Girls’ empowerment Clubs at St. Charles Lwanga Open School

Access to education in Malawi is a huge challenge: according to the 2018 population and housing census, the total number of out of school children both primary and secondary schools was 2.4 million representing  41.0 percent of the total children of school going age. Nearly 4 out of 10 girls marry before the age of 18, while 3 out of 10 girls have their first child before the age of 18. In part as a result, the completion rate for secondary school for Malawian girls remains very low.

Early marriage, low status of women, and patriarchal societies often result in lower priority on education of girls, while content of education do not tackle gender stereotypes. A generation of young people, especially girls, is in urgent need of solutions to not end their education after primary school, leaving them with limited skills to start their lives. A rights-based approach shall be adopted, that ensures all girls are healthy, gain access to and complete education cycles, and are empowered equally in and through education. 

The aim of this project to increase school retention and completion rate among girls and attitude change among the local community through the creation of a Girls Club: the project is in synergy with the program of the Open School at St Charles Lwanga Secondary School in Balaka that aims at offering the Secondary School for free to the young people and adults of the surrounding community.

The project is addressed to 455 girls, from 11 to 18 years, who are students at the Open School and aims at making them agents of change for their peers and their community.

These activities are implemented in cooperation with Youth Net Counselling, a local organization focused on advancing the welfare of the disadvantaged groups of society especially girls and women. 

Meeting with traditional leaders and teaching staff have been held to make known the project and involve them. Also, the meetings with the students had very positive results and 75 girls have been registered as members of the Club.

More importantly, girls are already beginning to demonstrate some traits of affirmative action. They are becoming courageous, assertive and open to talk about issues that trouble them, some of which are not culturally talked about in the open. This attitude change gives confidence that girls and boys who are part of this project will indeed become effective agents of change among their peers within the school but also in the wider community and be ready to be protagonist of their life.

Project main figures:

1 Girl Club has been established with already 75 members.

455 girls of the Open School participated to the Girls Club enhanced activities.

168 boys of the Open School attended the discussion meetings and awareness campaigns.

40 key people of the local community – Local traditional leaders and teaching staff – has been involved in the project.

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