Dignity Fund – Starfish Malawi update

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Menstruation brings many challenges to girls from underprivileged families in Malawi as they face stigma due to lack of sanitary pads, leading to poor school attendance. Starfish Malawi produces and distributes sanitary kits to girls in order to help them remain in school.    

Between 2016 and 2020, our sewing groups produced over 10,000 sanitary kits. While the number was lower in 2020 due to COVID-19 forcing groups to close, our target for 2021 is 3,500 kits.

Covid-19 Impact on members of the sewing groups

Clara Masakatira from Kapiri Sewing group lost her source of income from the sewing group, and with her children out of school for 7 months they started to lose interest in their studies. As a mother, she has been very concerned, and prays that we fight this disease and return to our normal life.

Last farming season, Jane from the Napache sewing group had used the income from sewing kits to harvest 22 bags of maize.  This season she doesn’t have enoughJane sewing group money for farming input, and is praying that God will see them through

Sewing Masks

When all gatherings were banned in March 2020, some sewing groups were trained by Starfish to sew face masks, paying the women for each mask.  So far 6393 masks have been sewn and distributed in places such as churches, markets and villages.

The GTOC sewing group was also booked by two schools to make over 500 masks.  Distributing the profits among the group members meant that they could still bring in some income for their families.

Supporting girls with disabilities

In September 2020, kits were distributed to 5 girls with disabilities.  Mrs. Nellie Matola is a Specialist teacher for children with learning difficulties.  She explained that before the kits, it was very hard to handle the girls at class, and they would sometimes have soiled clothes due to lack of provision.  Most of the girls have difficulties in asking for help and she used her own money to buy sanitary pads for them.  She is very thankful to Starfish for the kits.

Cherish Course

The Cherish Course provides girls and young women with a safe environment where they can talk openly about the issues that affect them concerning relationships and sexuality, inspiring them to find their identity in God.  They are encouraged to live with integrity, caring for those around them. 

Progress Update

In the year 2020, Cherish managed to reach out to 158 girls through its 10 groups.  However, when schools were closed due to COVID-19, Cherish lessons also had to stop.  When the 10 groups reopened alongside schools, parents were reluctant to send their girls due to the risk of COVID-19.  Instead of meeting once every week some groups meet once every fortnight, others have been meeting in the trainer’s home with a smaller number of attendees.

Group trainers are working hard to attract girls back after the long break. Our trainer Agatha Mponda said she is motivated by having seen that the group attendees were not only the most well behaved girls in their school, but their exam performance had improved significantly.

When schools closed (March to October 2020) there were reports of increased sexual and gender-based violence, early pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and child marriages throughout the nation. Many schoolgirls got pregnant or married during this period. In 2021, Starfish plans to open 5 more groups in very remote areas of Salima, where there are high rates of gender based violence, harmful cultural practices and beliefs that put young girls at risk of early pregnancies, early marriages and school dropouts.

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