Michelle kiltwalked a marathon

The Kiltwalk went virtual again this Spring. People could choose their own challenge and complete it over the weekend 23 – 25 April. Michelle only learned about the Kiltwalk the week before. When she had checked that she had not misheard (‘so you wear some tartan and walk?’), she went for it, aiming to walk 20 miles around Edinburgh on Saturday 24th. She plotted a route which included Arthur’s Seat, Water of Leith and Cramond and set off from Newhaven.

Her preparation including buying some tartan; if she was to be a kiltwalker, there had to be tartan. She excelled herself in a few days, with tartan leggings and a skirt. Teamed up with an MMF tee-shirt and some Malawi-Scotland chitenjie, she was the picture of a true kiltwalker.

Supported by her sister Heidi and Moira from MMF, both on bikes, Michelle set a pace of 18 minutes a mile and she held that pace all day. We had a few rest and food stops and the occasional ‘tourist’ stop. The team met some other kiltwalkers but not as many as expected.

It was a lovely sunny day but there was a vicious North-Easterly wind which felt hard walking by the sea from Cramond to Granton. However, at Granton, hot tea and home baking was provided by an MMF friend and Michelle turned to the last few miles with renewed energy. It was after the home baking that she decided to go for the full marathon distance of 26.2 miles and she completed 26.3 miles on Newhaven pier as the sun went down. What an achievement!

In the meantime friends and family donated to her fund-raising page. All donations will be topped up by 50% this year by the Tom Hunter Foundation, so Michelle is, at the time of writing, well on the way to raising enough money to support two girls at boarding school in Malawi for a whole year. Double-achievement. Thanks Michelle!

Colonialism, the Mamie Martin Fund and the future

Mamie Martin Fund volunteer, Richard Robinson, has been thinking about decolonisation from the perspective of organisations like ours. He has published his thoughts on Medium and we share some snippets here and encourage you to read the whole piece.

“In the light of recent debate in the UK I have been thinking about the past links between Scotland and Africa, about how we frame them now, and what that should mean for the future

For many of us our own education and cultural background mean that our ways of thinking and unconscious attitudes carry vestiges of colonialism. We must inspect what we do and how we do it to ensure we compensate as well as we can. We should do this openly, which will offer opportunities to make our contribution more visible in Scotland and more effective in Malawi. We strive for our work and our relationships to be conducted in the spirit of respectful partnership but there is no fixed standard for this. It will always be a progressive process in which MMF must be clear about its rôle.

There is still a power imbalance between Scotland and Malawi, particularly stark in wealth and social capital, and this is partly a result of extractive colonialisation. But poring over the balance sheets of a century ago is less helpful than looking at what is happening today: Malawi is still suffering economic disadvantage from global taxation and trade regimes.

The MMF website already has great stories from girls and women whose education has been supported. It could also play a part in seeking out, promoting, and publishing personal evidence about colonialism.

For readers who haven’t heard of the Mamie Martin Fund before, please investigate! Allowing girls full access to education, and empowering women, is work that is not even finished in Scotland. In Malawi it has huge potential to contribute to economic well-being and quality of life, and I will soon be out on my bike helping to play whatever small part I can.”

The Captain Tom 100 challenge – a smaller #Pledge100 option

We are pleased to tell you about the Captain Tom 100 challenge which fits so neatly into our #Pledge100. MMF’s #Pledge100 runs all through 2021 to celebrate the centenary of Jack and Mamie Martin’s marriage and journey to Malawi.

Friday 30th April would have been Captain Sir Tom Moore’s 101st birthday and the one-year anniversary of the extraordinary celebrations following the conclusion of his famous 100 laps of his garden that raised an incredible £38.9 million for NHS charities. To celebrate his achievements and mark his birthday, his family and VirginMoneyGiving has set people a challenge to choose any activity that involves the number 100 and raise money for charity.

This CaptainTom100 project is an opportunity for you to think about a shorter version of our #Pledge100. The CaptainTom100 runs from Friday 30th April through to Bank Holiday Monday 3rd May. Your pledge could be walking 100 steps or running 100 metres, scoring 100 goals, baking 100 cakes, climbing 100 stairs, hopping 100 laps of the garden, building 100 sandcastles, writing a 100-word poem, flipping 100 pancakes – anything at all, inside or outside.

All you need to do is dream up your Captain Tom 100, fundraise or donate to the Mamie Martin Fund on our personalised page. If you are a social media user, share your 100 on social media, using #CaptainTom100

Book Review: Spirit of Malawi by Susan Dalgety

In the Preface to Spirit of Malawi, Susan Dalgety states her ‘ambition [was] to write a book that captured the essence of contemporary Malawi through the stories of its people.’ She achieves this, and more.

Susan Dalgety, a Scottish journalist and local politician, clearly loves Malawi, which she has visited many times since 2005. She interviewed a wide range of Malawians of different ages and backgrounds, from village chiefs and small farmers to government ministers, from a taxi driver and hospital porter to a fashion designer and social media professional. She writes in a clear accessible style and with a journalist’s eye for a good story.

There are five sections: ‘The cycle of life’ (possibly my favourite section covering birth, health, early and teenage years, adulthood, family life and growing old); ‘All in a day’s work’; ‘The people’s culture’; ‘A young democracy’; and finally ‘Whither Malawi?’ There are several pages of Susan’s own colour photographs, all featuring people at work, school and play.

I didn’t find many gaps. Maybe the book could have covered music and musicians a little more. Music is everywhere in Malawi: from traditional dances and drumming to the creative improvisation of instruments (amateur recordings of musicians who create their own instruments make up the most listened-to programmes on Malawi radio) to the many live bands that do the urban music circuit.

This is an unsentimental book which charts people’s daily frustrations and worries and the curse of corruption that affects most levels of life now. It demonstrates stark inequalities in income, education and life chances, which in some ways are worse now than in the aftermath of colonialism. But it also captures the spirit, hard work and entrepreneurialism of ordinary people, and larger successes, for example in fighting AIDS. Above all, it’s a hopeful book.

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for an up-to-date understanding of Malawi.

Jean Bareham lives in Edinburgh. She worked in Malawi as a VSO Training Librarian at Chancellor College, Zomba from 1978 – 1980, and has visited several times since, the last as a tourist in 2017.

Gift Aid is a win-win arrangement

Gift Aid it

Thanks so much to those who gift aid their donations to us. We’ve been spending some lockdown time digitising our gift aid records and checking them all as we go. This is a reminder of what Gift Aid is and what the rules are.

Adding Gift Aid to your donations means that, as a charity, we can claim an extra 25p for every £1 you give. It will not cost you any extra. Free money. This is a great boost to our funds every year.

You can only do gift-aid on donations for which you receive no benefit, so it can’t be a payment for goods or services. We can claim it on donations for our gift cards because you, the donor, are not getting the school uniform or pens, etc..

You need to make a Gift Aid declaration for us to be able to claim. Our gift aid declaration is now online, though we can always send you a paper form. If you are a regular donor, it is most likely that we already have a completed declaration from you – you could always get in touch to check if you wish. When you donate through VirginMoneyGiving, they collect the Gift Aid on our behalf.

Do I pay enough tax to Gift Aid donations?

Your donations will qualify as long as they’re not more than 4 times what you have paid in tax in that tax year (6 April to 5 April). The tax could have been paid on income tax or capital gains but no other form of tax applies.

If you pay tax at a rate above the basic rate, you can claim the difference between the rate you pay and the basic rate on your donation. Win-win.

Thanks to all our donors for their loyal support, whether than can include gift aid or not. Without you we would not be able to support girls at school in North Malawi.

International Women’s Day 2021

Dr Kate Jere, a Trustee of MMF, writes: 

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a day of celebration of women’s achievements. When working at the University of Malawi, women colleagues and I would leave our workplaces and, along with women all over the country, join together in church services and prayers: a time for singing, dancing, joy and reflection. And Malawi does have much to celebrate. Women are increasingly taking up leadership roles in government, with the first Female Speaker of the National Assembly elected in 2019; young female lawyers were at the forefront of the successful call for fresh elections in 2020, following vote-rigging by the previous government; maternal mortality rates have dropped dramatically and more girls than ever before are in school and learning.

Yet International Women’s Day, with its 2021 theme of #ChoosetoChallenge, also marks a call to action – and much remains to be done in Malawi to achieve gender equality. Although women play an active role in civil society, less than a quarter (23%) of parliamentarians are women. Whilst the constitution and recent legislation protects women’s rights, powerful social norms and customary practices undervalue women and girls and restrict their access to property, financial services and decent work. Women and girls face high levels of violence, and despite a 2017 constitutional amendment raising the age of marriage to 18, rates of child marriage are amongst the highest in the world, at over 40%.

Education, especially for disadvantaged girls, is an important catalyst in progress towards women’s empowerment and a more gender-just society. Keeping girls in school and – providing access to quality, inclusive education – can have powerful multiplier effects. Educated girls and young women not only have greater opportunities to fulfil their own potential, but can be powerful role models in their homes and communities, can challenge expectations for their role in society and make informed decisions about the health of themselves and their families. Recent research from Malawi shows that girls in school are less likely to experience violence and are at lower risk of child marriage and early and unintended pregnancy.

While Malawi has made great improvements in girls’ education over the last two decades, closing gender gaps in basic education, many adolescent girls fail to complete secondary education, dropping out before Form 4 and their national examinations: for every 100 boys in upper secondary, only 68 girls are enrolled. Social pressures compounded by school-related costs impact on girls’ ability to complete their education, with girls from the poorest households at the greatest risk of dropout. And as schools re-open again in Malawi following COVD-19 closures, ensuring girls get back to school has never been more important. Lessons from the Ebola crisis in West Africa have shown that extended school closures increase girls’ risk of early and unintended pregnancies, and result in permanent exit from education.

Mamie Martin Fund provides an important safety net for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing vital support with school costs, transport and other necessities – greatly increasing their chances of staying in school and completing their education. Over 80% of MMF-supported girls have successfully completed their secondary school and gone on to thrive and make important contributions in their own right, like Stella, a frontline nurse; others, with the support of the Soko Fund, like Annie, have gone on to successfully complete a university degree – definitely something worth celebrating!

Women and Girls in the Sciences – a view from Malawi

I am Mrs. Fiddes Msowoya, a woman who loves Mathematics and Sciences a lot. All my studies are mathematics / science related with credit overall grades for diploma and degree programmes. Studying Masters in Science Management Studies, I still register beyond undoubted distinctions for each course I pursue. I, therefore, urge all the females to love these fields and challenge the world that women too can do it.

Females are still treated secondary in many African countries where Malawi is not exceptional. There is need to strike a balance such that all females should get equal job opportunities as it is with their male counterparts in such fields. This can be achieved only when they enroll in such courses in order do away with categorizing the two groups. Women are equally capable as men. They are strong intellectually. Hence, it is important for them to learn science based opportunities.

Science jobs are well paying, hence such women role-models too shall be empowered and be well paid.

It is paramount to advocate for more females in sciences because currently the world revolves around Science and Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and innovation .Many existing opportunities require such skills and females are facing challenges in competing at global level because of lack of such skills. Without the involvement of women in sciences, males continue to enjoy exclusive employment in science related fields.

Encouraging females to participate in sciences will increase the pool of human resource from which the country can benefit and that will enhance sustainable development .

In Malawi, female population outweighs that of males and excluding them in sciences ensures delayed socio-economic development.

Women are naturally creative, this presents a great opportunity that can foster innovation and help in bringing about a major breakthrough in solving some of the problems in Malawi as a developing country.

Mrs Fiddes Msowoya
The Director of Education Y outh and Sports
M’mbelwa District Council
Mzimba District

Pledge100 up and running (and cycling and swimming)

Our #Pledge100 project celebrating the centenary of Mamie and Jack Martin’s marriage and journey to begin their new life together in Malawi, was launched in early January and now almost a month later is very definitely up and running.

We already have 13 pledgers (with several more in the pipeline) from places as far flung as North America, Hungary, Portugal, Berkshire, Falkirk, Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands. The idea is that people pledge to do 100 of something they enjoy in 2021 and we have a great range so far: cycling with selfies, open water swims (in the North Sea!), running 5ks, walking (on different continents), doing yoga, taking photos, making cakes and beautiful cards and cheering us all up by sharing 100 Top Tunes. Some people are completing their pledges alone and some in a team. 2021 has just begun so there’s still plenty of time for more people to join in and add their pledges to our eclectic group.

Our pledgers are all fired up with enthusiasm and say that the Pledge100 has helped to get them through a dark January and focus on something positive at this difficult time. All of the pledgers believe passionately in the importance of education for girls and empowering future generations of women in Malawi. Now more than ever these girls need our support to help them complete their secondary education.

Our pledgers have been sharing photos on social media and encouraging other people to join in this celebration or to support our challenges. The more the merrier – we’d welcome your support.

Pledge 100 off to a great start

This being the centenary of Mamie and Jack Martin’s marriage and journey to Malawi, we launched our #Pledge100 project on 1st January. Shona McAllister is our first pledger – she will run a 5k 100 times this year. 

Shona used to run a bit many years ago but took it up seriously during the first lockdown. As part of a virtual running club, a group of six women who motivated each other, she achieved ‘Couch to 5k’ and decided to keep up her running. She says that she could not have done that without the support of those friends. Her ambition was to run well for half an hour. Having achieved that, she is now working on improving her pace. That is a bit tricky in the bad weather so she describes herself as being in ‘maintenance mode’ at the moment.

Shona reminds us that exercise is very good for our mental health. She says that lockdown transformed her lifestyle; she currently works from home and takes a lot more exercise. She and her husband have a new puppy, who is called ‘Emmeline’ after the famous suffragette. No more needs to be said about Shona’s views on girls’ education and her support of our work in Malawi. 

Shona’s connection with the Mamie Martin Fund goes back to her late father, who played in a band with Willie Sinclair, Mamie’s grandson. They held many fundraisers for MMF and Shona thinks of herself as running these 5Ks in her Dad’s memory. 

Shona lives in the southside of Glasgow with Queen’s Park and Linn Park nearby – excellent running opportunities. She hopes that the awareness and money which she is raising by this pledge will support our work with a view to improving equality and girls’ empowerment and reducing rates of child marriage in Malawi; she wants ‘to create a more equal society’. You can support Shona in her pledge or join her by also registering to do 100 of something this year.

2021 is a special year for MMF

It was in 1921 that the young newlyweds, Jack and Mamie Martin, undertook the long and arduous journey to Malawi (then Nyasaland) where Jack was to take up his post as a Church of Scotland missionary. Thirty years ago, in 1991, their daughter Margaret returned to visit the land of her birth and to see her mother’s grave and the church her father built in Mamie’s memory. It was during this visit that the idea of the Mamie Martin Fund was born.

We would like this special year, 2021, to be a bumper fundraising year as girls’ access to secondary education in Malawi is still challenging.  This is where you, our lovely supporters, come in. We will have a bike ride, where our friends and supporters and their friends will contribute cycling distances to get us all to Malawi, virtually following the route taken by Mamie and Jack.

As part of ‘Pledge 100‘, we would also like folk to come up with ideas of their own to raise money – 
e.g. doing 100 walks, swims, cakes made etc
Or if 100 seems too much then 30 somethings.

So, thinking caps on, and email us with your ideas at admin@mamiemartin.org

Meanwhile we wish you all a good New Year and health and happiness in 2021.