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Wide gathering of supporters in Lancashire

Mercy had a very warm welcome in Lancashire

Mercy Sibande, MMF’s Malawi Country Director, is on a mini-tour of supporters in the UK. Last weekend she was in Lancashire where a group of churches supports six MMF girls in Karonga, in the far north of Malawi.

The Lancashire West Methodist ‘Circuit’ of 10 churches held an event at Up Holland on Sunday 21st May. It was open to visitors and turned into a fantastic gathering of MMF supporters. Long-standing MMF supporter, Emyln Evans, travelled 97 miles each way to attend with his wife, Anne. Emyln is pictured pouring over a map of Malawi with Mercy. Our Manchester Marathon runners, Phil and Hannah, came 75 miles to meet Mercy. The event made them want to move back to Malawi, where they lived for many years.

We were hosted by the Up Holland members, led by Linda Jones. We were the first people to use their new garden and the lovely weather was just right for it. The formal part of the event was led by the Rev Alex Laing. Newly-elected Cllr Sam Riches from Lancaster attended and became our photographer. Thanks Sam! The event was filmed by Derek Ashcroft for sharing with those supporters who were unable to attend. We were honoured to be joined by Michael Tindsley, the Circuit Superintendent.

This MMF-Lancashire West partnership is greatly valued by us and by St Mary’s Secondary School, Karonga. This is one of the best schools in Malawi and the pastoral care of the girls is second-to-none. We were glad to be able to share photos and videos of each of the six girls. Mercy told their stories and answered questions. Her presence in this warm and generous community was much appreciated, as evidenced by this feedback comment,

“How well she speaks and I felt how well she understands the girls. You must feel so pleased and thankful that all the girls are in such great hands. She is an absolute asset to the work of MMF.” [Lancashire West supporter]

Do one action today for girls’ education

Faith Banda, ex-pupil of MMF

Today is International Women’s Day. One of the major issues in today’s world is that of girls’ access to education. It is easy to be so upset about issues like this, that we feel helpless and hopeless. But you can do one powerful thing today to help girls get an education. You can leave a bequest in your Will to the Mamie Martin Fund or any other organisation which supports girls’ and women’s education around the world.

That’s it. Simple. We provide a template for a codicil on our website. We received a bequest from a long-standing supporter this week and this will enable us to provide a full secondary education for extra pupils in Malawi. What a wonderful legacy. You could be part of a girl’s future too.

The Head Teacher of Kaseye Girls’ Secondary School tells us why we must all support girls’ education:

Scottish Parliament support for MMF on IWD

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.

Birthday donations – an inspiring story

Elizabeth first heard about the Mamie Martin Fund through ‘Story on Bikes’ in 2020. She is now a regular participant in our cycling projects. She took a break from cycling for MMF in 2021 when she created 100 gorgeous embroidered cards as part of #Pledge100.

When Elizabeth had a significant birthday this year, she requested charity donations instead of gifts. She feels that she has enough ‘things’. She nominated the MMF as one of two favourite charities and raised over £100 for girls’ education in Malawi through her generous friends. What a lovely idea!

If you would like to do something like this and need any help, get in touch. We’ve not been able to register as a charity with Facebook (because of being a Scottish charity) so it can’t be done on there, but you can publicise it on any platform. We can let you have info leaflets and support you on ‘the socials’.

Meanwhile, enjoy the photos of some of Elizabeth’s contributions to the funding of our work for girls in secondary school in Malawi.

Elizabeth cycled the boundary of Galloway in Scotland during a week of gales for #Borders22

Friendship and collaboration in person

On Saturday last we were delighted to attend in person at the AGM of the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP). What a day of warmth and excitement. We had not seen friends and colleagues for so long. The day felt like true partnership all the way through. We shared a table and volunteers with the One World Shop. We caught up with Kenyawi KidsSteka Skills, the David Livingstone BirthplaceMalDent and many many others. The team at SMP put on a great day which included Malawi Gin (of course), Malawian food, great music and a tremendous tribute to the outgoing CEO, David Hope-Jones, who has been so supportive to the Mamie Martin Fund over the years.

We were pleased to introduce our friends from the Malawi-Scotland Partnership to our friends at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, where they were welcomed to the Sunday morning service.

Thanks to our volunteer, Liz Hall, and to all the supporters who stopped by our table to chat or buy notecards or gift cards.

Running boost to Deaf girls’ education

The Thompson Fund, managed by the Mamie Martin Fund, supports the secondary education of Deaf girls at Embangweni in North Malawi. The Fund was established in memory of Jack and Phyllis Thompson. Their daughter, Jenny, ran the London Marathon last Sunday in memory of her parents – Jack was also a marathon runner. She raised over £4k for the Thompson Fund. Jenny’s family, friends, colleagues and neighbours responded generously to her fundraising appeal. Huge thanks, also, to her running friend, Pete, whose friends all joined in with donations.

Jenny ran the 42 kms in 4 hours, 40 minutes and 45 seconds – amazing! Mercy Sibande, our Malawi Manager, will show photos of Jenny to the girls at Embangweni whose education is only possible because of the Thompson Fund. It remains to be seen what they think about running to raise money for girls whom neither the runner nor the donors have ever met. They will certainly be impressed and will be motivated to work hard at their studies. To quote our treasurer, who has been in Embangweni and knows the situation of these girls,

Great job, changing lives of Deaf kids in Malawi who, economically, are really the lowest. This help doesn’t just change their lives, it gives them a life.

Jenny’s page remains open for another short while – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jenny-chambers1

The power of working together

We are pleased to share this guest blog post from Denis Robson, Chair of the Thondwe Community Partnership, another Scotland-Malawi link:

“As a long-standing member of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, we regularly meet with organisations that are equally passionate about programmes in health, education, and economic development. As we were expanding our collaboration with Thondwe Primary school we were thrilled when a networking opportunity brought us into contact with Moira Dunworth who was very willing to share the Mamie Martin Fund (MMF)’s knowledge and expertise in girls’ education in Malawi with us. As a very small team looking to seek out others with a common aim, our connection with MMF provided an opportunity to rapidly learn, improve outcomes and avoid duplication.

The girls heading to secondary school in 2022, supported by the Thondwe Community Partnership

By collaborating we can increase the exposure needed to grow girls’ education in Malawi and as we gain experience perhaps we can combine knowledge to help solve problems together. We quickly discovered that we needed to do more than pay school fees to ensure successful educational outcomes. Your Ready to Learn Fund is essential. Our GET-IT (Girls’ Education in Thondwe) programme now has 5 girls. Apatseni, Debora, Brenda, Mary and Margaret successfully completing their first year at a local Community Day school and a Boarding school. Learning from your experience, we are setting up a mentorship programme. The first step of this is that the Head Teacher of Thondwe Primary school, Annie Siyani, will mentor these 5 girls as part of our Partnership’s support.”

It is a joy for MMF to be able to share our experience and to discuss these issues with like-minded people in Scotland and Malawi. We are delighted to have been able to help the Thonde Partnership with the planning of GET-IT. We wish their pupils every success.

The impact of our work on two very different pupils

MMF Treasurer, Alan Laverock, has recently returned from Malawi. MMF girls are selected on the basis of need, not academic ability. He was struck by two particular girls, whose stories demonstrate the range of needs we meet:

“Mary came to speak to us privately, after we had spoken to the group of MMF girls. She was visibly upset, barely able to speak. Eventually, it was clear that the issue was that her aunt was putting pressure on her to get married. This would entail giving up her education – and she was now in Form 3 (of 4). The income from her marriage would help her gogo (grandmother) and ‘this is your duty’. The girl knows the value of her education and really does not want to lose this with one year to go.

We were able to affirm her in her belief in the value of an education and to assure her that the fees were in place for Form 4. We also told the headteacher (with Mary’s permission). She will keep an eye on the situation. Sadly, she has experience of this.

Martha presented herself for the end of Form 4 feedback interview with Mercy. Her brilliance shone through like a searchlight and was truly uplifting. She is keen to be a doctor. We are convinced she has what it takes to succeed. Not only does Malawi have a shortage of educated women, there is a chronic shortage of doctors.

These are two fantastic examples of the difference that donations to MMF are making. Thank you all.”

Note: names changed.

Human Rights Day

Today we mark the UN Human Rights Day. This is the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. We share a few paragraphs from the recent MSc dissertation by Anna Freidenfeld who was on placement with us last summer. She makes some comments about how we might work towards the Global Goal of Gender Equality.

“In order to overcome education barriers rooted in patriarchal norms, wider communities need to be educated on the importance of girls’ education (1). Intersectional ‘gender sensitisation education’ could reduce the marginalisation and discrimination faced by girls – especially those with disabilities, young mothers and orphans of HIV/AIDS – which can push them to drop out of school. Furthermore, NGOs need to employ local women in positions of power to mirror the gender equality they are working towards in the wider world within their own structures (2). NGOs should also focus on helping reduce the cultural reproduction of gender hierarchies within schools (3,4). Accordingly, women need to become more involved in the management of schools. Mothers’ Groups are a good example of community collectives that are increasing women’s involvement in educational management. If NGOs work with local women they can better work towards ‘transformative gender mainstreaming’ in education-policy (5).

The best approaches to overcome education-barriers in Northern Malawi tend to be more holistic, combining multiple tactics and recognising the different education-barriers faced by different individuals. Clearly, the operations of NGOs need to be continually examined so they can work to improve their approaches. Notably, more education-barriers are bound to emerge in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, future ethnographic research in Northern Malawi is needed to provide different perspectives and explore further barriers and enablers to education.”


1 Abane, H. (2004) ‘The girls do not learn hard enough so they cannot do certain types of
work.’ Experiences from an NGO-sponsored gender sensitization workshop in a
Southern Ghanaian community’, Community Development Journal, 39(1), pp. 49–61.

2 Duraiappah, A.K., Roddy, P., & Parry, J. (2005) ‘Have Participatory Approaches Increased Capabilities?’ International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (online). Available at:

3 Bourdieu, P. (1973) ‘Cultural reproduction and social reproduction’, pp. 71–112, in Brown,
R. (Ed.). Knowledge, Education and Cultural Change. London: Tavistock.

4 Arnot, M. (2002). Reproducing gender? : essays on educational theory and feminist politics. London: Routledge.

5 Mukhopadhyay, M. (2004) ‘Mainstreaming Gender or “Streaming” Gender Away: Feminists Marooned in the Development Business’, IDS Bulletin, 35(4), pp. 95–103.

A fresh perspective

Kathleen Sargeant was part of the Falkirk High School visit to Malawi in 2008, when the group attended class at Bandawe Girls Secondary School for a week. The trip made a big impression on all the pupils and teachers, which included Mariot Dallas, currently co-convenor of MMF. 

Kathleen now works in a marketing role in London and has been enormously helpful in reviewing our website and suggesting improvements. Following a meeting in London recently, she was persuaded to extend her volunteering to managing a digital skills audit of MMF, which is part of our Action Plan following our recent Strategic Review. 

It’s hugely helpful to have volunteers taking on specific tasks like this, as we reported recently in relation to the sorting-out-images task that Sue Dumbleton is doing for us. It is also greatly appreciated when we have the input of young people like Kathleen. The average age of our Board is, like most NGOs in Scotland, much higher than we would like, given that we are in the business of education for girls. New perspectives are always helpful and input from younger people is especially welcome.