Malawi: stakeholders hail Prison Service menstrual hygiene budget increase
The Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), with funding from Amplify Change, has been advocating for the inclusion of menstrual hygiene packages in the Malawi prison health budget for women and girls in detention.
In its bid to raise awareness about the plight of female prisoners and in a bid to fast track parliament to act quicker, CHREAA engaged Parliament’s Women’s Caucus as well as the Social Protection Committee.
And the advocacy finally bore fruit when Parliament approved an increase to the Malawi Prison Service Health Budget with K30 million to specifically cater for the menstrual hygiene materials for females and girls in prisons.
“Many prisoners in Malawi cannot afford to buy sanitary pads not only because they are expensive, but also because the inmates have no source of income. As such, they are forced to bleed through small pieces of clothes or old pieces of blankets.”
“The management of these pieces of cloth are a health hazard. Worse still, **during their menstruation cycles, most of these prisoners do not have soap, resulting to the exposure to the various health hazards becoming more compounded,”** CHREAA board chairperson Alice Khonje explained.
Reacting to the news of the K30 million allocation, second deputy Speaker of Parliament Aisha Adams noted that, as a woman, she was excited having attended the lobbying meeting.
“After they explained the whole budget and what they are supposed to do, I was very much touched that they are not given enough resources, most especially for women on that activity. Hearing that they have increased, I am so very happy because that problem is over and the women will be fully supported,” she said.
On her part, Esther Jolobala a member of Women’s Caucus noted that she was relieved because when someone goes to prison, it does not mean that they lose their humanity, but to make amends on the mistakes their have made in their lives.
“As women, when we talk about the menstrual periods, it’s not even an issue that we can compromise on. So, it is proper for the menstrual pads to be readily available when the women are in their periods. What we also request from the prison authorities is for the female prisoners to be allowed to take care of themselves when they are having their menstrual periods.”
“We are told they have no access to cleaning facilities once they are locked up at 3pm until the next morning. But we are aware that if they stay for long periods without cleaning themselves, they become vulnerable to cervical cancer. So, personally, I am very happy that the minister of finance listened to our pleas,” she said.
CHREAA deputy executive director Chikondi Chijozi noted that prisons are reformatory centers and therefore good health and hygiene state of mind is an integral important factor that can facilitate the reformation.
“Sanitary pads contribute to good health, therefore provision of sanitary pads to female inmates should not be a once off activity but a right to health, which is met every month. Therefore, the need to provide the sanitary pads for our women in our prisons cannot be over emphasized,“ she said.
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