International Women’s Day
March 8, 2014
In 2003, Malawi PEN initiated a programme for promoting reading and writing in disadvantaged schools. Three schools were identified, the Chichiri Reformatory School which admits in-mates from the Chichiri Prison; the Ntcheu Community Day Secondary School which is a rural school established as a makeshift establishment, initially supported on a self-help basis; and the Nkhamenya Girls’ Secondary School, located in rural Malawi, to support girls’ education.
Whilst the Chichiri Reformatory School does not accommodate female students because of logistic problems, Ntcheu has quite a substantive population of girls. The total enrollment ratio stands at 3:7.
When the programme proved to be successful and had to be enlarged, the Luchenza Community Secondary School was added to the project. The school’s writers club boasts a girl-boy ratio of 4:6. This is very commendable as culturally, girls are expected to be shy and resigned by society.
In all these partner schools our message is to encourage girls to fight on despite their vulnerable status. There is a campaign going on in Malawi that advocates for young women who dropped out of school, for reasons beyond their control at the time, to go back to school. At Malawi PEN, we support the move. All young women who return to school within our programmes are provided with support either on a case by case basis or as a team.
The inclusion of the Namisu Women’s Reading Club was a result of our advocacy work. When we received information about the formation of the club, we decided to include it in the project as we felt the move required specialized attention in the field of literature. Our support fits the group’s aims because the starting point for the reading club participants is the reading of literary materials before including other reading materials on HIV and AIDS, farming, environment, gender, climate change and health.
We are now about to start translating some of these materials into Chichewa since most materials are in English and that at the group’s current literacy level, is proving difficult tograsp , thereby delaying the pace of the exercises. We will engage in this translating exercise in the coming segment of the project.
We have just concluded a short story writing competition at the Chancellor College Writers’ Workshop. The competition long-list comprised 8 participants, 4 males and 4 females. We looked at the results with a sense of satisfaction and we consider this as a challenge since we do not want to see any slips. It is in our strategy that whatever thrust we engage in, gender equalityis given special attention.