Helping to end Period Poverty on Likoma Island, Malawi with Ulufu
At BeeBee Wraps we all wanted to give back in some way. It's hard to step away from the business and the 'to do' list to think and plan how we do more but sometimes the stars align and things happen for a reason.
BeeBee Wraps has always had a predominantly female staff, however the boys were as much up for this as we were. When Widge's project came along it touched us all so deeply that tears were shed. Knowing we could easily do something to help this project was just awesome. We donated as many wraps as we could.
Ufulu is a charity working in Malawi, Africa, providing free menstrual cups to women and girls.
In rural Africa, most women use cloth rags for their sanitary protection. Sanitary pads or tampons are not readily available outside the major towns or cities and are usually prohibitively expensive for most women and girls.
Ufulu was started by Widge Woolsey to end period poverty. Whilst staying in Malawi in 2018, Widge became very good friends with an amazing woman called Nandi.
Nandi is in her 30s, has 3 teenage boys and has used cloth rags, as sanitary pads, all her life. She and Widge had good ‘girl chats’ whilst Widge was staying there and it was during one chat that, Widge realised most women live in total ‘period poverty’ within the country.
In her own words Widge describes the moment she realised the problem and what she started to help the women and girls of Likoma Island.
“Nandi and I were sitting outside my hut talking about the usual – kids/ husbands/ boyfriends/ work etc – when I asked her if she would like some of my toiletries that I hadn’t used, as there was no point in my taking them back to the UK. It was only a couple of things like toothpaste, mascara etc and a box of tampons. I have used a cup for a couple of years now, as they are just so much better than tampons, but I always carry a box of tampons just in case - they are so hard to find out there.
"When Nandi saw these, her face lit up and I asked her if she wanted them. She said she’d love them, as she couldn’t get them on the island. I then asked her what she normally used, and she told me cloth rags……and when I pressed her more about it, and found out what she meant by ‘rags’, I was absolutely horrified!!
"I felt so ignorant, so privileged and so western. I had lived in Africa for 8 years in my 30's. I knew how hard it was to find tampons – it had just never occurred to me to wonder what local women used. I couldn’t believe that so many women in Malawi (and in Africa in general), suffer so much, every month, when they have their periods, due to lack of any decent sanitary products.
"Rags are uncomfortable, unhygienic, need frequent washing, they leak & smell, and they give the women rashes and infections. The women don’t use them because they want to; they are using them because they don’t have a choice.
"So I promised Nandi I would send her a cup for Christmas, (which I did) and when I heard from her in the New Year, she just simply said ‘Thank you so much – you have changed my life’.
"And that’s when I knew that I had to do something about this. No woman in the 21st century should endure discomfort and indignity, when she has her period. And periods are not a choice!
I found a great quote the other day:
"That just about sums it up for me. That’s why I started Ufulu. I couldn’t just do nothing. It was done through the desire to make a significant change.”
Ufulu is presently working with the female population of Likoma Island – the larger of 2 inhabited islands on Lake Malawi. They run small workshops (5-10 women), providing each women with her cup and explain how to use and care for her cup.
As well as her cup, each woman is given a bar of antiseptic soap (for washing her hands) that is wrapped in a BeeBee beeswax wrap; and a recycled food tin, in which to boil her cup, in order to sterilise it.
Widge contacted us earlier this year, as she wanted to give bars of soap to the women receiving cups, so that they could ensure their hands were clean. But Widge didn’t want to give the soap in cardboard boxes, or plastic wrappers, as the waste management systems in Africa are inadequate or non-existent, plus she didn’t want to add to an already huge problem. She knew that the best solution would be a beeswax wrap to protect the soap, as the wraps would keep the bars clean and dry for the 5-6 months that they would be used for, by each woman.
Plus it is nice to give the women something just for them – and they look pretty too! They have gone down really well so far – they especially liked the Whale Shark motif as it looks like a big fish – and a lot of people on Likoma survive as fisherfolk. The Ufulu workshops are also used as a conduit to provide more and better information on feminine health, hygiene and increased understanding of menstruation cycles.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of girls on the island, presently miss school when they have their periods, owing to a lack of sanitary protection so a huge emphasis is placed on working with the schools.
Girls from lower income families rarely have the money to purchase pads and are more likely to miss school when they have their periods – and so the cycle of period poverty is perpetuated.
They have given out over 400 cups already and are committed to ensuring that every female on Likoma who would like a cup, will receive one.
Ufulu is determined to ensure that every girl on the island should be able to attend school, at all times, so that her education will not suffer further from period poverty.
Each cup costs around £5 and will last up to 10 years. Your £10 donation will enable a woman or girl to attend a workshop, where she will receive a cup, a bar of soap (in a BeeBee wrap), instructions in Chichewa, a small recycled tin to wash/ sterilise & store the cup in; and will also help contribute towards the running costs of the charity.
We believe this is an amazing project and it’s something we fully support. We hope that you do too.
Thanks so much for reading.