Malawi: Education Over Marriage
A minute is all it takes for 28 young girls around the world to be married off as child brides, adding up to 15 million underage brides per year. One of the main reasons for young marriage is to relieve the bride’s family of having to support her, which some struggle to do. As a result, the cycle of poverty continues with those girls having to abandon school and years later, their own underage daughters get married.

A child’s place is at school learning, making friends and playing. They are usually emotionally and physically unprepared for marriage, making them susceptible to domestic abuse and life-threatening pregnancies and births.

Until Feb. 2015, Malawi had one of the highest rates of child marriage, with 50 percent of girls being married before the age of 18. This changed in Feb. 2015, when President Peter Mutharika signed a law raising the marriage age from 15 to 18. To show the commitment to enforcing the law, 300 child marriages were annulled and kids were sent back to school earlier this month. Despite the progress, there is a loophole where parents can provide consent for 16-year-old girls to marry.

The fight to pass this law has been a process with Malawi’s Stop Child Marriage campaign beginning in 2011 by Girls Empowerment Network (Genet) and Let Girls Lead. They trained 200 girls in the Chiradzulo District of southern Malawi to become advocates. The advocates lobbied 60 village chiefs to change laws and establish by-laws to protect teen girls from marriage and sexual initiation practices.

The bylaws force men who marry girls under 21 to give up land and pay a fee of seven goats, a major economic penalty in the region. The bylaws also imposed social sanctions such as three months of janitorial service in a local health clinic for parents who marry their underage daughters.

Genet had hoped the election of the first woman president, Joyce Banda, would raise the marriage age, but she didn’t. Then in 2014, when Peter Mutharika was elected, Genet advocated extensively with his minister of gender, Patricia Kaliati. Fortunately, President Mutharika believes in the empowerment of financially independent women and signed the law.

Although it is difficult to break cultural beliefs and traditions, especially in rural areas, progress is being made at the government level. The local education campaigns will play a key role in educating and spreading the word about the new law, especially in places where people may be less educated regarding the law.

One strong advocate, Memory Banda, 18, was able to finish school, but her younger sister wasn’t as lucky. Memory’s younger sister was married at 11 to a man in his early 30s. This led her to speak up and help in leading the campaign to pass the law. Memory’s sister is now 16 with three children. In March, Memory spoke at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women for herself, her sister and the 70 million girls married as kids.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: Global Citizen, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

Early in 2015, Malawi witnessed severe flood damage. Recuperation efforts are trying to get citizens back on their feet in new areas after hindrances to national development. The U.K. government, Met Office, NASA and Google created a partnership with the U.S. in June 2015 in order to ground exponential tactics in Africa to prepare for natural disasters.

To protect outside countries from weather-related disasters, on June 9, 2015 organizations met in Washington, D.C. to access, with more depth and analysis, the forecast and climate of poor nations. U.K.’s Met Office houses top scientists in weather research. The Department for International Development (DFID) is working with African scientists, U.K. universities and the Met Office to help create the first continental climate plan.

The plan is to help in-country capabilities and strengthen resilience. This project will help farmers plan ahead when droughts, floods and other storms are predicted. Governments and communities need help to adapt to certain practices and learn valuable information to protect their food supply.

In 2011, the U.K. improved its foreign aid capabilities to respond to disasters such as Malawi’s flood. Its government launched a proposal to increase its goal to help those in need in a timely manner.

It helped to better countries’ resilience by supplying resources, delivering technological advancements and sending experts in science and medicine. The U.K. also encouraged militaristic involvement when responding and created partnerships with China, Brazil, the Gulf States and various charities.

In 2012, DIFD announced at the Rio+20 Earth Summit that it would be improving extra support of small scale farmers. Agricultural workers need to find ways to adapt to climate change, build storage units and create stronger crops.

The people of Malawi rely heavily on agriculture to survive. The flood destroyed 158,147 acres of farmland, and approximately 230,000 people were displaced after the storm. Crops were no longer usable, and homes were swept away.

Yet President Peter Mutharika predicted that US$51 million was needed to uplift the country to its former self. UNICEF had sent $9.3 million for an emergency response unit to instill clean water and sanitation amenities to fight disease.

The number of natural disasters has tripled in the past 30 years. Poor countries are especially vulnerable due to slow recovery after disaster strikes. Malawi’s flood closed roads, turned off power supplies and made going to school hazardous.

DIFD suggested that farmers need to construct much sturdier facilities to hold their food. The department understood that monitoring the weather was equally as important in order to prepare for disaster. Monitoring and reporting are essential in the process of preparing for change. The DFID hoped to benefit 6 million farms in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Google will also give one petabyte (or 1,000 terabytes) of Internet storage data housing satellite screenshots and weather analytics. All organizations under this new, life-saving mission have invested a total amount of $31 million. USAID is supplying $10 million, and DFID has committed to $10 million as well.

After the devastation in Malawi, it is time to incubate preparation strategies. The storms may be unstoppable, but their impact can be much more minimal. The best emergency response begins before disaster hits. With upgraded technologies stationed in target areas, countries will be able to organize and plan well in advance.

– Katie Groe

Sources: Gov.Uk 1, Gov.Uk 2, The Guardian, The Global Mechanism
Photo: Flickr

The practice of art has the power to help young children who have faced emotional trauma and devastating tragedies. In countries where severe poverty is persistent, children experience life events that can delay their development and affect their mental health.

Save the Children’s HEART, Healing and Education through the Arts, program has positively impacted the lives of many young children. The concept is that art forms such as drawing, painting, music, drama, and dance can help children express their emotions and experiences in order to improve their emotional well-being and ability to learn.

The program exists in Haiti, Malawi, Mozambique, and Nepal. It has reached thousands of preschoolers and school children. It is often incorporated into existing after school child development programs.

Children in these regions of the world experience stress from their life circumstances of poverty and traumatic events. The following are the stories of three children who have benefited from the HEART Project.

  1. Roster—This young girl from Malawi was not able to speak for the first four years of her life. She could not even say one word. In the Heart Project at her preschool, she was able to participate in drama and play activities which finally allowed her to say her first word, “mwa-na” (translates to ‘baby’ in English), and now talks constantly!
  2. Enock—He grew up in a family without his father. Enock and his siblings often did not have enough food to eat although their mother worked very hard to support them. He drew pictures of his family and how he is responsible for caring for his younger brothers. The caregivers in the Heart Project were able to talk with his family and he could express the stresses he felt in his family through art.
  3. Raveena—She experienced the accidental death of her father at a very young age. She had a very special bond with him being the youngest girl of the family. After this tragedy, Raveena was withdrawn from school and no longer played with the other children. Raveena drew with crayons depicting scenes of the cremation of her father. The counselors at the Early Childhood Development center were then able to understand Raveena’s emotions and support her. Soon after, Raveena began drawing happy pictures of her friends and siblings, instead of the tragic scenes of her father’s death.

The video of this Save the Children program portrays the stories of some of these young children and how art allowed them to work through feelings that they could not express verbally.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Save the Children, Save the Children, YouTube
Photo: Save the Children

z1 village
Roger Federer is an all-star on and off the court, scoring major points for his contributions to ending global poverty.

The tennis player recently visited Malawi to check out the progress of the preschools built through his nonprofit, the Roger Federer Foundation. The Swiss athlete created the charity 10 years ago to help poverty-stricken countries in Southern Africa.

The organization is committed to providing quality education for all children, seeing education as a basic and necessary human right. As a supporter of the Early Childhood Development program in Malawi, the Roger Federer Foundation is making major progress in providing quality education for primary learners.

In Malawi, they’ve built 50 preschools and benefited 37,000 children. During his visit to the country, Federer sat in on classes, helped out in the kitchen and played with the kids during recess. He also had the opportunity to attend the launching of a new childcare facility.

Federer and his foundation aren’t just about sending funds to build preschools; they want to see the impact they are making and physically be apart of making education happen. In addition to their work in Southern Africa, the organization also promotes quality education in impoverished areas of Switzerland, Federer’s home country.

The Roger Federer Foundation believes that the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow and would like to empower children affected by poverty by providing them a sustainable and accessible education. So far, the foundation has benefitted 215,000 children in seven countries, with plans to reach a million children by 2018.

Quality education is fundamental to ending the cycle of global poverty. Education contributes to sustainable living and stronger livelihoods, and preschool education serves as the foundation of learning.

Despite his tough loss at Wimbledon, Federer proves admirable success through the accomplishments of his foundation in bringing education to impoverished youths.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Independent, Roger Federer Foundation 1, Roger Federer Foundation 2


Global poverty is connected to the lack of access to education that many young girls face. In Malawi, a program offers cash incentives to young girls and their families in order to encourage school attendance. The results have exceeded expectations of the girls’ school attendance, and there are also additional health benefits for these young women.

Young girls are often not encouraged to attend school because their parents do not understand the value of education for girls or would prefer for them to help out at home. A recent extreme case in Pakistan is a clear example. A father strangled his three girls to death because he did not want to “waste money” on their education and felt that the girls were a burden to his family.

While stories such as this one are shocking, the conditional cash transfer program in Malawi works to help alleviate the barriers to education for young girls and their families. On the other hand, the father of the young girls in Pakistan refused to provide them with any money, and their school fees had to be paid for by their maternal grandparents.

The Zomba Cash Transfer program in southern Malawi offers girls and young women aged 13 to 22 and their parents up to $15 per month if the girls attend school regularly. An additional group in the study received the money without conditions, and a control group did not receive any money.

Improvements in school attendance were observed after 18 months. There was no significant difference between the two groups that received the cash payments, suggesting that education can be valued without forced restrictions if families can afford to send their children to school.

In addition to the increased school attendance, there were changes in the sexual behavior of these young girls. Girls had less sex and chose safer, younger partners. Child marriage and teenage pregnancy were also reduced. Most significantly, the International Center for Research on Women states that there was a “reduction by 60 percent of HIV prevalence rate and [a decrease of the] HSV2 (herpes simplex virus) infection.”

The program targeted 23,561 households in seven of Malawi’s districts and has the potential to be scaled up even further. In addition to sending their children to school, families used the money to buy food, medicine and farming supplies, and to travel to the hospital to buy antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. The money can help lift families out of poverty and empower young girls. With proper education, these girls can then participate fully in society and help break the devastating cycle of poverty for their own children.

David Bull, Executive Director of UNICEF U.K., believes that investing in education for girls benefits everyone in society. Girls will specifically benefit from the obtainment of skills to participate in society and protect themselves. However, businesses will also be able to hire more qualified women and broaden their customer base. When half of a country’s population is prevented from participating fully in the economy, economic growth will be stunted.

Global health and development, as well as the protection of human rights for girls, are central global goals. While conditional cash transfer programs need to be further evaluated to understand their sustainability and long-term effects, there is promise for great improvements in gender equality.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Boston University, Daily Mail, The Guardian, International Center for Research on Women, National Center for Biotechnology Information, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Photo: Camfed

girls in Malawi
The United States Agency for International Development will spend between $4.5 million and $10.4 million to encourage girls in Malawi to use birth control.

This plan intends to prevent pregnancy and STDs, especially HIV.

Part of USAID’s “Girls’ Empowerment through Education and Health Activity” plan, this grant will endow sexual and reproductive health and family planning education for young girls in Malawi. It seeks to combat the lack of HIV and sexual and reproductive health education and services.

The grant explains that “sexual acts that resulted in a pregnancy also place girls at risk for leaving school and/or contracting HIV.” Females, especially young girls, are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to men. In 2010, the HIV occurrence rate for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 was 4.2 percent as opposed to 1.3 percent for males.

The grant calls for more resources to teach about sexual reproductive health, HIV and family planning. USAID has stated it is important for young women to know correct information about these topics.

However, the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey exposed that even though there has been an increase in the use of modern family planning in Malawi, the HIV rate has remained.

Access to birth control and other methods does not appear to be a problem for women in Malawi.  However, Malawi ranks tenth in the world for the number living with HIV/AIDS, and ninth worldwide for the number of fatalities from HIV/AIDS.

The grant also aims to improve literacy skills for girls and access to schooling. The grant states that this will lead to more achievement for girls in school.

This initiative in Malawi is one more step in encouraging Family Planning 2020’s aim to provide 120 million more women and girls with contraceptives by 2020.

Colleen Moore

Sources: CNS News, Life Site
Photo: USAID

education in malawi
Since being set into motion in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals have been a concern for the Malawi government. Malawi’s specific target goal for its educational system, like many other African countries, is to ensure that all children have the opportunity to complete primary education. Doubts about whether this goal is achievable or not are inevitable given the current status of education in the country. Additional funding from countries like the United States would be extremely helpful to Malawi’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in the next year for a variety of reasons.

1. Economic Status

Malawi is on the list of the world’s 40 poorest countries, meaning that much of the money in the country must go to basic survival needs rather than education. The problem is that education is a form of empowerment and definite way to lift people out of poverty. If more developed countries explicitly give aid money to Malawi’s educational system, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will be able to make necessary improvements to the infrastructure and quality of formal schooling.

2. Low Budget

The Malawi government’s national budget allocates 32 percent of funding to education. The average African country allows 44 percent of its spending to go toward education. Education in Malawi is extremely under-funded. Therefore, outside support is necessary for schools to function.

3. High Dropout Rates

Only 35 percent of children complete primary school in Malawi. Increasing funding for education would build classrooms, provide money for school supplies and make schools enticing in other ways to decrease dropout rates.

4. Need for Teachers

Though the student to teacher ratio for higher education in Malawi is very good (11:1,) the ratio at the primary level is startlingly low. For every one teacher in Malawi, there are 80 primary school-aged children. High dropout rates and low secondary education enrollment rates are not surprising given these statistics.

Additionally, teacher absenteeism is a large problem. The World Bank estimates that 20 percent of teaching time is lost due to teachers being absent without the ability to provide substitute teachers for their pupils.

Malawi needs additional funding to adequately train and hire more educators for its primary schools. The country has a number of teacher training colleges that individuals may attend in place of tertiary education. With increased financial support, these colleges could solve the issue of teacher deficiencies.

5. Comparative Performance

On average, children in Malawi have tested at a significantly lower level than children in surrounding countries. Many African countries measure academic achievement with the Southern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality standardized tests. Among the countries using the test, students in Malawi have the lowest scores in English reading.

Perhaps a reason for low English scores has to do with the fact that children are taught in native local languages for the first four years of primary schooling. After these four years, the schooling shifts to English, the official educational language in Malawi.

Because children are not practicing English until the second half of primary education, they may have a disadvantage on the standardized tests when compared to countries that introduce English to their students at a younger age.

Regardless of the reason for lower performance scores, increased support from outside countries could provide financial resources to improve education and, consequently, standardized test scores.

6. Lack of Physical Teaching Space

The greatest obstacle that educators in Malawi must overcome to achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goals is the lack of physical education spaces. Even if every child in Malawi wanted to earn a primary education, the current number of classrooms could not support complete enrollment. In order to guarantee every child access to public primary education, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology needs to build more schools to accommodate the students.

7. Changing Job Market

Part of the Ministry’s mission is to provide students with an education so that they can be successful in the workplace and alleviate them of an impoverished lifestyle. Historically, one of the country’s main exports and money-maker has been tobacco. As anti-smoking campaigns become more common and less people are buying cigarettes, the demand for tobacco is decreasing. Therefore, the job market in Malawi is shifting. In order to make money in the country, jobs now require a complete education more than ever. Funding is needed to improve education to catalyze economic mobility among citizens of Malawi.

Issues exist at the secondary and higher levels of education as well, but progress must begin at the primary level. When attempting to achieve educational MDGs by 2015, Malawi must receive more attention than many developing countries to solidify every child’s access to primary education. Though the country is small, its need for funding is great, especially in months leading up to 2015.

– Emily Walthouse

Sources: The World Bank, Malawi Government, Classbase, United Nations Malawi, Embassy of the United States, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

hunger in malawi
It will prove to be (and has already been) a tough year for one of the poorest countries in the world, as more than 1.5 million people in Malawi will experience the adverse effects of food insecurity. Rural and refugee households are most at risk of the hunger and malnutrition caused by the alternating periods of drought flooding that periodically sweep through this landlocked African nation. Of Malawians, 90 percent live on less than the equivalent of U.S. $2 per day; this extreme poverty compounded by other social troubles such as rampant disease and a high illiteracy rate make hunger hard a difficult problem to fight.

It’s a problem that needs to be fought, though, and many aid organizations have turned their focus to Malawi since 2002, the year the country’s maize production decreased by nearly half. Malawi’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture and its primary crop is the grain plant, whose stalks grow in fields across Malawi. In 2002, though, budgetary cuts recommended by the International Monetary Fund forced the government to eliminate their seed and fertilizer distribution programs. The maize harvest has not yet recovered.

Though the feeding programs established in Malawi have the short-term goal of reducing hunger wherever it occurs in a nation of more than 16 million people, humanitarian organizations also aim to collaborate with the Malawian government to rebuild the country’s agricultural sector in a sustainable fashion. Efforts to achieve this goal include reinstalling fertilizer and seed programs, replenishing soil that has been drained of all nutrients after seasons and seasons of overuse, and encouraging farmers to diversify their harvest to include beans and nuts.

Other efforts to reduce hunger in Malawi include global health programs targeting the prevalence of AIDS and malaria in Malawi, as well as successful microfinance initiatives to get local entrepreneurs up and running. The combination of these programs has so far been successful, reducing rates of both hunger and illness. There is much to be done yet, but that fewer people are hungry in Malawi today than they were 10 years ago is promising.

Even more promising? The drive of Malawian farmers, who are determined to bounce back from natural disasters and diversify their fields. In fact, many people in Malawi – not just farmers – are bent on eliminating hunger in their country, so much so that they’ve sparked a movement called “the right to food.” Begun in response to the 2002 fertilizer crisis and subsequent famine, proponents of the movement urge their government to commit to feeding its people. Malawi’s government has now codified its obligation to ending hunger.

If progress continues at this pace, Malawians can expect to enjoy much more food in their stomachs in the coming years.

– Elise L. Riley

Sources: Global Post, UNWFP
Photo: CRS

initiative in malawi
A new three year program titled “Improving Access and Quality of Education for Girls” was launched in Dedza, Malawi, on July 2 by leaders from Norway and various U.N. agencies. The new initiative in Malawi is being funded by Norway at a cost of 7.2 billion Norwegian Krone (NK) with the explicit goals of addressing a host of key threats to girls’ education in Malawi. The initiative is being supported by UNICEF, WFP and UNFPA, and will be implemented in certain schools in the Dedza, Salima and Mangochi districts.

Malawi has consistently struggled with educating their children, especially with very young girls. According to the Government of Malawi, only 27 percent of girls complete primary education, and only half of Malawian girls aged 15-24 are literate. In comparison, Malawian perform better in most subjects, especially math and reading, and are more likely to pursue post-primary education. In lower primary school grades the gender ratio is 1:1, but this starts to skew towards boys at a very early age, sometimes as early as stage 4. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons, partly because of girls dropping out, often times before they gain basic literacy skills, and partly because they repeat certain years more often than boys do.

The program is designed to include several areas of joint focus. These areas include, but are not limited to: in-school feeding, improving quality of education, encouraging older girls who have dropped out to re-enroll, reducing gender based violence, creating safe spaces for girls in the classroom and the provision of health services at the school.

UNICEF Representative Mahimbo Mdoe said “…without delivering education, especially for girls, we’ll end up returning to communities, generation after generation, to help the children of the children we failed to help in the first place. We’ll also perpetuate cycles of inequality within society. There is no better time to invest in education than now.” Fortunately, UNICEF and the WFP have been able to enact their goals and help slow this cycle of poverty.

Despite all of the frightening statistics, WFP Representative Coco Ushiyama noted that there is hope for Malawian girls: “Girls in WFP-supported schools in Malawi have 10 percent lower dropout rates than the national average. Also, the graduation rate of girls from primary to secondary school is 7 percent higher in WFP-supported schools compared to non-supported schools.” With any luck this new investment from Norway will continue this upward trend and give even more Malawian girls the education they need.

— Andre Gobbo

Sources: WFP, Afriem, Nyasa Times
Photo: Camfed

education in malawi
This week marks Malawi’s 50-year anniversary of independence from Britain. While this is quite a milestone, the country is still in desperate need of improvements, including education.

Malawi is considered to be one of the least developed countries in the world. Up to 40 percent of the country’s budget is funded by donors and outside sources. The United Kingdom is their main sponsor, funding programs for social development, health, education and agriculture.

According to UNICEF, 61 percent of Malawi’s population lives below the poverty line of less than $1.25 per day. Malawi has fallen behind its neighboring countries, as many of them have moved from the low-income bracket to middle-income.

However, Malawi has seen some improvements over the past few years. In 2008, Malawi had the second-fastest growing economy in the world. In 2009, the economy recorded a 9 percent annual growth. Despite these few victories, the country as a whole is still declining.

The largest barrier for Malawi in continuing its growth and  development is the country’s lack of education.   Only in recent years has education become a focus for the government. During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, 24 percent of Malawi’s budget was allocated specifically for education. Within this percentage, over half of it was set aside for progress in primary education.

A lack of resources, however, makes it difficult for the money to go toward a good use. Schools are lacking in qualified teachers, and classrooms are filling up with 100 students at a time. Education standards are impossible to keep high when there are no sufficient resources.

Increasing education in Malawi will be a huge step toward improving the country’s development. Having an education can increase a person’s income significantly, thus allowing families to help bring themselves out of poverty.

Additionally, education can change major life outcomes, especially for women. UNESCO reports that if all women in sub-Saharan Africa completed primary education, the maternal mortality rate could drop by up to 70 percent. Education also encourages women to wait until a later age to be married, which increases their potential for success.

Malawi would benefit immensely from increasing its education system. It is the key to reducing poverty and spurring developmental growth for the country. Without education, Malawi will be at the same state when the country celebrates its 100-year anniversary of independence.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: The Guardian, Al Jazeera
Photo: GOAL Malawi Education