Malawi, Africa is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Over 70% of the population lives on less than $1 per day. Malawian women bear most of the burden of work in this impoverished country, and society treats them as second-class citizens. They walk miles to fetch firewood and carry water. They run households, cook for their families, work in the fields and care for the children, the elderly and the sick. As if that weren’t burden enough, the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has meant that women must shoulder additional responsibilities, including caring for orphans.
Over ¼ million children ages six to eleven never enroll in school at all. Only 40% of the girls who do enroll ever finish primary school, and just 11% of the females in Malawi receive a secondary school education. The chronic under-education of girls occurs because public education does not extend beyond elementary school, and most families do not have the funds they need for their children’s secondary education. If they do have some savings, they invariably elect to support the male members of the family.
When Malawian girls drop out of school, they usually end up getting married by the tender age of 14 or parenting their orphaned siblings. Yet, study after study proves increased female participation in the educational system in third world countries has numerous tangible positive benefits, including the following:
An extra year of primary school can boost eventual wages by 10% to 20%. An extra year of secondary school, adds 15% to 25% to wages. Further, when women earn an income, they tend to reinvest 90% of it into their families, compared to 30% to 40% for men. Women buy things that are essential to the betterment of their families such as books, medicines, bed nets, etc. Studies also show that girls who stay in school for seven or more years typically marry four years later and have two fewer children than girls who drop out of school.
Based on these statistics, VoiceFlame saw an opportunity to make a difference in Malawi, Africa. Through writing workshops, writing leadership training, education scholarships, cross-cultural learning journeys, and creative communication projects, VoiceFlame aims to help women find their voices and become empowered to change their lives. Our goal is to help women speak up for themselves in their families and communities, recognizing they are not the problem, but the solution to the problem.