A Charity That Starts With a Cup






Let me introduce you to Widge Woolsey, an Abbey alumna who has spent twenty-seven years of her life travelling across Africa. In 1995 she flew to Johannesburg, bravely stuck her thumb out for a lift, and has never looked back since. From dune boarding down the sand dunes of Namibia to walking into the unknown in Mozambique with no phone, no map, nothing, Widge describes herself as an ‘adrenaline junkie’ and that remains evident. So what is her greatest adventure to this day? That has to be her creation of charity ‘Ufulu’.

‘Ufulu’ is a collaboration with Widge’s friend Nandi, whom she met on a small island in Malawi. In many ways the pair are polar opposites. Widge, like many of us, has grown up with a Western privilege where necessities like sanitary products are easily accessible. Nandi has not had it so easy. She has spent her life in a patriarchal society, impregnated at 15 by a teacher. But she is so much more than this. Women in Malawi are not treated with the respect that they deserve. On top of this, they live the vast majority of their lives in period poverty. Where we have all had unlimited access to products like tampons, Nandi and her community have resorted to T-shirts. A t-shirt or a tampon? There’s no comparison. These old t-shirt rags can only be described as ‘grim’, leaving up to 30 years of nappy rashes. The shock Widge felt when uncovering this ignited a spark in her to take action. She set up a Crowdfunder, used the money to buy menstrual cups and began to empower Malawian women by handing them out for free. The cups are reusable, taking only 3 minutes to sterilize in boiling water. There is a 98% take-up rate and after the first month of receiving it, rashes go. There is, however, one condition: women must attend workshops run by Nandi and mimed by Widge. Their shared bravery, openness and desire to make a change has formed a powerful partnership.

There is a great Malawian expression: ‘You either do something or nothing.’ On behalf of Widge, Nandi and African women, we all must do something to help. If every person were to tell 10 of their friends about the charity and encourage them to donate, that would make a real difference. £10 will free a girl from period poverty. £10 allows a girl to complete her education. 10 years is how long each cup lasts. That’s £10 for ten years, the price of 4 cups of coffee!

In the twenty-first century, thousands of women in third world countries are suffering in silence each month. As Widge says, ‘We all know someone who has a period, we either have one or have a mother.’ You wouldn’t wish period poverty for yourself or your mother, so why let thousands of girls and women experience this hardship?

In Malawi’s language of Chichewa, ‘Ufulu’ translates to freedom. And that is exactly what Widge and Nandi are giving to so many women-over 2,500 so far. They have given women the power to live freely but they are reliant on your help to continue to do so.

By Lexie Gutteridge

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