Sentebale and the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA) have joined forces in Mulanje, Malawi. The pilot programme ‘Mawa Girls’ will deliver monthly clubs and week-long residential camps to support adolescent girls and young women’s retention in school. These sessions will address their sexual and reproductive health, as well as psychosocial well-being. The programme also envisages quarterly sessions with caregivers, to straighten their ability to support adolescent girls and women.
Mawa Girls, the word ‘mawa’ meaning ‘tomorrow’ in Chichewa, builds upon GAIA’s existing secondary school bursary programme, by incorporating Sentebale’s model of psychosocial support through clubs and camps. Trained young women from the local communities, called ‘Mawa Mentors’, will deliver the clubs and camps supporting 360 girls in this pilot year.
WHY IS THE MAWA GIRLS PROGRAMME VITAL?
Adolescent girls and young women are at the highest risk of new HIV infections globally.
Keeping girls in school is a proven protective factor against HIV. When girls stay in school, they have lower rates of early marriage, pregnancy and HIV.
According to UNICEF (2017), in the rural areas of Malawi, only 10% of young women aged 3-5 years above the graduation age have completed secondary school
When a girl is educated, she respects the rights of other girls, and also motivates other girls.
Mawa Girl, Elube
MEET MAWA GIRL, CHIMWEMWE
Chimwemwe* is a 17 year old student at Providence Secondary School in Mulanje. She is one of the first ‘Mawa Girls’, taking part in the programme designed to support young women like her through psychosocial support. When she and her friends were initially called to be informed about the programme, they were afraid they had broken the school rules. Much to their relief, and mild amusement, they were all very excited to hear what the programme entailed and how it can empower them as young women to overcome the challenges they face.
VOICE OF AMERICA COVERAGE
When Voice of America visited a Mawa Girls Club: ‘Two international charities have launched a program in Malawi aimed at helping girls in rural areas stay healthy and stay in school. The charities are running girls clubs in the Mulanje district in southern Malawi, a hotspot of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Nearly 10 percent of Malawians have the virus, and the bulk of new infections occur among people in their teens and early twenties. Lameck Masina reports from Malawi’s Mulanje district.’
Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Half of all girls marry before age 18.
According to UNAIDS, girls and young women suffer 70% of all new HIV infections in Malawi.
Note: the pictures in this page were taken in Lesotho in 2017 and 2018.