This year on 8th March, UN Women will launch their International Women’s Day theme of “think equal, build smart, innovate for change”. Read on to hear about how Link’s innovative girls’ education work is building lasting change in Malawi.
Thousands of girls in Malawi are out of school. Some have never set foot in a classroom. Others enrolled in their early years but dropped out, forced to take on household responsibilities, get married, or earn income to support themselves and their families. Many cannot read, write or count. This denies generations of women their right to education and leaves them unable to access public services, such as healthcare and justice, and the wider economy. According to UNESCO a child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past age five. Gender imbalance in education clearly has a profoundly negative impact on entire communities, and leaves women and girls vulnerable to sexual, emotional, and physical abuse.
Working in both rural and urban areas, Link is identifying those out-of-school girls who are often let down by national education systems and many development programmes. These girls are often hidden away, not able to access learning or other support in schools and communities. By understanding the root causes and multiple barriers to education these girls face, Link is able to design interventions to holistically address the problem and ensure they are no longer left behind.
Link has created community-based classes and girls’ clubs that are inclusive, welcoming and which meet at times and locations convenient for these girls to attend. Here, girls will learn basic literacy and numeracy, as well as wider life skills. Girls’ clubs and peer-to-peer buddying impart sexual and reproductive health knowledge, and develop resilience and self-esteem. Elsewhere, improved school leadership makes schools safer, more inclusive spaces, and community engagement work raises aspirations for marginalised girls.
The girls will then be supported into one of three pathways – they can return to mainstream education in safer more welcoming schools, enter vocational training in the community, or become economically active by accessing a micro loan or taking up other employment.
By the end of the project, thousands of marginalised girls will have improved skills and the community support they need to live well, regardless of their gender. They will be safe, have prospects and security in their future, and will help build a more equal and fair Malawian society.
Traditional, quality, school-based education is important. Link works hard every day to improve teaching and learning. But the education system is not currently reaching these vulnerable marginalised girls. Inclusive education means adapting the system to fit all learners, giving young people equal opportunities to learn by building smart solutions to embedded barriers like poverty and cultural expectations of girls. Innovative, transformative solutions like this will help achieve a gender-balanced world, sooner. For every child.