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Published on 10 December 2019

From Christian Aid Malawi

On International Day of the Girl Child we are celebrating the determination of thousands of girls globally who are rewriting their futures. This year’s theme is ‘GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable’ so we are sharing the stories of inspiring girls in Malawi who we think are unstoppable.

Girls face unique challenges to achieve their rights to a safe, educated and healthy life. In Malawi, Christian Aid is working to support adolescent girls and young women to realise the power they have to uphold their rights, which will bring them a more equitable future.

Action for Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW)

Christian Aid’s AGYW project, funded by the Global Fund through Action Aid, aims to reduce HIV infection among girls aged 15 to 24 in and out of school in Mulanje district, in southern Malawi. The project provides HIV education, solutions to reduce school drop-out rates and training in economic skills.

Our partners Malawi Girl Guides Association (MAGGA) and Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) have reached over 40,000 adolescent girls using an integrated approach with education on HIV prevention, sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence.

Malawi’s Mulanje District

  • The Mulanje District has Malawi's second highest rate of new HIV infections. Over 60% of these cases are among girls and young women.
  • Girls are twice as likely as boys to drop out of school, and only 18% who are enrolled in primary school go on to secondary school.
  • The main reasons behind the high number of school drop-outs includes expensive school fees, which increases the chances of girls opting to marrying early and engaging in sex for work.
  • There are high teenage pregnancy rates. Around 85% of girls in Mulanje have more than one pregnancy by the age of 24.

Sources: Mulanje District Social Economic Profile, Mulanje District Development Plan, and Demographic, Health Survey 2015-2016

Excelling beyond expectation

Idess Bonzo is taking the lead to rewrite her future. When Idess, 17, found out she was pregnant, she felt that she had no choice but to withdraw from school. Idess thought this was the end of her education, until she was contacted through the AGYW project about the option for her to enrol back into school after having her baby.

With support from her grandmother, Idess returned to school. She was scoring the highest grades in her class and was an example to her friends, being a teen mother while also excelling in her studies. She surpassed all expectations and achieved the highest ever scores for a girl in her school's history.

We were astonished at her performance, to think she would have had her future thrown away if we did not help her get back to school.

- Mrs Ngomwa, Mendulo school.

Idess is unstoppable.

Idess is now at Teachers’ Training College. She will go on to be a positive influence for young girls.

Becoming a role model

Entrepreneur Christina Yohane, 24, is using her experience to influence other girls and young women to become financially independent. Christina used to earn her money as a sex worker where she was always at risk. She was contacted by Christian Aid’s partner YONECO to be part of the AGYW project.

Christina received training where she learned about business ideas. She went on to make and sell sanitary products with others in the project and together they opened a Village Savings and Loans (VSL) group. VSLs help to empower girls and young women by promoting a savings culture and enabling investment in business ideas.

Using funds from the group, Christina started buying and selling groundnuts and vegetables within her community as well as exporting some to Mozambique. Within six months, Christina saved enough money to build her own three-bedroom house and provide for her family.

If it wasn't for the Village Savings and Loans group, I would not have managed to construct this house, as the work I used to do was not only risky but was not giving me enough resources.

- Christina Yohane.

Christina is unstoppable.

Christina has gone on to support the project to encourage other girls in similar situations to be part of the project. Juma August, a male champion in the AGYW project said:

'Christina now uses her example to persuade other girls to stop sex work and become financially independent. She is currently one of the role models in our community.'

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Christian Aid has been working in Malawi for almost 20 years. Our projects have focused mainly on resilience, disaster risk response and health, including maternal and child health and HIV treatment and prevention.

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