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While girl education is widely recognized as a fundamental human right for every girl in Malawi, in practice, many girls in Phalombe District in the southern region of Malawi have been historically locked out of education systems. Minority girls face the greatest challenges. Their burdens are a unique intersection of discrimination based on traditional roles for women and endemic poverty. Most of these girls lives in very remote geographic locations, no school close to them and also poor quality environment (poor condition of building, overcrowding, lack of water or sanitation), often they have to travel great distances to the nearest school there by multiplying the risks to their personal security.
Direct and indirect costs of schooling like school fees, clothing and shoes and school books/supplies and also opportunity costs and child labour and work are the greatest barriers that prevent these girls in Phalombe community from accessing good education. Their families are very poor and they cannot meet direct costs to the children do not enroll or they drop out and also the parents cannot afford the loss income of labour contribution of their children. Another barrier is health-related related issues and HIV. Girls more likely to take care for family. Girls disproportionally affected by lack of skill-based health education. Higher vulnerability to HIV infection among school aged girls than boys in many countries. All these barriers have disadvantaged girl’s education in this community.
Government of Malawi through UNICEF intervened with possible incentive programs such as small scholarships, subsidies, food, school supplies and uniforms, micro enterprise programmes, school feeding programmes through strengthened partnerships and also media programme and motivational materials (posters, story books) and also parent-teacher associations to promote community and parental involvement in girls education. It is also empowering girls through scholarships and community partnerships for a better future for all girls in Phalombe community. There are scholarships offered to girls to attend colleges/universities/vocational schools as their interest allows, helping their poor families.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Thank you very much, Olive, for explaining the situation for girls' education in Malawi...and the opportunities or supports that have been put into place to make a difference. I wish I understood what it takes to shift those apparently ancient ways of being, to enable girls to take advantage of the supports.

What do you think? What was your interaction with education, need to work for family, other obligations, and challenges?

And what effect do the barriers to girls for being educated have on the community at large?

Your language and writing skills are very good, Olive. Thank you for being a correspondent!


Speaking my Peace

Thank your sharing your story. Although education is considered a luxury, it is good to hear that the UN is assisting with providing funding for women to get the education. How many women in your community take advantage of the UN opportunity? I hope that all the women, specifically the younger generation of women taken advantage of the educational opportunities. Do you have any small community groups for women and children to increase education? Perhaps create a study group so that the children and women can study together. This way you can help each out each other, or create a tutoring group, etc.

Kind Regards,
Bina Patel
hc Mediate, LLC

Dear Olive,

Although the girls of Malawi face many barriers, it is good to hear that the government and UNICEF are acknowledging the importance of education for girls and starting to devote some resources to the region for this purpose.

You mentioned that the opportunity costs of having a girl in school are often too high. Are the aid programs doing anything to alleviate the burdens the families may face without the extra help of the girls? It seems that without providing some assistance to the family, there may still be resistance to allow the girls to go to school by those who depend on the their work for survival. What kinds of supports (structural, financial, cultural, educational etc.) do you think families may need in order to accomodate girls' education?

Thanks very much for any additional insights you can provide!

All the best,


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