Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making Every Woman Count

My good friend Mayme is working in Malawi as a gender specialist and interning at ‘Make Every Woman Count’ an on-line resource that promotes the empowerment of Women and Girls in Africa. I was very excited when she asked if she could feature FAWEMA (the organization where I am volunteering) as the Make Every Woman Count ‘Organization of the Month’. Click here to check it out!

One of FAWEMA's most successful interventions is the ‘Mother Group’ concept. The Mother Group includes 14 people, including 10 female community volunteers, who work within their community to ensure enrolment, retention and completion of education by girls. They also raise awareness about cultural practices (e.g. early marriages) that have a negative impact on girls’ education and advocate for hygiene, nutrition and child rights.

Here are case studies compiled by my colleague Cecilia and I on the impact of the Mother Groups on the lives of 2 Malawian women.

Case Study: Chrissy

Name: Chrissy
Learner in:
Chikhwawa District
Age: 18
Standard: 8

When asked what the mother group does:

She indicated that the Mother Group provides material for use during menstrual periods so that girls can attend school during their menses.
She also said that they follow-up on girl-teacher relationships, counsel girls on HIV/AIDS and follow-up on staff punishments.

When asked about the impact of the Mother Group on Her Life:

When Chrissy was in Standard 7, she became pregnant and her parents sent her away. The Mother Group met with her parents and encouraged them to allow Chrissy to come home so that she can continue with her studies. After some counseling from the Mother Group, Chrissy returned home and was readmitted in school. While she is at school, her parents take care of her child.

Chrissy is also now attending school during her menses, thanks to the Mother Group intervention. The Mother Group built a toilet for the use of girls during their menses which includes a basin, water and soap for washing as well as an extra uniform which a girl can change into if she has menstruated on hers. This has reduced absenteeism by greatly reducing challenges with menstrual hygiene.

The Mother Group also advocated against corporal punishments in the classroom, which Chrissy indicated has made a difference in her life.

In October 2011, Chrissy went on a FAWEMA organized, UNICEF funded educational visit to Zodiak radio in Blantyre and met with a female reporter. She was inspired and now wants to become a journalist.

Case Study: Ida

Name: Ida
Learner in: Chikhwawa District
Age: 25
Standard: 8

When asked what the mother group does:

‘They encourage girls to work hard in school so that they can have a bright future.’

'They provide counseling and guidance to girls on issues of education, HIV/AIDS, relationships...'

Impact of the Mother Group on Her Life:

She has 3 children and was re-admitted to school in September 2010 after being out of school for many years. She dropped out when she was pregnant with her first child and was unable to go back because of gender-based violence (her husband threatened her not to go back). At that time she was living in her husband’s village.

In 2010, she moved back to her mother’s village after her husband left her. Upon her return, the Mother Group met with her and convinced her to go back to school.

‘I have come back to school so that I can get educated. Education is good and I want to be a nurse. This is also because of the counseling and follow-up of the Mother Group… They encouraged me to go back to school and (taught me) the importance of school. They also talked on the effects on early marriage. Every girl who has a good future is the one who is educated.’