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“It made a big difference in my life to be able to have skills. I did not get a chance to learn at school because I became a mother, but I am now still able to achieve something for my family with my sewing business.” – Betina
When she was just a teenager, Betina became pregnant, got married, and was forced to drop out of school. Her education had already been patchy and she struggled with even basic literacy and numeracy skills. Growing up in a rural region of southern Malawi, where poverty and a lack of opportunities for young people already make life difficult enough, Betina felt isolated and helpless. She struggled to get enough food for her growing family and, without any basic skills, she was forced to get by on piecemeal work and by labouring on a farm.
The literacy rate in Malawi is considerably higher than in neighbouring countries, with 72 percent of young people aged 15 to 24 able to read, but this statistic really only tells half the story. The state of girls’ education in Malawi is in a critical condition. Girls like Betina still face cultural norms that promote early marriage, a lack of access to good sexual health education and a pressure on families to invest in sons rather than daughters. More than 40 percent of girls will be married in Malawi by the time they are 18 years old.
Betina is now a happy and healthy young woman in her twenties, who is able to care for her children. She was supported by a local organisation, with whom All We Can work in Malawi, to gain literacy and numeracy skills and was given advice on how to look after herself and her baby. Later, she received specialist vocational training as a seamstress.
“I learnt how to keep account of the money I would get, I learnt what foods would help me with staying healthy and I learnt how to run a business. Now I am able to sell clothes and make money. I am thankful for the training I got as it helped me a lot.”
Betina spoke passionately about her hope of seeing other girls receive the same kind of support, “I believe all girls should have a good chance in life! I think more girls should be able to finish school or have help to succeed.”
All We Can is now supporting young women like Betina to reach their full potential. Classes are held which enable girls to gain basic literacy and numeracy skills, equipping them to get back into school or to run a small business successfully.
£24 could enable a teenage mother in Malawi to return to school and learn the vital skills of reading, writing and arithmetic – unlocking the barrier to achieving her full potential. Give an Extraordinary Gift this Christmas. Find out more at allwecan.org.uk/gifts
Laura works for All We Can as the Communications Manager. She is also an internationally acclaimed photographer with a passion for women's rights. She is studying MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies in her spare time and lives with her husband Stephen in Essex.