1 North Carolina A&T State University (UNITED STATES)
2 Domasi Demonstration Primary School (MALAWI)
3 University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNITED STATES)
4 Alamance Community College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 347-351
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
Since 2004 faculty and students from three U.S. based universities have collaborated with Malawian educators for purposes of mutual cross-cultural development and knowledge production. This trans-global teaching, learning and research community has co-created solutions for many challenges, but one remained for girls: a lack of supplies for coping with their monthly cycle.

A Malawian girl’s school career can be jeopardized once she begins cycling. Disposable pads are costly, limited, and provide an unsustainable answer. Folded towels provide a solution, but do not stay in place. A girl attending school during her period is less likely to participate in class or social activities, for fear that there might be blood on her skirt. Girls -- and women -- can miss a week of daily activities per month. Missing school can cause a girl to fall behind in her studies and fail to pass the Standard 8 exams that structure access to secondary school, resulting in many girls giving up on school. Leaving school can be a life and death decision in Malawi, where one adult in 5 and one child in 10 tests positive for HIV/AIDS. The only correlate for staying disease-free is going to school.

Until June 2012 U.S.-based colleagues had brought disposable pads for girls during their yearly time in-country, but supplies ran out quickly and there were never enough. Our paper details results of the Destiny Pads Project, a joint effort aimed to produce products that give girls the ability to complete daily tasks while experiencing their cycle.

A Destiny Pad is a reusable, sew-able fabric pad: when constructed correctly each pad lasts for five years. Similar pads are marketed globally as pre-made products. Beyond construction of pads by schoolgirls for their own use, teachers at Domasi Demonstration Primary School suggested that these could be made community-wide, to help girls and women locally. This paper examines implementation and outcomes over the 2012-2013 school year via the perspectives of the project designers, teachers, school leaders, representatives of the local School Committee, Mothers’ Group, Parent Teacher Association, and girls who sew and use the pads at Domasi Demonstration Primary School.

Documentation strategies include participatory action research (McIntyre & Lykes, 2004) and indigenous research methods (Chilisa, 2012) that encourage exploration of the contexts, values, customs, practices and beliefs (Hofstede et al., 2010) that undergird learning, teaching and leading in Non-Western contexts. Data collection includes interviews and participant observation (Perakyla & Ruusuvuori, 2011), "power sensitive conversations" (Haraway, 1988), oral history (Gluck & Patai, 1991), document and artifact analysis (Potter & Wetherell, 1987), and case analysis including theoretical sampling (Flyvbjerg, 2011). Through member-checking all collaborators examine transcripts and analytic memos (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2009). Final products are co-constructed to ensure the integrity of depictions.

Such work exemplifies collective problem-solving when varied and globally-dispersed skill sets, talents and knowledge bases are brought to bear on practical constraints to learning, health and survival. While governments world-wide have policies and programs that promote gender equity, the education and life trajectories of girls and women cannot be impacted significantly until they have materials that allow their full participation in school and community life.
Destiny Pads, school, education, Malawi, Africa, menstrual cycle, women, girls, sewing, sustainable.