THROUGH ; Girls empowerment through education and health ( ASPIRE )

This Project is sponsored by: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

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Diana Michongwe, 17, from Jali Village, T/A Mwambo in Zomba district is a standard 8 teen mother at Ntonda primary school. The girl comes from a single-parent headed family of 5 and due to inability to take care of the 5 children after loss of her husband; the single mother took Diana to her brother in Phalombe to stay. Whilst in Phalombe, due to peer pressure, Diana started sexual relationship with a young man within the community. Later on, Diana was found pregnant and her family married her to the man responsible for her pregnancy. So, in 2015, Diana dropped out of school and got married. Because of the bad moments she experienced in marriage, she did not stay long at her husband's place but returned to her mother where she stays up until now. She delivered her baby girl who is one year and some months old. Though she had dropped out of school, Diana still wished she was in school but could not realize it that there is still a room for her as a mother.

Lucky she was! ASPIRE Activity which has interventions aimed at empowering girls through education and health was introduced in Zomba not long after she delivered her child. School/Community stakeholders were trained to conduct community sensitization meetings on girl child education. Through these sensitization meetings, there has been a great change in the way people understand girls' education. Such change has been seen for at Ntonda primary school where 8 girls (including teen mothers) have been enrolled back to school after dropping out. As reported by the Head teacher, this term has seen a greater increase in enrollment of girls than boys. Previously, total number of girls enrolled at this school was not exceeding 820, but with ASPIRE interventions; they are closing with a total number of 867 girls against 843 boys.

Through these ASPIRE interventions, Diana was visited and was influenced to go back to school. Mrs. Madalitso Msowoya, her teacher saw how intelligent the girl was before dropping out hence, got her enrolled back. Right now, Diana is repeating standard 8 and her teachers have higher expectations from the girl. Diana's mother whom at first had no problems with her daughter dropping out of school now understands how good it is to educate a girl child. In order to support Diana fully, she took responsibility of nursing Diana's son. The only challenge she saw was availability of funds to buy school uniform and pay MANED standard 8 Exam ID card. Lucky enough, Mrs. Msowoya bought a school uniform while other teachers contributed towards ID card fee. As of now, Diana has all it requires for one to sit for standard 8 final exams.

As a teen mother, Diana explained that at her school, teen mothers are accommodated as learners like any other. This pushes her to work even more hard and realize her dream of becoming a nurse and be able to support her son.

Story By: Roselyn Chunda