In Malawi, primary education, starting at age 6, is compulsory for the first 8 years (known as Standard 1–8). As of 2022, 33% of students finished primary school, with urban areas having a much higher completion rate than rural areas.
Secondary education, the next four years of school (known as Form 1–4, equivalent to grades 9-12 in the US), requires student tuition and fees, which many people cannot afford and causes many to drop out. Only 23% of students complete the first two years of secondary school, dropping to 15% completion for the final two years.
If funds are limited, families in Malawi are more likely to prioritize the education of their male children. Girls are relied upon to help with more of the household chores, including walking long distances to fetch water from the nearest water sources.
Period poverty is the inability to afford menstrual products and it affects women all over the world. In Malawi, a lack of access to period products and sanitary facilities leads to widening gender inequality when girls fall behind in school.
A lack of access to period products also leads to health issues as girls may be forced to use unhygienic cloths or rags, wash the products in unclean water, and even re-use washed products before they are fully dry. This can lead to a variety of infections that have both short-term and long-term health effects.
Girls are afraid of staining their clothing or being teased and bullied by boys. Without sanitary wash and change rooms on campus, girls often have to return all the way back home to change and clean themselves. This can be discouraging and they may not return to classes until their period is over.
Girls may choose to stay home from school when having their periods, falling behind in their studies before ultimately dropping out of school during their late primary school years. By secondary school, more than 50% of girls do not complete their education.
Girls who leave school early are more susceptible to teenage pregnancy, prostitution, or child marriage. Among females that drop out after primary school, 10% of them get married before the age 15, and 41% were married between ages 15 and 18 (legal marriage age is 18). Girls that turn to prostitution, sometimes to provide for their family, may contract HIV or other diseases. These all lead to a continuation of the cycle of poverty as the girls are left to raise their children on their own.
Many parents would prefer their girls to go to boarding school to remove them from the expectation of manual labor, early marriage, and the risk of teenaged pregnancies.
What we are doing
The Girls Education Malawi (GEM) Committee was created in partnership with the DSM Partnership Committee of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi. After multiple discussions and requests from our friends in Malawi, we understood the need and desire to focus on helping girls to attend and complete schooling through the secondary education level. As we looked into the barriers for girls, we honed in on the need for scholarships, access to period products and sanitary wash and change rooms.
Since costs are a barrier, GEM is partnering with the DSM Partnership Committee to provide scholarships to at-risk girls in the final 3 years of primary school and the 4 years of secondary school.
Girls who have recently left school or are at risk of dropping out will be identified, prioritizing them by level of need. Special consideration will go to girls from child-headed households; with chronically ill parents/guardians; with no guardian; and the neglected or orphans.
The scholarship will cover tuition, room and board (secondary school), reusable sanitary products, exam fees, school supplies, groceries, and additional fees.
Primary schools often lack places for girls to tend to their personal hygiene needs while attending school. The primary schools have VIP pit latrine toilets. These blocks of toilets contain private stalls with pit toilets, there is no running water. The toilets lack a space for girls to clean and wash their reusable period products and clothing.
We plan to build sanitary changing rooms at six Anglican primary schools to create necessary space for the girls.
These sanitary room blocks will be built near the toilets. The block will have two rooms for washing. These rooms will have a drainage system for proper water waste management. In these rooms, there will be two 50 liter plastic buckets with taps. The buckets will be filled with water from a local source like a bore hole. School management, with the assistance of the Mother’s Group (local church group), who are always around the school, will make sure that water is available in the rooms. Girls will be taught and directed to use environmentally friendly reusable sanitary pads. The third room in the block is a change room.
These sanitary rooms will ensure the girls have place to clean themselves, wash and dry menstrual materials, and then easily return to class.
How to help
Click the Donate button and select Girls Education. You can donate one of the recommended amounts or any amount you choose.
We ask that you also consider a recurring donation.
$7500 for a three-roomed wash and change block
Primary school scholarships
$300 for one year
$900 for three years (Standard years 6–8)
Boarding secondary school scholarships
$1800 per year
$7200 for four years (Form years 1–4)
Undesignated Funds & Other School Fees
Donate any amount to help girls needing partial scholarships, to cover fees that families are unable to cover, or to purchase reusable period products.
Donors can designate the full or partial use of their donations. The use of undesignated funds will be determined according to the needs and priorities of the DSM Partnership Committee.
The Education Academic Committee, a Malawian committee associated with the the Diocese of Southern Malawi and made up of both Primary and Secondary school professional teachers will be responsible for:
Monitoring and evaluating student academic performances
Advising the girls in their subject areas
Counseling the girls
Submitting student academic performance reports to the DSM Partnership Committee
Recommendation of the continuity of the scholarship award in the subsequent year based on the performance
Past Education Projects
Rural Classrooms - Desks, eraser boards, and books
Trinity Anglican Secondary School - Computer Labs
Women's Literacy - Teaching reading, writing, and basic math to women in rural areas