Girls account for the majority of youth in Malawi who do not attend school because of economic hardship or other unfavorable circumstances. In fact, only 27% of Malawian girls enroll in secondary school, and over half of girls in northern Malawi are married by the age of 18 (World Bank). This can be attributed to a myriad of factors. As many families struggle to pay for school fees, males are often prioritized over their female siblings. Furthermore, young girls are particularly vulnerable to early marriages, pregnancy, and exposure to HIV/AIDS, which are all correlated with absenteeism and dropout. These everyday factors are incredibly harmful to girls, as they become susceptible to increased health risks, higher rates of poverty, and higher rates of domestic and sexual abuse. For these reasons, our School Tuition Sponsorship Program offers school fee sponsorship to girls in the Chilumba catchment area and is complemented by a non-formal Girls’ Empowerment Program. Under this program, we have developed an all-inclusive life-skills curriculum to be taught weekly during Girls Club sessions. The curriculum covers topics of self-esteem, leadership, healthy decision making, sexual-reproductive health and more. Girls Club caters to both primary and secondary (high school) students—separating the classes helps us administer age-appropriate lessons. We encourage girls to start at the primary level, as we have found that administering a life-skills program to young girls promotes strong academic results, goal-setting, and healthy decision making. Upon reaching secondary school, girls involved in this program are then considered for sponsorship.
While Girls Club has been operating since 2015, D2D has recently implemented a new curriculum. The new curriculum was developed to address the challenges and needs of young girls in the Chilumba catchment area, as identified by our local community and female youth. The curriculum presents a more comprehensive education plan, building upon itself during the eight years they are projected to attend Girls Club. Already, the curriculum has proven to be highly effective, as it has yielded positive results. This past school year, D2D’s primary Girls Club members have broken the record for secondary school acceptance rate. 56% of 8th-grade girls passed their secondary school entrance exams, and of that 56 %, 50% were selected to a boarding school.
Boarding school acceptance rates for either gender is a rare occurrence in rural areas like Chilumba, due to mitigating circumstances such as its high cost of attendance. Girls-only boarding schools are exceedingly beneficial to female youth, as they protect them from traditional vulnerabilities, create a conducive environment for learning, and foster a safe space where girls are able to focus on their personal development. For the youth selected to Community Day Secondary Schools in the Chilumba area, D2D is able to continue supporting them through Girls Club and several other extend learning programs such as Saturday tutoring sessions.
This past May, D2D welcomed Chimwemwe Munthanli, as its new Girls’ Empowerment Program Manager. Chimwemwe runs all Girls Club programs, as well as manages the Girls Club Income-generating activity, teaching the girls how to raise and sell chickens. “I am proud of my girls for rising above all obstacles and becoming the stars that they have become. I know with this start they will be able to continue to excel with the help that I and my fellow staff will offer on every. Step of the way. I am very happy because this means there is a possibility of a brighter future for the girls in our area”.
We are continuously impressed by the academic improvements of our Girls Club members, and are looking forward to welcoming new members this school term!