Esnat has been working with Fisherman’s Rest for 9 years.
Four years ago Esnat was instrumental in the start of Project My girl, sharing her experiences of what it was like to grow up as a girl in Malawi and talking about the support girls need and the trials they face. As a mum of four girls she categorically stated that the ideas and plans we had for working with girls and boys in schools were needed and her girls would be the first inline to participate. Project My Girl “PMG”was named, Esnat was asked to lead the programme and it leaped into action.
The aim then is the aim of the programme now, to empower girls though education and encourage them to stay in school, alongside the practical support of cloth sanitary pads. Esnat recalls “I was very excited to teach ‘PMG’ but I didn’t know how to teach, I was excited because I knew what I was going to teach there in those classrooms I would be able to teach to my 4 daughters.”
Esnat explains how ‘PMG’ has impacted her personal life. “My husband now doesn’t stick to the normal gender roles, he now even washes his own clothes to help me out and if I am away he will cook for everybody.” She does add that before the project her husband was already very progressive but now he is more than willing to adopt and share new roles reducing pressure on the household.
“It is making a big difference in the community I can say so myself,” Esnat adds. “Now many girls who had dropped out of schools have returned to school and they can attend school when they are on their periods.”
Esnat understands the importance of ‘PMG’ as she has taught and educated hundreds of girls about the truth of what is happening when they start puberty. Before many believed they were cursed and what they were experiencing is unnatural. Esnat revisits her youth and recalls “When I was young parents didn’t push their children to do anything, the children could choose if they wanted to go to school or stay at home and work in the garden but the parents didn’t care which. Now times are changing, most parents now encourage their girls to go to school and the children now want to go to school more than before. I think we are helping to speed up this process. ‘PMG’ is helping to get rid of the old beliefs and myths about menstruation. The community used to believe that when you are menstruating you can’t stay in the same house as your family, you must be outside and you can’t cook while you are on your period, they believed that if a girl was to add salt to food when it was cooking it would kill who ever ate it. Now only a few people still believe this and I think the next generation will be forgetting these things.”
When asked what her favourite part of the programme was to teach, Esnat smiled and laughed then said “I like to teach the girls the truth about sex and gender roles because it’s about teaching them about their value and their equality and that they are the owners of their bodies and nobody else, yes I like this one so much.”
Esnat always wanted to be a teacher but had no qualifications, she clearly has a great passion for what she is teaching now and expresses her gratitude by saying “I am happy now because I am teaching something more important than what I wanted to teach before.”