SASA groups (Start, Awareness, Support, Action) bring together women who speak up for better rights and protection for girls. As part of the Data Stories project, we interviewed some of the people who'd been helped by their local group, and asked them about attitudes to education, marriage and having children.
In Malawi, teenage pregnancy rates are higher in rural areas and in lowest-income families. Maureen feels that parents' traditional views also have a part to play.
Normally, the mother has full responsibility over the daughter while the father has full responsibility for the son. If the mother does not make sure her daughter dedicates her time to school, the daughter may take advantage of this.
When she found out she was pregnant, Maureen decided to leave her parents’ house. She stayed with her elder sister before going to live with her new husband.
I stayed for about three months. I faced a lot of problems and regretted dropping out of school. I frequently quarrelled with my husband; to make it worse, he had another wife who had his child, which made him not take care of me.
Married life was proving unbearable, but Maureen had no hope of returning home without her father repaying the bride-price - a traditional part of a marriage in Karonga.
In September, the national examinations were out. The mothers group, knowing I had passed my exams, approached my father to withdraw me from marriage. My father accepted – he really wanted me to go ahead with school.
Some in the community have made no secret of their disapproval, but others have encouraged Maureen, telling her that having a child should not stop her from going to school.
The mothers group was trained as part of the joint Christian Aid and FOCUS project. As well as arranging her return home, they gave Maureen advice on childcare, antenatal check-ups, HIV testing and nutrition.
With support from her parents and the group, Maureen is confident enough to talk about the future.
“I would like to be a soldier when I am done with school, so that I can protect my beloved country Malawi. And I am sure I will accomplish my dreams because now people are encouraging, having learned what I have gone through.
What does the supporting data tell us?
Below you can explore how the results changed from the Start to the End of the project, based upon the survey questions. Filter by community using highlighted areas of the map to view impact at a local level and by gender to see how answers from men differed from those of women.
If using a mobile, click on the full-screen option.
Inevitably when working with such complex projects, not everything always go according to plan so some of the data about early marriage actually shows an apparent worsening of the situation. However, upon investigation, we identified issues with the way the questions were asked at the start and end of the project and also discovered a lack of understanding about the legal age for getting married. We believe without these, we may have seen a more positive result and when designing the next project, we will take such issues into consideration and adapt our processes accordingly.
Read more about our maternal and neonatal health programme in Malawi.