Girls receive education in Malawi with focused accommodations and investments that improve their quality of life. The greatest obstacles girls face in education are the high rates of child marriages and pregnancies in Malawi.
This month, the United States government announced plans to invest $90 million for the construction of secondary school classrooms for girls to further their education and become successful. The five-year investment is hoped to reduce high HIV rates among Malawian youths and delay marriage.
According to the UNICEF State of the World’s Children report, half of Malawian girls marry before age 18. Girls vulnerable to child marriages and early pregnancies most likely attain a low level of education. Only 45 percent of girls remain in school past eighth grade. While girls outnumber boys in primary school enrollment, girls are underrepresented in secondary schools. As of 2015, boys outnumber girls by about 23,000 out of 360,000 secondary school students.
The practice of child marriages continues a cycle of poverty and increases girls’ risk of suffering violence, abuse, and maternal mortality, which constitutes 30 percent of maternal deaths in the country.
In February 2017, Malawi adopted a constitutional amendment that raises the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18 years of age for both girls and boys. First Lady Gertrude Mutharika appealed to stakeholders to ensure girls receive education in Malawi and are protected from abuse.
Founder of The Beautify Malawi Trust and Girls’ Education Initiative, Mutharika supports girls across the country to become educated and empowered women. According to Mutharika, gender-based violence in marriage is prevalent because women do not further their education, and since they are not financially independent, they tolerate the abuse.
Beautify Malawi constructs girls’ hostels to alleviate the challenges girls face walking long distances to school. “It is our hope that in future the girls we are seeing today will become nurses, doctors and lawyers,” said Mutharika in May as she commissioned a K120 Million girls hostel at Emvuyeni Community Day Secondary School in Mzimba district. The hostels give girls who had dropped out due to early pregnancies or child marriages the opportunity to return to school. Knowing they are protected and supported, girls choose school and avoid abuse and violence.
As Malawi and foreign aid invest money and resources in improving the quality of life for girls, girls receive education in Malawi, are empowered and gain greater opportunities in their future.
– Sarah Dunlap