Malawi – ACT at the Warm Heart of Africa

by ACT

  • Posted on August 19, 2016

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Malawi, known as the “warm heart of Africa” is the land of Lake Malawi, the “lake of stars”, which has the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. But this beautiful country and its joyful people with a culture of dancing is also one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. Over 40% of its population of 16 million live on less than $1 a day. HIV is prevalent and the country has one of the highest rates of AIDS orphans in Africa.

Academic achievement is very low and is worse among girls. In Malawi, less than 10% of girls earn a high school diploma. Around 50% of girls are married and raising children by the age of 18. In fact, Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.

For a child growing up in Malawi, particularly in a rural area, life can be very difficult. It is even harder for a girl and worse for a child who is an orphan or fatherless.

A major challenge is that education is not free and therefore unaffordable to the 40% of the population living below the poverty line. This is why ACT’s work among the poor in rural communities is so important. We are supporting the most vulnerable children by providing access to education so they can continue their studies and achieve their highest potential.

When we first visited Nyezelera Primary School in Migowi, poor sanitation and an absence of hygiene and health education were issues we immediately recognised as requiring attention. There were only 14 pit latrines for the 2,008 pupils at the school – eight for girls and six for boys. The ratio of 1 toilet for every 140 pupils was well below the national guidance of 1:40 pupils. There was also no education about menstrual hygiene. Girls felt embarrassed to go to school during their periods for fear of staining their clothes and being ridiculed by teachers and classmates. As a result, girls typically miss 25% of schooling each year, which partially explains the high dropout rate and poor performance of girls in school.

ACT is doubling the number of toilet units at Nyezerela Primary School by funding the construction of 16 new units, most of which will be for girls. This will reduce the ratio to 1 for every 60 girls. The toilets are expected to be completed in September.

ACT has launched a project that will provide girls with re-useable sanitary pads. Called‘Ulemu’ meaning ‘dignity’ in the local language, this will also educate the children, both girls and boys, about menstrual issues and challenge the myths surrounding this subject in communities. Finally, we are teaching widows how to make re-usable sanitary pads. This will mean girls have access to them and will provide widows with a source of income to help support their families.

You can read more here about the Ulemu project.

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