Breaking Barriers and Empowering Women: The Success of Reusable Sanitary Pads Project in Malawi

In a transformative initiative, co-operatives in Malawi, supported by the MAFECO and Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada’s VOICE for Women and Girls program, are producing reusable sanitary pads. This project not only provides women with an additional source of income but also aims to break down social barriers and destigmatize menstruation

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Twelve co-operatives, including the Mikoko Co-operative from Machinga, Zomba, and Mulanje, have been actively manufacturing and selling reusable sanitary pads since May 2022. The success has been remarkable, with the co-operatives collectively producing 852 sanitary pads in just one year.

The impact extends beyond economic empowerment. The Mikoko Co-operative, for example, has signed an agreement with Tholowa Health Centre Hospital to deliver reusable pads, with a percentage of profits supporting the health center. This dual benefit allows the co-operative to assist new clients while making a positive contribution to community health.

Moreover, the project has fostered increased communication and awareness around menstruation. Men are now more receptive to discussing menstrual hygiene and buying reusable pads for their wives and daughters, marking a significant shift in societal attitudes.

The profitability of the venture has enabled co-operatives to expand. The Mwandama Co-operative, faced with high demand, purchased additional sewing machines to meet orders on time. This expansion has also led to the acquisition of new skills, as co-operative members were trained in hand and machine sewing, marketing, and budgeting.

The success of the reusable sanitary pad business has inspired co-operatives to diversify further. The Namulenga Co-operative has ventured into sewing dresses and clothing items, while the Mikoko Co-operative expanded its business to include making school uniforms, skirts, dresses, and repairing damaged clothes.

Volunteers, such as Prerna Ajwani from Canada, play a crucial role in the project’s success. Prerna conducted a needs assessment, analyzed data, and identified training topics to ensure the project’s effectiveness. Her dedication exemplifies the impactful contribution of volunteers in empowering girls and women and advancing gender equality.

Through the VOICE for Women and Girls program, these co-operatives are not only providing essential menstrual hygiene products but also challenging societal norms, promoting education, and fostering economic independence among women. The project stands as a beacon of positive change and progress in the pursuit of gender equality.

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