Georgia Chapter and Service Corps Trip Support Menstrual Hygiene in Malawi

Georgia Chapter and Service Corps Trip Support Menstrual Hygiene in Malawi

On Monday, May 28, the Fulbright Association’s Georgia Chapter launched the first official event in Malawi as part of the global Menstrual Hygiene Day, in collaboration with partners from Grace Pads and LEAD SEA. Menstrual Hygiene Day is a global platform to raise awareness of the challenges that women and girls worldwide face due to their menstruation and highlight solutions to address these challenges. The Fulbright Association’s program is geared toward long-term improvements in key W.A.S.H. (water, sanitation, and hygiene) areas, including menstrual hygiene. The kick-off event took place in the village of Maluwa, in the Chuluchosema community near Zomba, Malawi, and was likely the first-ever event in Malawi as part of the official Menstrual Hygiene Day platform. Through this effort, 100-125 girls from Draper Secondary School received a kit of reusable sanitary pads and instruction from Grace Pads, a local Malawian non-profit organization. Photos from the event can be viewed here.

The July 2017 Fulbright Association Service Corps Trip to Malawi brought together a multi-generational group of Fulbright and Peace Corps alumni and friends to learn about and experience the “Warm Heart of Africa.” Scoping efforts and creative collaboration during the trip laid the groundwork for an ongoing grant proposal for a Model Village concept that includes scalable elements from three strategic “Pathways to Peace” areas: global health, international education, and sustainability. The trip also established strong in-country connections with LEAD SEA, Rotary International, and Draper Secondary School, as well as with current Fulbrighters in Malawi whose work focuses on childhood development and education.

The 2017 trip’s scoping work led to a deeper understanding of the challenges posed to school-aged girls in Malawi by the lack of access to adequate menstrual supplies and facilities. One of the trip leaders, former Fulbright Association vice president Kim Eger, shared insight into what the group learned: “In many areas of Malawi, only 15-20% of girls graduate from high school. We discovered that one major contributing factor to this sad statistic is that during their monthly cycle, they tend to not go to school — in large part because they simply do not have the necessary resources that women in the U.S. and the developed world take for granted: adequate supplies and facilities. As a result, girls often miss five days of school each month because they do not have access to sanitary pads and facilities. That has a negative effect on their progress in school, as they are missing 20% of the academic year. Five days out of every 28 they are out of school, and these two numbers inspired the launch of the 5/28 global Menstrual Hygiene Day, to put a focus on solving this one key variable. This is a great opportunity to positively impact the villages where we will begin our efforts.”

The Fulbright Association and Georgia Chapter thank service trip participants for their work and volunteerism on this project, as well as all partner organizations involved, including our institutional member Mercer University, which has been leading service projects in Malawi communities since 2010; Rotary International; Grace Pads; and the organizers of Menstrual Health Day. Kim Eger and Dr. Zipangani Vokhiwa of the Georgia Chapter have spearheaded this effort, and Gale Workman has contributed significant time and connections to the project. Fulbright scholar in Malawi Suresh Muthurkrishnan and his wife Rashmi Janakiraman have been key partners in the process, and led the event in Malawi on Monday.

Dr. Jack Allison, a 2017 and 2018 Service Corps Trip participant, has also played a major role in these efforts. As a Peace Corps volunteer to Malawi in 1966-69, Dr. Allison wrote jingles and songs to raise awareness of public health issues, becoming a household name in the country. One of his songs, “Ufa Wa Mtedza,” was a #1 hit on Malawi radio for nearly 3 years, and explained the high nutritional value of adding peanut flour into traditional maize-based porridge. The song was so catchy and memorable that the trip participants observed that nearly 50 years later, many still know the lyrics by heart. During and after last year’s service trip, Dr. Allison wrote three new songs, including one about deforestation, another on ending child marriage, and a third called “Fulbright Association: Mission to Malawi” that evokes the goals of the Model Village grant concept. Next month, Dr. Allison will be doing pre-recording work on these songs, with plans to record with Malawi school children in conjunction with a local radio station during the 2018 Service Trip in July.

The 2018 trip will run from July 5-15, and limited spots are still available. If you are interested in joining the trip, please review the itinerary and contact us at travel@fulbright.org for registration information.

—Michelle Dimino

 

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