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Let's Learn! Girls Education Baseline Study for Theatre for a Change Malawi

A significant barrier that keeps girls out of school in Malawi is poor sexual reproductive health. In Malawi, almost 9% of girls who dropped out of school in 2010 did so because of early marriage and pregnancy, also citing embarrassment around menstruation as a reason for missing school. Through support from the Girls Education Challenge, the Tiphunzire (Let's Learn!) projected aims to improve the access, retention, and learning outcomes of marginalized girls in primary school through improved self-confidence and sexual and reproductive health.

Through funding from the Girls' Education Challenge and a partnership with the Malawian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST). After determining the right conditions for scale-up, TfaC has now trained an additional 300 female teachers to become "Agents of Change" in their schools and communities.

Tiphunzire began implementation of the project in 2013 by establishing 36 girls clubs across 10 districts, actively promoted girls' education in over 100 communities through Radio Programming and Home Visits. These initiatives aim to improve the sexual and reproductive health of marginalized girls, boost their literacy and numeracy and challenge social norms that diminish the life chances of marginalized girls'. In so doing they hope to enhance their autonomy and create empowering environments for girls. Scope of Work This year the project aims to scale it's activities to an additional 189 schools and learn the context of the new intervention sites. The Year 2 Baseline Study describes this project context, frames the current development problem and entertains a set of recommendations. Method To do this, One South designed and conducted a mixed-methods evaluation approach to measure the project's impact in a quasi-experimental way and present the main views about what works to improve the life chances of marginalized girls in these schools and community using a variety of qualitative methods. Insights

  • A girls' self-esteem predicts her sexual and reproductive behavior. A girls' self-appreciation of worth relates to decisions about abstention, contraceptive use and saying 'no' to unwanted sex. In rural Malawi, marriage and pregnancy are often dissociated suggesting that mothers are likely to be the most marginalized group in the intervention.

  • Associational tests also show that girls live in autonomy-supportive environments tend to have higher self-esteem as well as those have a healthy relationship with their parents (the father in particular). At school, boys are important creators of safe-environments, as many were identified as sources of bullying and demotivation to go to school.

  • Girls who are out of school are three times more likely to be non-readers than their in-school counterparts. However, out-of-school girls are better are performing mathematics word problems, showing a strong disposition to numeracy learning.

  • Full attendance yields higher literacy, but only partially so for numeracy. Girls who attended school more frequently scored higher on the literacy subtests of oral reading fluency but not on the overall EGRA tests.

Results Tiphunzire will use the information gathered to tailor their approach to the context of the sixnew districts. To do so, the project will seek to work closely with existing school management structures (such as Mother Groups) to identify and individually target the most vulnerable and institute Child Protection Policies. Results also validated the project's focus on sexual and reproductive health and the Girls' Club model as methods to enhance a girls' attitudes towards education and life success. However, the advocacy approach will seek to actively include boys as a key audience and deepen inclusive strategies. Given the importance of the family as a source of self-esteem, the project will seek to learn further from AoCs home visits and enhance their support.

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