By: Kate Luce
The IU South Bend Honors Program has teamed up with Malawi Matters to make reusable pads for young girls living in Malawi, Africa. This “Party with a Purpose” will provide almost 200 sanitary napkins.
This is a two-part event. Students first met on Zoom to cut out fabric for the sanitary napkins. Three fabrics were used to create the napkins: two layers of flannel, three layers of terrycloth and one layer of waterproof fabric.
“During our Zoom session, we will be cutting and pinning the layers of fabric together. We will do this while learning about Malawi, some of the issues women and girls face there, and about the programming of the Malawi Matters organization,” Dr. Neovi Karakatsanis, Honors Program director, said.
“The event was very informative and interesting to attend. It was a lot of fun to learn more about the cause and how these fabric pads will drastically change the lives of girls in Malawi,” Keisha Natal, Honors student, said.
The second portion of the project will involve recruiting volunteers with sewing abilities. These volunteers will finish the pads.
This idea sparked from the anthropology department, which previously hosted an event with the Malawi Matters in Fireside. There, students, faculty and staff made sanitary napkins.
“I loved the idea of hosting an event that is educational, raises awareness about an important international issue, and allows students to do something positive for others. Also, one of my colleagues, Professor Carolyn Schult from the Psychology Department, is on the board of Malawi Matters, and she approached me last semester about organizing such an event on our campus,” Karakatsanis said.
“[The Honors Program] contacted us. A year ago, in the fall, I guest taught a class in anthropology. Then, students organized a face-to-face ‘Party with a Purpose’ with about 100 people in attendance,” Phyllis Wezeman, president of the board of directors and volunteer, said.
Malawi Matters is a local non-for-profit developing and facilitating HIV and AIDS education with the people of Malawi.
This new project will provide girls with pads when they need them the most.
Most girls in Malawi miss a week of school because of the lack of resources, limited bathroom resources and stigma when it comes to menstruation. This can result in dropouts, infections and childhood marriages among other problems.
“Girls miss a week of school each month, grades drop, they drop out, [which are] causes of child marriage,” Wezeman said.
Karakatsanis says if students, faculty and staff have any old towels, flannel or waterproof material (old bathing suits, broken umbrellas, etc.) that they would like to donate to Malawi Matters, they can bring the materials to the Honors Lounge in the Administration Building.
“If people with sewing machines would like to assist with the sewing, we’d welcome their help too. Anyone interested can contact the Honors Program at email@example.com. We would love their participation,” Karakatsansis said.