You want to get a quick overview of Herlendo? Check out this video featuring some of our partners discussing the challenges facing girls in Malawi and how Herlendo can help.
The Challenge – Social norms cause significant obstacles for girls in Malawi
In Malawi, traditional perceptions, cultural norms, and the lack of information access create obstacles for girls with respect to their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). This can be seen in the lack of adolescent-friendly services, as well as their often limited knowledge about crucial topics such as menstrual health and hygiene (MHH), family planning, gender-based discrimination, as well as STDs and HIV prevention. Access to such crucial information is often restricted, perpetuating misconceptions and a lack of understanding about one’s own body and well-being. Moreover, social norms often make it difficult to discuss sexual health-related issues in person. Indeed, around half of all girls in Malawi consider discussing menstruation taboo in their community.
This not only exacerbates the vulnerability of girls regarding their sexual and reproductive health, but it also puts them at increased risk of experiencing sexual and gender-based violence. Close to 4,000 girls drop out of school each year due to pregnancy or early marriage, with half of all girls in the country being married before turning 18. This results in limitations in their own opportunities for growth and overall community development. Malawi also has one of the highest adolescent birth rates in Africa, and the low rate of contraception of 37.5% among adolescent women is a key contributing factor. In line with this, the prevalence of HIV is also a major concern in Malawi, with one-third of all new infections occurring among young people aged between 15 and 24. Also, menstruation in Malawi is often viewed as a sign of ‚readiness‘ for marriage or sex, which can perpetuate myths and misconceptions about menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) and sexual and reproductive health (SRH). This, coupled with limited sex education, can create significant challenges for girls seeking to manage their menstrual health and access SRH information and services.
Overall, it is clear that there is a need for increased support to address these issues and ensure that girls and women in Malawi can lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Girls require a confidential and accurate source of information to get advice on sensitive topics they may not be comfortable discussing.
We aim to address this discrimination and unequal treatment faced by girls in Malawi with Herlendo.
Our Solution – Herlendo gives MHH and SRH advice
Herlendo provides relevant information on sexual and reproductive health. It is integrated into our main education platform Xulendo, offered in local languages (Chichewa) and co-created with girls. Through Herlendo, girls have safe access to reliable and relevant sexual and reproductive health-information, from menstrual health, puberty, and relationships to family planning, discrimination and unequal treatment. Overall, Herlendo provides girls with the support they need on their journey to sexual and reproductive health and well-being.
The success of Herlendo is measured in stages. We thereby focus on collaborating with local organisations. Feedback loops will be included throughout the process to continuously improve Herlendo.
Final success will be achieved when we put Herlendo in the hand of a local partner organisation, and its impact on girls‘ lives is positively evaluated.
Herlendo’s aspired impact
By providing girls with personalised information on topics related to sexual and reproductive health and management, Herlendo has the potential to make a significant impact on the economic and social wellbeing of girls in Malawi. Increasing girls’ and women’s access to evidence-based and adolescence-friendly information, such as menstrual management, puberty, relationships, family planning, sexual health, and gender-based discrimination, does not only support their well-being by helping them to address the specific challenges they face, but also tackles cultural beliefs, myths, and misinformation.
Furthermore, by referring and guiding girls to professional help where appropriate, Herlendo helps to ensure that girls have access to the resources they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. In this way, Herlendo has the potential to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes for girls and young women in Malawi. This will help reduce adolescent pregnancy, school dropouts, unsafe abortions, and maternal deaths and improve menstrual management.
It thereby contributes to Malawi’s national strategy of ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services and education. Ultimately, empowering girls and women in Malawi will contribute to the development of a stronger, more resilient and just society in Malawi.
Thank you for your interest in Herlendo! We welcome any further questions, suggestions, and ideas that can help us make Herlendo a more useful resource for girls and women in Malawi.
- World Bank. „Malawi Overview: Development news, research, data“. (https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/malawi/overview)
- UNICEF Malawi. „The situation of children and women in Malawi“. (https://www.unicef.org/malawi/situation-children-and-women-malawi).
- OkyApp (https://okyapp.info/).
- UNICEF. „Safer Chatbots Implementation Guide“. (https://www.unicef.org/documents/safer-chatbots-implementation-guide).