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Ufulu (Freedom)

Lodge Marine gives £3000 to help underprivileged young women.

Since 2012 W.Bro George Reed of Lodge Marine No 232 in Nailsea, has been enjoying what he refers to as African Adventures. He has has visited all of southern Africa including some out of the way places that are well off the beaten tourist track. It was on one of these adventures that a chance encounter led to George and other English Freemasons helping young women in one of the worlds most poorest countries.

Malawi is one of the worlds most underdeveloped countries, rated 174th out of 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. In 2020 64% of the population were less than 25 years old, life expectancy is low and infant mortality high. source Wikipedia

While travelling across Africa George took the opportunity to stay with some friends in Malawi, a country in South Eastern Africa dominated by the massive lake Malawi. One of the islands in the lake is named Likoma with a population of around 10.000 dispersed into a dozen settlements. 

Through friends George was made aware of a sensitive issue that was affecting the wellbeing and mental health of women and girls in the local community, in one case it had been behind the tragic suicide of a young 16 year old girl.

In rural Malawi there is a lack of the education that we take for granted with regard to puberty, feminine hygiene and generally growing up. In Europe, women purchase sanitary products from the local supermarkets and chemists. In Malawi the cost is prohibitive. The average woman on Likoma earns just £20 a month. Sanitary products would take up £10.00 of this. As a result they have to make do with whatever they can make for themselves. Girls who are on their menstrual cycle do not attend school for a week so lose out on 3 months education a year.  It was an issue surrounding this that was behind the suicide of the young girl.

Through a friend in Malawi – Ben (a Bristol man who has an African bases business), George was introduced to Widge Woolsey who is founder of a UK based charity named Ufulu Malawi. Ufulu means freedom. Widge told him about an insertion device known as a menstrual cup. She explained that it is reusable, you just boil it in water to clean it and that that there is no problem with washing or hanging it up to dry like cloth rags or reusable pads. She had come to know a local woman in Malawi named Nandi. During a conversation she showed her the cup and explained how it worked. Nandi immediately exclaimed ‘That is a wonderful and amazing thing. If we had those it would change our lives.’ Nandi has now become Widge’s good friend and right hand  person in Malawi. 

On his return to the UK, George told his story to Lodge Marine 232, whose members donated £3000 to the Charity. This was topped up to £5000 by RAF Lodge 7355, George’s London Lodge. The money is helping to provide education to girls at school on subjects such as puberty and sex awareness. Each student is given a kit consisting of a Ruby (menstrual) Cup, Bar of Soap, recycled container and information leaflet in a cotton bag. Each kit costs around £6 which is covered by the donation, offering true Ufulu to the girls of Likoma.

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