Fellow: Zione Musa
Grant Year: 2019
Location: TA Changata, Malawi
Organization: Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM)
Project title: Empowering Girls Through Education
Project summary: Culturally in Malawi, when a girl becomes pregnant outside of marriage she brings shame to her parents and is expected to get married to the man responsible for the pregnancy, or risk being ridiculed by the community. Having a baby without a husband makes the girl child vulnerable, and exposes her to discrimination and mockery from her peers, often preventing her from going back to school. Despite the existence of a Readmission Policy in Malawi that allows girls who become pregnant to return to school, in TA Changata, teen mothers are stigmatized and bullied at school if they attempt to return after their pregnancy. In addition, parents often fear that these girls might become pregnant again if they go back to school and often push their daughters to get married if they are pregnant to avoid ridicule by the community.
According to a study done in TA Changata in June 2018, culture is playing a major role in teen mothers dropping out of school. In Thyolo TA Changata, 100% of the girls surveyed indicated community pressure as the main obstacle for them in returning and staying in school. The majority mentioned negative school environments as another contributing factor that kept them from returning to school. To address this issue, CRECCOM is aligning their advocacy strategy with CHIPESO and building on their work with CRECCOM girl leaders and the girls trained by GENET in TA Changata. Together they will advocate with the school boards and the Traditional Authority of Changata to create and implement a comprehensive anti-discrimination by-law focused on ensuring safe home and school environments for teen mothers that return to school.