them unleash this power” - Clara Anyangwe, UN Women Representative, Malawi