Bea shares how Theatre for a Change and the Malawian government collaborate for the benefit of women and girls.

Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) activities are conducted in 225 schools in 10 District across Malawi and involve more than 300 female teachers. Theatre for a Change works in partnership with a variety of government personnel who act as Facilitators/Agents of Change (AoC) and Supervisors (Government School Health and Nutrition Coordinators (SHNs) take on this role specifically). During the implementation period, other stakeholders were also briefed on the project. Primary Education Advisors (PEAs), the Head teachers of the 225 schools involved in the GEC and Social Welfare Officers were informed as their operational areas concern Child Protection, which is a vital area of the project. Members of the communities around the schools’ catchment areas were also informed, as they act as a strong support group for the AoCs.

SHN Coordinators have also acted as Club monitors from the inception of the our GEC project. They visit the schools in their districts to monitor Girls’ Clubs, School Listening Clubs, Community Listening Clubs and Open Days. During their monitoring trips, SHN coordinators provide support and act on feedback given to the AoCs in terms of facilitation and general issues affecting individual schools. SHN Coordinators have been trained in our methodology which ensures that they conduct their duties to a high standard and report back to the office with accurate information. Theatre for a Change and the SHNs have worked together to plan and conduct review meetings which have been used as sharing forums for stakeholders in all 10 districts to share project progress and discuss the sustainability of the GEC project as we approach its final year.

During the review meetings it was noted that due to the good coordination between Theatre for a Change, SHNs and AoCs, there’s very good progress being made in areas of concern that were raised during Project Survey, such as:

  • Mastery of numeracy and literacy skills
  • The effects of poor Sexual and Reproductive Health like school absenteeism
  • Development of life skills and personal qualities amongst girls and AoCs, such as confidence and self-esteem

GEC Project Officers were informed who the government contacts were relating to the project focus areas and service delivery at community level. This collaboration with stakeholders is very important because areas that need immediate attention at a grass roots level can be attended to instantly and each party can help one another. This collaboration allows everyone at this local level to have a clear role in GEC activity, as they have had a detailed insight into what is their responsibilities are in the projects and interventions. This teamwork helps the Malawian government to reach and positively impact girls involved in the GEC Project and the girls have been made aware through their activities that the people in their locality are also involved and care about their education.

The activities that TfaC provide place emphasis on raising the self-esteem of the girls and equipping them with skills and knowledge on how and where to report any abuse, should it come their way as they pursue with their education. This is one of the many issues the Malawian government is working on as it tries to prevent early school dropout.

The long term vision of this partnership is that contacts and people with interest in schools like Head teachers, Mothers’ Groups, Parents, Teachers, Chiefs, Child Protection Officers, Primary Education Advisors and the District Officers will become and remain pillars of hope for sustaining the girls’ raised confidence, self-esteem and ensure that girls do stay in school and achieve their goals.

A number of lessons have been learned during the implementation period of the GEC Tiphunzire Sessions:

  • AoCs have the ability to motivate girls through the specific GEC activities.
  • Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues have an impact on girls’ education and if more light is shed on these issues, girls can excel in their education.
  • Involvement of parents during sessions is a wonderful platform to enhance parent /child interaction which gets them talking about SRH issues.
  • As for flow of information about project activities, all stakeholders at all levels should be given a chance to appreciate the essence of the Project.
  • The AoCs should be reminded that it is every stakeholder’s responsibility to ensure timely implementation of areas of focus.

Highlights of this partnership in the GEC Project are:

  • Our methodology encourages a fun and relaxed environment during club sessions and this has increased confidence in the girls.
  • Parents’ involvement during Community Listening Clubs removed some barriers that were prohibiting free interaction between the elders and the girls.
  • Open Days held once a term show cases the high esteem that has developed amongst girls and also serves as an encouragement to the community as the girls display assorted skills learnt during club activities.
  • It is possible to break through the culture of silence on issues of SRH through listening to such radio programmes in the presence of parents or guardians.