How important is a woman’s education? AGE Africa believes that it is important enough to be invested in. AGE Africa, which stands for “Advancing Girls’ Education,” is an organization that was founded in 2005 by Xanthe Ackerman, a graduate student interning in Malawi. Ackerman wrote and published an article called “What It’s Like to Live on $1 a Day,” which followed a mother living in Malawi and tracked how she spent her meager daily wages. One of her daughters was unable to attend high school because the family did not have enough money to pay for the annual $156 tuition, as well as uniforms, books, and other supplies. Readers of the magazine in which this article was published sent in donations to fund this girl’s education; eventually, enough money was raised for her and six other girls in the same village to attend high school. From that point onwards, AGE Africa sprouted. Today, it continues to expand its scholarship funds and provide young women with the education they deserve.
Less than 6 percent of women in Malawi attend and graduate high school, and only 0.1 percent of women continue their education past college. These statistics are not surprising, considering the difficulties women must face to qualify for high school or even get there. This is exhibited by the startling fact that Malawian girls have to walk on average 10 kilometers a day to attend school. To make matters worse, girls are burdened with household responsibilities that are mentally and physically taxing, clearly a detriment to their ability to be alert and engaged in the classroom.
AGE Africa works intensely to gain both support and donations to fund as many scholarships for girls as possible. Eliminating tuitions for good schooling in a country where the average family makes well under $1,000 per year is an extremely effective solution. Families in turn become more receptive to sending girls to school, and gender barriers can be removed in Malawian education.
In addition to aiding Malawi with educational issues, AGE Africa helps address other poverty related social issues such as teen pregnancy and child marriage. To ensure awareness about these problems, the after school program Creating Healthy Approaches to Success (CHATS) was initiated. The program influences girls on how to make the best decisions for themselves and how to advocate for themselves. CHATS clubs are now attended by 1,000 girls from 23 schools in Southern Malawi. Within CHATS, 90 percent of the young women are graduating from high school. Furthermore, 91 percent of these girls are not getting married or having children until after they turn 18, showing the success of the CHATS program in providing education on sexual and reproductive health. With the help of programs like this, women are on their way to becoming the most literate and educated members of their community.
Women have just as much of a right and just as much of a will to learn as any man. They should not be limited to household roles, and instead should be supported by their communities and by those in more fortunate positions so that they may have opportunities to gain social mobility. If you are interested in getting involved with this organization, there will be a 10K run/walk in support of AGE Africa in Ithaca on June 11, at 8:00 a.m. Visit the AGE Africa website (ageafrica.org) and email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and to donate.