Our work on Girl Child Empowerment looks at four key intertwined pillars:
Our work is aiming at supporting Government efforts for a better Malawi. We aim to ensure that all Malawians especially rural women and girls prosper and realize their potential and the four pillars are key to that realization. We will work with Government partners, NGOs, community structures, women and girls and all Malawians who share the vision of an inclusive and prosperous Malawi.
Keeping Girls in school:
Education is a central pillar to empowerment and economic emancipation. Malawi’s experiences very high girl drop out of school. The Demographic Survey of 2017 reveal that majority of women have primary school as highest level of education. 67% attended primary school compared to only 5% who attended secondary school. Percentage of households with no education is higher in rural areas (16%) than in urban areas (5%). The report also noted that education attainment is linked to wealth. Women in the lowest wealth quintile completed only 1.6 years of schooling compared to 6.5years of schooling for those in the highest wealth quintile. The same applies to national attendance ratio which is 5% in lowest wealth quintile households an at 42% among households in the highest wealth quantile.
The foundation will work with various stakeholders to increase access and completion of education by especially rural girls who are mostly disadvantaged than their male counterparts. The Foundation will aim to address the barriers to education looking at both material needs and also structural barriers.
Material needs include:
On structural issues, the foundation working with partners like traditional and religious leaders, socially existing structures like secret mothers and various community advisors and stakeholders to address:
Gender norms – dealing with issues of inequality between boys and girls. Promotive the motto of “She can do it”. Giving girl equal opportunity to prosper.
Harmful cultural and social norms – this is to do with harmful social and cultural beliefs that perpetuate poverty and inequality. Among them – early child marriages, child labor.
The Foundation will aim to build individual girl’s knowledge and agency to have informed girls who can make independent decision to realize their potential.
Sexual reproductive health:
Adolescent make up almost 66% of Malawi’s population. The majority demonstrate low comprehensive knowledge of sexual reproductive health and rights that manifest into high teen age pregnancies that could lead into early child marriages. They are a group reporting high unintended pregnancies but also the age group reports high new HIV infections.
High teen age pregnancies and early child marriages in Malawi threatens access to education by girls in general. Rural girls from poor households are more likely to enter into early child marriages than those from better off families. The Foundation will work with various structures to prevent this rising scourge and to assist the government in meeting its ICPD commitment to end child marriages by 2030. As this problem affects other countries in the region, The First lady will work with other first ladies in the region to collaborate and share best practices that can address this problem.
Malawi’s economy is heavily reliant on rain fed agriculture and is severely prone to the negative effects of climate change. Realizing that the livelihood of most rural households is depended on agriculture, the foundation will support selected households to increase their food and income security. In addition to provision of material support such as seed packs, the foundation will aim to enhance the household’s capacity to respond better to climate related shocks that impact their agricultural output negatively.
There is a stubborn link among the pillars that the foundation will focus. Keeping a girl in school is closely related to meeting sexual and reproductive needs, economic status of the household. As the foundation will focus on rural girls and women who depends on agriculture for their livelihood, it is important that the whole ecosystem is looked at. This may entail layering of multiple interventions on a household for the outcome to be realized.