To start the year NAYD is in Malawi focusing on SRHR; Sexual and reproductive rights are critical to a community's overall health. This is why the work done by the NGO of this month is very important for community health and development.
Supreme Malawi is a social business that focuses on a double impact strategy: offering solutions for widespread serious issue in Malawi and in doing so creating employment by producing reusable sanitary pads. Supreme Malawi aims first and foremost at maximizing social impact rather than profits or personal gain. It has a mission of improving the living standards of women in Malawi by creating employment for them and offering sanitary pads to women and girls in Malawi at a low price. Supreme Malawi is guided by such principles as gender sensitivity, environmental consciousness, better working conditions for the workforce, well-being and development of staff and financial and economic sustainability.
Many women and girls in Malawi face severe difficulties during their menstruation due to lack of proper and affordable care. Limited access to safe, affordable, convenient and culturally-appropriate methods for dealing with menstruation has far-reaching implications for the well-being of many women and adolescent girls in Malawi. It undermines sexual and reproductive health and has been shown to restrict girls’ access to education. The number of girls dropping out from school in Malawi is high because they miss out on school for several days every month during their menstruation. With affordable reusable sanitary pads this number can significantly be reduced as has been done recently in several other African countries.
To address this problem, Supreme Malawi produces Reusable, comfortable, hygienic and secure sanitary pads that can be used for menstruation (or urine loss). After significant testing Supreme has developed a great reusable sanitary pad that is long lasting, easy to clean thoroughly, comfortable, secure, fast to clean and fast to dry, and easy to carry thanks to a new roll up system. The reusable pads are also environmentally friendly as opposed to more expensive disposable alternatives. An important part of the puzzle is that the production of sanitary pads within the country creates direct employment and stimulates local economy.
Besides selling the sanitary pads to individuals, Supreme is also aiming at building partnerships with local NGOs to buy the locally made sanitary pads in order to reach villages and schools. Supreme offers a kit with 3 sanitary panties, a maxi panty and wash and use instructions specially designed for schoolgirls. This way the thousands of schoolgirls that might not be able to afford them can also be reached and do not have to drop out of school.
LMS Stichting Standard Supports, a foundation in Holland, sponsors part of the costs to keep the reusable sanitary pads affordable for Malawians. Aiming at facilitating self-reliance the foundation finds that “the double impact that comes from creating direct employment in Malawi while at the same time improving school and work attendance is a highly efficient way to facilitate people in building their own future”.
Challenges encounteredSupreme faces some challenges in the course of producing sanitary pads in Malawi. Securing a steady supply of the right fabrics needed for the production of sanitary pads is a major challenge. Electricity cuts in Malawi are a constant challenge when making the sanitary pads and this interrupts production. Discussing a sensitive problem such as urine loss with women is also a challenge.
|The sanitary pads made by Supreme|
Interestingly most of the sanitary pads sold on the opening day where bought by men for their wives. Supreme is now producing 650 reusable sanitary pads per month and is already scaling up 2 months after opening. The goal is to produce high quality sanitary pads and to make them affordable for as many people as possible. After two months Supreme has already sold hundreds of Sanitary Pads and became a supplier for great projects such as the one that is providing sanitary pads at boarding schools for the deaf in Malawi this month.
Supreme has also expanded its product line and is now producing normal size sanitary pads, maxi pads and sanitary panty. Besides the sanitary pads Supreme has plans to develop a wider range of sanitary products such as reusable sanitary diapers for babies and reusable pads for adult urine loss. All of these projects will have a non-profit nature and serve both the goal of providing employment and offering affordable solutions for problems in the community.