This is L. Project Update: Advancing MH in the US and Malawi
Thanks to our Impact Partner, This is L., Days for Girls International (DfG) is advancing menstrual equity by advocating for and increasing access to menstrual products and education around the world from major metropolitan centers in the United States to rural villages in Malawi.
MH Advocacy in the US
With support from This is L, we are providing training to 100 DfG volunteers in menstrual health advocacy, and strengthening at least five DfG Clubs (youth-led volunteer groups at colleges, universities and high schools). Through volunteer trainings, advocacy activation meetings, peer-to-peer learning opportunities and one-on-one advocacy coaching sessions, we are equipping volunteers to be knowledgeable, confident and effective as they advocate for improved menstrual health environments in their communities and campuses. So far we have trained 48 volunteers, engaged six DfG Clubs and committed to locally distributing 2,000+ products.
Increasing Access to Period Products in the US
Our product goal, supported by This is L., is to provide access to period products for 6,500 women and girls in the United States. As a result, we are empowering US-based DfG Chapters and Teams to partner with local organizations to support the menstrual health of women and girls in their home communities.
To improve access to period products, we are mobilizing our Chapters and Teams to connect with local organizations, be they a nonprofit, shelter, school, faith group, refugee, community center or other group. Once Chapters and Teams identify opportunities and product needs, they can apply for product assistance from DfGI to complement their existing sewing and product-drive efforts.
In total, 120 volunteers attended the event launch, where they received details about the initiative and training from DfGI and a fellow volunteer who is an expert in local product distribution. Just one month after the launch, 13 Chapters and Teams have already applied for DfGI assistance to meet the needs they have identified in their communities – with an anticipated reach of over 3,288 women and girls.
Advancing Menstrual Equity in Malawi
Meanwhile, with This is L. funding, our goal is to reach 4,000 school-age girls in Malawi with period products and menstrual health education, and 1,000 men and boys with menstrual health education. Additionally, we are hosting meetings with key community leaders to strengthen buy-in and commitments to support menstrual health in their areas. We are also conducting measurement and evaluation activities to learn about program impact and areas for adaptation or improvement. To date, we have reached 570 girls and 66 boys with products and education, and met with over 20 community leaders in Rumphi district.
Earlier this year though, DfG Malawi advocated with the Malawi Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, the Malawi Menstrual Health Hub and the Malawi Water, Environment and Sanitation Network (WESNET) for the removal of value-added tax (VAT) on menstrual products nationally – and it passed! However, our work does not stop here. Based on our policy experience in other countries, we have found that the benefit of VAT removal on menstrual products themselves often does not trickle down to benefit everyday women and girls in the way we might expect. VAT is applied at multiple stages during a product’s creation. So to make a bigger difference in product affordability for women and girls, DfG Malawi is advocating for additional VAT removal on the raw materials used to create menstrual products. This will reduce the overall cost of production and pass on a bigger price benefit to consumers. Policies like these may seem very specific, but together they create an enabling environment that improves affordability of menstrual products across the country.
From July to September 2022, DfG made important preparations for continued engagement with seven districts across Malawi. Further, DfG imported raw materials to the DfG Malawi office in Lilongwe for the 4,000 Kits supported by This is L., from our newly established Resource Hub in Nairobi, Kenya. Then, in November, we traveled to the first of seven districts to kickoff community engagements.
We look forward to sharing more stories of impact from both the US and Malawi over the coming months. Thank you to This is L. for making this work possible! Please follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) or subscribe to our newsletter for updates.