Mnema mother group in Salima district has been operating in TA Msosa for the past 3 years with an aim of promoting girls education. The group which is responsible for Mnema primary school comprises 10 members from different villages around TA Msosa and was established in 2010 through a Government initiative. However, the group’s efforts to support girls education in the area was a toll order considering that the group was not trained to effectively execute its functions.
“All we know was to chase young girls in our villages to go to school when we see them just loitering around during school hours. We could not understand why our little girls were shunning school. All this changed in April this year when all of us went for a training that was organized by Malawi Interfaith Aids Association (MIAA)” recounted Irene Kandulu, the Chairperson for the group. MIAA is one of the NGOs that is assisting the Ministry of Gender to implement the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Programme with financial support from EU. “The training opened our eyes to understand why our young girls were not willing to go to school. We started looking at issues from a broader picture and realised that chasing our little girls all the way to school was not the solution to our problem.
The training empowered us to critically analyse the school environment at Mnema primary school in the context of a girl child. Toilet blocks for girls were not enough which seriously affected the privacy of our girls especially the older ones. Sanitation facilities at this school were not girl friendly and we come to understand why our girls could deliberately miss classes whenever they had health issues to attend to. The classroom floors were so dilapidated to the extent that sitting in class was extremely difficult especially for our young girls” narrated Irene Kandulu. The training also empowered us to be able to lobby relevant authorities within our reach to take action on gender related issues. For instance, just after the training, we engaged the school committee and successfully convinced it to use funds under the School Investment Plan (SIP) to construct a toilet block for female students at Mnema primary school. Through the Parent Teacher Association, we mobilized MK27, 000 from the surrounding communities which was used to buy cement for rehabilitation of classroom floors. It seems we are now on the right path towards our goal of retaining girl children especially adolescent girls in school. The back to school campaign for girls recently undertaken by the group managed to convince 15 school drop-out adolescent girls to go back to school once the new term begins in September.
“We hope to continuously follow up these girls so that they succeed once they go back to school. Arrangements have been made with the school authorities to allow us monitor the performance of these re-admitted girls. We will be visiting parents of these girls in their homes to encourage them to keep their girl children in school. “Of course we should admit that following up these girls right in their homes on regular basis is difficult task for most of us due to the long distances we have to cover. Our work could greatly improve if we can be supported with push bikes” said one of the group members.