A ‘global’ AGM and a new trustee

It was a first for MMF as it has been for so many other organisations in these unprecedented times. We held our 2021 AGM on Zoom and livestreamed it on Facebook. Six months ago most of the Board didn’t know what livestreaming is (some still don’t), far less how to do it.

But we did it. We were rewarded by having 25 participants in the Zoom meeting and many others watching on Facebook (reach = 50 and engagements = 36). We had attendees from Scotland, England, France, Portugal and Malawi, and possibly elsewhere too. We had challenges: one chair fell ill the night before, another lost her internet connection as the meeting started and North Malawi experienced poor Airtel connectivity until almost the end of the meeting.

But we overcame all those challenges. We reported to our supporters and donors, which is the main purpose of an AGM. We heard about girls’ education in Malawi from a Malawian woman, Fiddes Msowoya, who is immersed in education there. We also heard about some on-going research by Isa Uny about fuel and cooking in Malawi and Kenya.

When the MMF AGMs return to local events with the much-missed soup, they will certainly retain a global element as we must not lose these wonderful connections which are now established.

The AGM was particularly pleased to welcome another Malawian onto our Board. Remmie Kamanga became known to MMF when we established our partnership with the Diocese of Karonga, where he was the Education Desk Officer. No longer in that post, he is free to join our Board and we are grateful for his engagement. A former teacher, he brings a wealth of experience and understanding to our work. We will learn much from him.

Book launch and royalties donated to charity

MMF trustee, Moira Dunworth, shares some exciting news about a new book…

The Mamie Martin Fund is delighted to be one of two charities that will receive the royalties of Dr Alasdair Allan’s book about the Scotland-England border – Tweed rins tae the Ocean. We first met Alasdair when he was Minister for International Development and Europe. He is from the Scottish Borders but lives in the Western Isles where he is the Constituency MSP.

This book is about his east-to-west walk of the Border; it is more about the history, literature and language of the area than the actual walking, though he did that and is clear about its hardships and joys along the way. Hearing him speak about it at the launch in Blackwell’s Edinburgh, made me eager to get reading.

Alasdair is generously dividing all his royalties between two small Scottish charities, the Mamie Martin Fund and the Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative. This means a great deal to us and we plan a project next year which will be loosely based on the book. Start thinking about borders and we will be in touch to frame a plan. It will include, but not be restricted to, navigating some of the route which Alasdair took. Those cyclists among us will be keen to travel west to east, ideally having the prevailing wind to help us on our way.

The book is published by Thunderpoint Publishing and is available from all independent bookshops. I am delighted to own the first copy which Alasdair signed and we are grateful for the good wishes to MMF which he included.

Congratulations to ‘Best Student’ Hannah – MMF ex-pupil

Hannah was an MMF beneficiary at Elangeni Secondary School from 2011 to 2015. Her parents had divorced, her father remarried with new responsibilities and Hannah’s mother could not afford her school fees. The school put Hannah on the MMF list and, with her worries gone, she worked hard and obtained excellent results in her Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE).


Hannah now is in her final year at the University of Malawi studying BSc in accounting with sponsorship from the Soko Fund. She has dreamed of working as an accountant since she was in Level 5 in primary school. She has always loved solving financial issues and therefore, thinks accounting and she are perfectly suited for one another. She believes that her career will shape her to have wide knowledge in fund management which will be a tool that she will use in giving skills to young Malawian women on how to manage their finances in setting up small scale businesses that would allow them to do their own thing rather than depend on government for employment.


Both MMF and Soko are so proud to learn that Hannah has been awarded a Certificate of Achievement for “outstanding performance in academic excellence” in the 2021 round of ‘Best Student Awards’ made annually by TotalEnergies Malawi, a major company focusing on sustainable energy.

MMF, Soko Fund and David Livingstone Centre come together in a bike ride

Bike2Malawi rider, Brian Kerr is Chair of the Soko Fund and a Trustee of the Mamie Martin Fund. He has a new e-bike and was keen to give it an outing. He also wanted to see the newly-refurbished David Livingstone Birthplace which reopened on 28th July. Closed for four years to undergo major refurbishment, the new museum exhibition re-introduces us to David Livingstone, focusing more than has been previously done on those around him. He was not really the ‘lone explorer’ of the previous versions of that history.  

So Brian set off in the sunshine from Edinburgh to Blantyre. He recalls: “The sun was much too bright for a decent picture (by me anyway). It was a lovely ride-such an interesting variety of countryside and old industrial stuff and the West Lothian mining villages.

Some of the traffic on the roadside paths was not nice – but the canal beyond Coatbridge – you could imagine yourself in La France profonde!! (until the path comes to an abrupt end and you are lost of course!!).  

Dr. Livingstone, who WALKED from his home here in Blantyre to Africa – apart from the sea, obviously – is still revered by many in Malawi. On the day I visited the cafe was only open until 3 pm – imagine my feelings arriving on a very hot day at 2.59. Staff were exceptionally kind to an old man!”

Last year’s MMF biking project, Story on Bikes, was launched at the Centre, even though it was still closed at the time. On #Bike2Malawi we stopped off at Mary Livingstone’s grave – Dr Livingstone’s wife. So we feel a strong bond with this Centre and are glad that Brian made it there and back (just) on the battery of the new e-bike. He has in mind to visit Dunluce Castle in Ireland; Mamie and Jack Martin sailed to Africa in its namesake in 1921. So watch this space for his report on that trip.

Wendy Norman writes about why she is ‘biking to Malawi’

“As a now semi-retired Gynaecologist, I was very privileged, in 2016, to travel to Nkhoma Hospital in Malawi with the Scotland-Malawi team to contribute in a small way to their phenomenal programme of cervical screening and cervical cancer prevention. We have helped to introduce practical but effective treatment of pre-cancer, as originally pioneered by my predecessor, Dr Ian Duncan, in Dundee. I was bowled over by the camaraderie, dedication and expertise of the local Malawian teams who continue to work so effectively under such challenging conditions.

Since my return we have all continued to ‘virtually’ support work in Malawi and worldwide as much as possible but clearly any plans for return visits to that wonderful country have now been deferred and overshadowed by the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile it is heartbreaking to hear of increasing numbers of young girls now obliged to leave school due to the economic effects of the pandemic. These young girls then become teenage brides and mothers, thus repeating the cycle of inequity. If we are ever going to work our way towards a fairer world, we have to educate girls and young women. Educating girls allows them to make safe choices about their own reproductive health and, in time, that of their children and families. It also allows them to become financially independent and enter the workforce as the hundreds of nurses, teachers, doctors & scientists Malawians need to become equal partners in delivering anywhere near the standards of health care that we in the UK take for granted

I therefore jumped at the chance with #Bike2Malawi to jump on my bike and raise funds for secondary education in Malawi. We have to keep girls in school, and it is something practical I can do to help whilst constrained to the UK. So far, I have cycled almost 300 of my 350 mile target.

I won’t lie – it has been tougher than I thought – 5-6 miles a day sounds fine until you inevitably miss a day then have to do 12…. Then 18…. And I have been on holiday for 3 of the 9 weeks of the fundraiser (not always with a bike) so have had to do some mammoth rides to catch up. We are so lucky though to have such wonderful scenery to cycle through both here in Scotland and across the UK. I have been joined on my rides by both daughters and various friends and family, so it has been good exercise and good fun. I am truly humbled by the response of my family, friends and colleagues to my fund-raising efforts, which I know reflects their understanding of how much this all means to me. Good luck to all those cycling the 10,679 miles and I hope we all meet in person one day. Thank you to the Mamie Martin Fund for making this possible and to all those doing the groundwork to facilitate this fundraising; it is an incredible effort all round.”

Wendy has raised over £500.00 so far and her page is https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/WendyNorman

Violet reports on Lancaster ride

Continuing our series of posts by Bike2Malawi riders, Violet Hejazi writes:

“I am a law student who is also a former refugee. I come from Syria, and I am one of the riders of the #Bike2Malawi team organised by the Mamie Martin Fund in support of girls’ education in Malawi.

After a long time spent at home in lockdown doing things I had to do, it was finally the time to do the thing I chose to do!

On a sunny, non-lockdown day, and along with very cool friends and for a great cause, I cycled by the coast of Lancaster and had the best chips in Morecambe. We took some photos and ate some cake.

I found a jasmine tree that filled my heart with joy and made me feel at home. We said hello to the wee kid on his tiny bicycle as we pushed our pedals to raise money to help girls in Malawi pursue their education and secure a decent future for themselves and their families. Going up and down semi-hills, which to me felt like proper steep hills, I was reminded of the struggles that young girls in Malawi face daily and the significance of making education accessible and obtainable for them. I reflected on my childhood and, despite all of the obstacles, how lucky I was in having had the opportunity to be in school and not worry about accessing education.

I am taking part in cycling 100 miles to raise awareness and fund this project, hoping that one day no child will be deprived of their right to be educated and can grow up to become independent, successful members of society.

This was the first 16.5 miles of the 100 miles I will be cycling over the summer, which I am very excited to complete and share stories about!”

Violet’s fundraising page can be found here.

Pledge100: an active and creative success!

We are already four months into our Mamie Martin Fund #Pledge100, celebrating the centenary of Jack and Mamie’s marriage and the start of their time in Malawi. We now have over 30 global pledgers, who have embarked on a wonderful range of active and creative endeavours to help raise awareness of the work done by Mamie Martin Fund.

Some of our creative pledgers have already completed their challenge and have received their very special certificate of completion. Jan, who is based in Sweden, has completed 100 beautiful black and white drawings, and has even embarked on her second challenge. Elizabeth has embroidered 100 lovely, intricate cards which sold out almost immediately! You can see her beautiful designs here. The proceeds from the sale of these cards have added a real boost to our #Pledge100 fund-raising efforts –so a huge thank you to Elizabeth for her creative contribution and to everyone who was quick enough to buy her cards!

Jean is swimming 100 swims for Mamie Martin Fund’s #Pledge100

Our #Pledge100 awareness raising and fundraising efforts have been so successful that we have already reached and passed our fundraising target. That calls for a huge thank you to all our pledgers and everyone who has contributed. Let’s not stop here! We still have eight action-packed months to go, so let’s set our sights higher. This is really challenging time in Malawi, with disruptions to education caused by Covid-19. Fundraising for the Mamie Martin Fund means that we can continue to help girls return to school and complete their secondary education.

Here is Kate Jere making the case for helping get girls back to school: “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.It’s easy to join #Pledge100.Just find something you can pledge to do 100 times during the remainder of 2021 and register here.

We would love to have you on board! All sponsorships and donations are also welcome here.

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!

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