Meet the young woman from Malawi empowering girls to live healthier, happier lives
Lucy Nkhoma - Salima, Malawi
Global Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
With 71% living on less than $2/day, Malawi is one of the 20
poorest countries in the world. For adolescent girls in Malawi, life can be
especially difficult and full of challenges. 34% of adolescent girls fall pregnant before the age of
18 – due to a combination of
lack of education about reproductive health, ill-equipped health services, and
pervasive sexual abuse and forced marriage. Once pregnant, girls are usually
then banned from any further education and miss out on opportunities to develop
But Lucy Nkhoma sees signs of change and signs of hope. She is positive that by empowering girls in her community, girls can live healthier, happier lives.
“Sometimes it’s so hard to comprehend that in this day and age there are girls and women in my community that do not have access to basic sanitary products, there are girls faced with early marriage, and there are so few girls and women in leadership roles. But I am determined to change this, because by educating girls we can change the world. And I’ve seen good things happen already.”
Lucy is bringing about change for girls in her community through her work with the Malawi Girl Guides Association (MAGGA), where she sits on the National Board and is involved in the Association’s decision-making processes. She is also a trainer for Guide leaders and peers.
“I never got the chance to be a Rainbow or a Girl Guide when I was young. Then a few years ago I heard that the GOLD team, which is Guiding Overseas Linked with Development, from the UK would be running a camp in Salima. I decided to participate and went along with all my passion and spirit. And now I can proudly say that I am a four-year-old Guide!”
Lucy is currently working on the MAGGA’s non-formal education projects that help girls learn about important health issues and risks and improve girls’ access to adolescent-friendly health services. Whilst these projects deliver positive change at a local level, the work of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts greatly contributes to a bigger, global picture.
“Our projects are so important for what they bring to the local community, but they are also a way of involving girls in global development activities. Our work will help to ensure that the Global Goals for Sustainable Development are achieved, and the girls can be part of working towards the success of Goal 3 – Health and Well-Being and Goal 5 – Gender Equality. Girls will be able to proudly say they helped to make a better future.”
Project activities include the establishment of girl-only clubs in schools, and training teachers and Girl Guides to become leaders and patrol leaders who support younger Guides. The projects also deliver comprehensive reproductive health and menstrual management education for girls, including training teachers, Guide leaders, mothers’ groups and girls in sewing of reusable sanitary pads and also providing the sewing starter packs.
“Talking about sex and menstruation can be really tough for some girls. They can find it highly embarrassing, or because of the taboo nature of the subject, it may be something they know nothing about. Our projects aim to ensure that adolescent girls are informed about and empowered to access health services that address sex education, reproductive health rights, HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence for girls who are both in and out of school. Through the projects, we really want girls to participate and take on leadership positions within their schools and communities.”
One project that has seen particular success is MAGGA’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Project, which is run in three districts in the country, aimed at raising awareness and providing information about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) relating to HIV/AIDS. To date, over 6000 girls have been reached with SRH education and nearly 5000 community members across 3 districts of Malawi have received training on the importance of girls’ education and health. As a result of MAGGA’s training and workshops, 45 chiefs are actively taking action to improve girls’ access to education and health services within their communities. The project has since been used as an example of best practice in SRH and HIV/AIDS education, and made available to other World Association of Girl Guides and Scouts member organizations and other partners.
MAGGA is also working in partnership with UNICEF and the World Food Programme, to ensure girls in Malawi continue with their education as well as develop life skills. If girls have to dropped out of school for any reason, MAGGA is encouraging them to return.
“It is wonderful to see that the physical and emotional health and well-being of the girls and young women involved in these projects has greatly improved. We’ve seen girls and women become confident to take on leadership roles, bringing about a real sense of gender equity. The projects’ success is also evident in the numbers of youth participating in their communities and becoming involved in decision making. This sort of success brings the attainment of the Global Goals a step closer to being a reality. The Global Goals are about making a better future, where everyone can access healthcare, be vaccinated against diseases, and have the opportunity to have good health and well-being. Girls and women are vital to making this happen, and should have their voices heard, be enabled to participate in taking action to change the world, and have that participation valued.”
Being a Girl Guide has brought an array of experiences, developments and achievements into Lucy’s life, something she puts down to the sense of integrity and citizenship that comes with Guiding:
“I live honestly by my own value system, with self-respect and self-worth. I take responsibility for my own development and actions. I am an active, informed and respectful member of the community; I appreciate diversity and contribute to making a positive difference in the world. Through the Girl Guides I have made life-long friends, gained confidence in training girls and young women and have developed and demonstrated my leadership skills.”
Girls like Lucy around the world are working on projects to change their worlds, one step at a time.
Make a start on your own project to make a change in your community with the #TeamGirl challenge
Projects like this one in Malawi would not be possible without the support you can provide. Join #TeamGirl and help fund the change.