Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Ruth Chamangwana
During my first community meeting, I was surprised to see that the women were more vocal than the men. They were not scared to speak their minds, and they did so with so much enthusiasm. The same thing happened during the second and third meetings; I was SHOCKED!
In other communities, women tend to be more reserved than men, but this was certainly not the mine case. Women speak out here, and they are so passionate and hardworking. They run their businesses, and some have even enrolled to go back to school, though they are much older than the usual school-aged students.
Some of the most inspiring women that I work with in my community belong to the Mother’s Group. They are a group of ten women who took it upon themselves to ensure that girls in the area get educated. They sew menstrual pads for girls, encourage girls who have dropped out of school to return, and offer counselling services to girls. The female teachers at the primary school, that are also a part of the Mother’s Group, are role models to the girls, and also encourage girls to attend school instead of getting married and becoming pregnant.
Because of this inspiring Mother’s Group, and their encouragement towards girls, it was my assumption that most people in my community shared the same ideas and beliefs of educating a girl child. However, I was wrong. In my community, women are deemed as the ‘weak’ humans; so weak that they can’t think for themselves, they cannot excel in school, and they cannot be financially independent. These beliefs have led to girls undermining themselves and resorting to getting married at a young age. Girls as young as 12 years old are pregnant and are forced into marriage in my area, without hopes of ever attaining an education.
As a woman in Malawi, I believe myself and other women need to critically strategize on how we can empower young girls in our communities. Strong, inspiring, Malawian women such as Traditional Authority, Kachindamoto, and the women in my mother’s group have taken up a tough task, which will require their fellow women to come through and offer a lending hand.
March4Women is the time for us all to show solidarity in empowering women to become better than what society sees us as. No human should be deemed weak based on their gender, and advancements toward equal treatment amongst all sexes need to be accomplished. A lot of work needs to be done, and while I work with my mother’s group in my community, I urge other women to work hand-in-hand with their communities to bring about change. Together, let’s help the girl child breathe a sigh of relief.