On this International Women’s Day, we are grateful to Dr Alasdair Allan, MSP, for lodging the following motion in the Scottish Parliament. We are humbled to be recognised in this way on such an important day for women around the world. The motion text is:
That the Parliament congratulates the Mamie Martin Fund on the celebration of its 30th anniversary in 2023; understands that this small Scottish charity has been supporting girls’ education in Northern Malawi since its inception in 1993 in memory of Mamie Martin, who worked for gender equality in education in Malawi in the 1920s; considers that the issue of girls’ education is now more topical than ever; further considers that girls’ education is vital to the development of any nation; believes that International Women’s Day is particularly important in many areas of the world in 2023, and wishes the Mamie Martin Fund success in its work this year and in the future.
Stella’s parents both died while she was in primary school and her maternal grandparents took over the care of all the siblings, as happens so often in Malawi. Stella was selected to Karonga Girls’ Secondary School (KAGSS) in 2006, a boarding school. She travelled there and started Form 1 with only a fraction of the money needed for fees, as so many other children do.
Stella was ‘chased’ from school to go home to fetch the rest of the fees. Again, this is not uncommon in Malawi. Stella’s grandparents did not have any more money so they sold their blankets and, after two weeks, raised enough money for the first term at KAGSS. By term 2 the school had seen the poverty of Stella’s family and she was awarded a Mamie Martin Fund bursary, through which she was supported for the rest of her time at KAGSS (2007 – 2010).
Stella secured a place to study nursing at Kamuzu Nursing College in Lilongwe. Again, she attended without money for fees and again was ‘chased’. She was then identified by the College for a Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA) bursary which provided her with money for fees and some expenses. She completed that study in 2016. Stella is now a nursing officer in the paediatric surgery and intensive care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.
Now married and with a one-year old son, Joseph, Stella was selected as part of a small group who will spend 6 months in Norway on a professional exchange programme with Riks and Ullevål hospitals, Oslo University. She arrived there to start that new adventure in February 2020, “I will have to experience a new working environment with new skills that will be so helpful to my work back home.” About Norway, Stella says, “being in Norway it’s one of the greatest adventures. I will have to experience a lot of new things, which will help me have more advantage of even being able to fit into a lot of hospitals around the world. The weather is also one experience in Norway. People are so friendly here and they are ready to help me to achieve my objectives and goals. I can’t finish without recognizing how great is my God; I am a Christian who believes that everything I am going through is because of God’s grace and love.”
We are proud to know Stella and to have played a part in her journey from penniless orphan to professional exchange programme participant. Alongside her own family commitments, Stella now helps other girls who struggle with school fees. The photo shows her at the Riks hospital in her first week of work in Oslo. We wish her a happy and fulfilling time there and a safe return to her family.