The Guardian started 2014 with this excellent piece on girls’ education in Malawi.
The article tells the story of Shakira Yakiti, who is part of a weekly group of at-risk girls in the rural Mangochi district of Malawi. Their group helps girls who have dropped out of school to get married, as well as teenage mothers. They encourage these girls to return to school, make sure they are welcomed upon their return, and provide them with emotional support.
Shakira is a force of nature, slim and poised and speaking with the easy eloquence of a seasoned politician. When I met her, she was talking to a team of aid workers and visiting journalists jamming microphones in her face and jotting down her every word. She handled our questions fluidly and coherently, providing incisive answers and encouraging the members of the Girls Club to share their stories. As we left, we all agreed that her grassroots organizing skills and her persuasiveness indicate a fine future in politics.
Did I mention she’s 13?
There’s also Ethel, whom the Girls Club helped and who is now back at school; Chrissa, who had twins as a teenager but who is back in the classroom as well; and Christie, who has to raise her 6 siblings alone in extreme poverty and marry at 14 in order to survive. These girls face extraordinary obstacles in accessing education, not to mention avoiding adolescent pregnancy and the associated risks.
Seemingly simple problems become substantial barriers for girls’ education. Lack of access to soap and sanitary pads means girls miss school when they’re menstruating. No chairs make it harder to sit comfortably and focus on the lesson instead of modesty when your school uniform is a dress.
And yet they persevere, thanks to innovative efforts and funding from international aid organizations. Read the whole story here.