On Women’s Day we salute the women of Malawi who are often struggling against great odds to get an education. When they do they are able to take their places in the economic and political life of the country and they work hard to encourage other women to do the same. In our 26th year, the Mamie Martin Fund continues to support girls at secondary schooling in Malawi. In the most recent five school years (2014-15 to 2018-19) we have supported girls through 433 years of schooling – an average of 86 girls per year.
The girls come from large families, by Western standards. 90% of the girls come from a family with 3 or more children, 80% with 4 or more and 51% have 4 or more siblings (5 or more children in the family). Looking at why our girls need help to pay school feels, a theme emerges of fathers being unable to support the pupil (usually because of death) and mothers being unable to fill this financial gap because they do not work outside the home.
Combining the data about why girls need MMF support with the family size data, one can suggest some evidence of the long-term impact of supporting girls’ education. Educated women tend, statistically, to go on to have smaller family sizes and are more likely to be able to find work and so be able to support a child’s education in the absence of a father’s income. Their children will, it is hoped, not be so dependent on their father being present and financially supportive of them because they, the new generation of mothers, will be able to make decisions about family size and are more likely to be economically active and able to support their children directly.
MMF bursaries pay for the girls’ fees and boarding costs, where the school is a boarding one. In Bandawe, the bursary now includes membership of the local Health Clinic. All MMF girls have other needs as few of them have enough (if any) personal money for their ‘practical needs’. Unsurprisingly, the necessities of attending school are the most urgent. This is a salutary reminder of the unmet basic needs of many girls in Malawi. ‘Pocket money’ in Malawi is for necessities, such as soap, and not for luxuries.