In June one of our trustees, Mariot Dallas, wrote about the sense of personal responsibility for addressing inequality that helps to drive MMF’s work in Scotland and Malawi. These values underpinned Mamie Martin’s commitment to girls’ education in the 1920s and continue to do so today as we provide bursaries to enable girls in need to attend secondary school in Malawi.
Another crucial reason for doing what we do is that we know that it works. The returns from investing in girls’ education – in any country – are so great that no nation can afford not to educate women. In Malawi girls who stay in school develop skills and confidence that help them enter the labour market, gain an income and become active participants and leaders in their communities, so contributing to national as well as individual economic growth. The many positive social and health impacts of girl child education include reduced rates of child marriage, domestic violence, maternal and child mortality, HIV Aids and malaria, and reduction of harm to families from natural disasters and climate change. These benefits are long-lasting ones, since we know that educated mothers are more likely to invest in the health and education of their own children.
In Malawi the rate of drop out from school, because of economic hardship, pregnancy and marriage, accelerates as girls reach the final years of primary school (MoEST, 2014). As they enter secondary school the disparity between boys and girls increases with a third of 14-17 year old girls out of education, mostly from the poorest families. This is why MMF identifies the girls in greatest need of financial assistance when they start secondary school, and continues to support them throughout their secondary education.
Keeping up to date with recent research about girls’ education in Malawi is essential if we are to enable girls who are most at risk of missing out on education to attend school. To that end, in 2014, we commissioned our own evaluation, supported by a Scottish Government grant, of the impact of MMF on the lives of girls the Fund supports. Our impact report provides compelling evidence of the importance of MMF funding to the girls in four schools in northern Malawi, and the doors it has opened – to educational attainment, employment and further education. Our findings about the struggles girls who wish to go on to tertiary education face helped to prompt our recent partnership with the Soko Fund which supports girls to attend university in Malawi.
By building on and learning from evidence about what works best for girls’ education MMF aims to continue to remain as responsive as possible to changing needs in Malawi and to target its resources where they are needed most. We are learning all the time!
Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MoEST) (2014) National Girls Education Strategy. MoEST, Lilongwe, Malawi
Sperling, G.B. and Winthrop, R. (2015) What works in Girls’ Education: Evidence for the world’s best investment, Washington, Brookings Institutional Press https://www.brookings.edu/book/what-works-in-girls-education-evidence-for-the-worlds-best-investment/
UNESCO (2016) Gender Review: Creating sustainable futures for all http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002460/246045e.pdf
World Bank (2014a) Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity Washington, DC: World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/gender/publication/voice-and-agency-empowering-women-and-girls-for-shared-prosperity
World Bank (2014b) Malawi National Education Profile: 2014 Update https://www.epdc.org/sites/default/files/documents/EPDC%20NEP_Malawi.pdf