Education is the Key
20th July 2018:
A day or two in the life of an amazing woman
About ten years ago we met this young woman working on womens issues in a village. What was noticeable about her was her confidence and how her views were valued and accepted for the Chief on the day. We kept an eye on her and gradually encouraged her to come and work for us, as a volunteer to begin and later as an employee. One evening as we drove back from a project I asked her about herself and her story and what I remember most was how anxious she was to go back to schools and finish her Secondary schooling. When I suggested that she could run the Country she smiled and maybe we both had a few tears as we agreed that we would support her going back to Year 1 of four years in Secondary School indicating the value women put on this basic right that we all take for granted.
We supported her with fees and what was needed to go to what is called night school, starting about 1 pm and ending at 5. She has agreed to use her husband’s bike. One day I asked what happens if you are late and its dark: My husband comes to meet me was the answer and then I realised that even with an early marriage and while she had to give up school while her brothers went, she had found a great man, a rarity in Malawi. Even now while she works full time he looks after their special needs daughter, their first child.
So she was the ideal person to to look after our Girl Child Project when we started this madness of supporting girls in Secondary school some years ago. She has the discipline and the respect. She knows all of our 262 girls, all about them and their parents and carers and has no problem of getting on her bike to sort out issues, AND there are issues all the time but no better woman to find solutions, Malawian solutions.
Recently she resolved an issue of the abduction of two 12 year old girls (maybe for trafficking) in a village where we support girls. The local village headman called her (yes they have nothing but they do have phones!). She worked with Social welfare, the police and sat with the judge while giving a tough sentence to the men responsible.
This week she was asked to help by a mother whose daughter had a forced marriage to an older man with a wife and family already. On this occasion she messaged me to seek advice. I suggested maybe we should go for it and maybe set an example. She contacted her Chief Inspector friend in the Police, dealing with abuse cases. This woman agreed to take over the case. Of course it took a first visit, 24 km each way, with our vehicle and two police to investigate and next day the same with 3 officers for the arrest.
The man had 3 nights and 4 days in jail and the girl was returned to her mother, but only after Florence brought her to the General Hospital for a pregnancy and AIDS test which thankfully proved negative.
May I add a little nasty piece. DIFID and UNICEF support this centre, but have failed to join any few dots to add a vehicle or fuel and somehow hoped for some type of Malawian Magic to solve this issue.
Other organisations just support and forget while the girlchild gets left behind.
Cases like this will make a real difference even in remote villages.
The word will get around and an example will be set.