Determined to Develop currently pays for the school tuition of 110 students in Malawi, among these 40% are girls, ranging from Form One to Four. The ‘Maji Zuwa Girl’s Group’ has been created to support the girls involved with the Determined to Develop school tuition program. The group hopes to engage the girls through weekly meetings and have a positive impact on them, particularly in terms of empowerment and boosting self-confidence.
The group has been working together to identify issues and topics for discussion. One of our early sessions posed the question ‘What is it like to be a woman in Malawi?’ Other topics included the roles of women in society, the positives of being a woman in Malawi and identifying a number of issues they or their peers personally face. They felt a key problem for women were the barriers to education and leaving school early. They felt this could be a result of family duties, poverty, pregnancy, peer pressure, being orphaned and marriage (the UN states that over half of girls in Malawi are married by the age of 18). The girls then talked about the consequences of having no education, falling into poverty, prostitution- which can in turn lead to HIV, becoming involved in witchcraft, jealousy and population increase.
Figures from the World Bank show only 27% of Malawian girls enroll in secondary school, about half of these actually attend, and much fewer will complete school. In Malawi, where secondary education is not free, there are a number of obstacles for males and females alike to overcome to be able to finish their education. The issues identified by the girls group show that although scholarships may allow the girls to attend school, there are other factors that need to be recognised in order to keep girls enrolled in school. To address this, Determined to Develop is focusing on providing a supportive environment for the girls to speak in front of others and become comfortable in sharing their ideas and opinions. We are utilising role models in the group such as Alinafe and other female students who have completed their high school education. These older students will also participate in the academic groups that have been formed so the members can help each other with schoolwork and support each other in their classes. Determined to Develop hopes that through a series of talks, debates, activities, careers days, dancing, games, songs, and team building that the self-confidence of the girl’s will improve and encourage them to stay in school and complete their high school education.
Tawonga chomene (We thank you)