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Jun 16, 2020

COVID-19 Naweza Report

Naweza Students Listen to Lessons Through Radio
Naweza Students Listen to Lessons Through Radio


An effective education response to the COVID-19 pandemic will need to address both acute needs brought on by mitigation efforts such as school closures and social distancing policies, as well as the longer-term needs that arise as a result of these mitigation efforts, such as loss of learning, post-traumatic stress, and education system disruption. Further, given the likelihood of recurrence of COVID-19 outbreaks, or the outbreak of another infectious disease, a response strategy should also seek to build resilience within education systems to the shocks brought on by these events.


  • • Phase 1 – Response to Urgent Needs: Immediate needs that arise in the event of mitigation efforts
  • • Phase 2 – Recovery from Long-Term COVID-19 Impacts on Education: Longer-term effects resulting from both the disease itself and the mitigation policies put in place, such as potential discrimination or post-traumatic stress, and learning loss due to disrupted schooling
  • • Phase 3 – Building Resilience to Infectious Disease Outbreaks: Changes in project design, processes, or service delivery, to withstand the disruptions of an ID outbreak

Each of the three phases of the Education Response will be guided by the key principles thereby ensuring staff and beneficiary safety and on-going support while focusing on continuity of learning. As the COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing and rapidly changing crisis, this response plan will be updated as new information, guidance, and resources emerge. This report provides an update of the response and recovery efforts of the Naweza project, according to the larger JRS and education-specific approach to COVID-19. Read the report attached for details.

The Naweza Mother’s Group Inspires Girls 

"It’s a beautiful ceremony on a memorable day!" These were the sentiments expressed by the President of the Naweza Mother’s Group on the day the secondary girls received their smartphones.

The Mother’s Groups have proved to be a hugely successful initiative. Comprised of mothers from the school’s catchment area, the Mother’s Groups aims to support girls in their education. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Mother’s Group has been reoriented in its role. They are providing accompaniment and safeguarding of the girls during the closure of schools. They are being provided mobile credit to listen to the unique concerns needs of the girls, as well as report and follow-up on cases of abuse that might occur during this period of confinement.

While activities are now being adapted and evaluated for COVID-19 Response, Recovery, & Resilience, the normal activities led by Mother’s Group include:

  • · Guidance and counseling sessions on a range of issues including MHM, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and child rights, and personal safety.
  • · Community awareness campaigns on the importance of education to challenge negative attitudes and perceptions, especially those towards the education of girls.
  • · Income-generating activities, such as maintaining school gardens and selling produce, provide financial support to vulnerable girls to cover the costs of uniforms, learning materials, and items to meet basic needs, including such as food.
  • · Identification of girls and boys who have dropped out of school and casework with them and their families to encourage and facilitate a return to education. They also encourage parents to become more involved in their child’s schooling by looking through exercise books and asking about school each day.

The Naweza Mother’s Group meets every fortnight, on Tuesdays, and provides a wide range of services for our girls in the camp and the community. In meetings, they explore factors that deter girls and boys from school and devise possible strategies to overcome these.

Gender-Responsive Education Considerations

Globally, refugee girls are vulnerable to exclusion from education opportunities due to their intersectional identity. They are often excluded first, by being girls, and further by being refugees. To address inequalities, JRS seeks to design and implement gender-responsive education (GRE) projects, or rather, programming that considers gender norms, roles, relations, and a difference in opportunities, and that target gender-based barriers to achieving equitable education outcomes. Gender-responsive projects are generally associated with improved development and humanitarian outcomes. Addressing gender-specific needs results in improved services for girls and women, boys, and men.

In times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, gender norms, and pre-existing inequalities disproportionately impact girls and women. This response plan recognizes that the COVID-19 situation affects girls, boys, women, and men differently. Gender, along with other factors, including age, disability, education level, ethnicity, gender identity, geographical location, etc. intersect to further compound gendered impact and intensify barriers to education. The crisis will impact all aspects of girls’ lives; we know this from the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, as well as the HIV pandemic.

Lessons learned from these experiences have taught us to apply a gender lens to our work, including gender analysis and informed gender-responsiveness into all phases of education response planning.

During COVID-19, restricted movement and strategies such as ‘shelter-in-place’ may put girls and women at greater risk. They might be confined with their abusers indefinitely. Access to overwhelmed health services, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH) will likely be reduced. Given the associated economic downturn, girls and women are more likely to turn to coping strategies, including transactional sex, other sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), and forms of gender-based violence (GBV), including trafficking.

For these reasons, it is important to include girls' and women’s voices in response plans. This pandemic – and the strategies we adopt in response – also present an opportunity to use gender transformative approaches to help address ongoing barriers to girls' and women’s education. The participation of girls and women in all phases can help to facilitate important economic and social changes that benefit communities at large.

As it relates to the education sector specifically, learning will be disrupted by school closings, disruptions in other education-related activities, and the preventative measures needing to be put in place. The responsibilities placed on girls and women will likely increase, as they remain at home. As continuity of learning moves to online platforms, we must remember that girls and women have less access to connectivity around the globe.

Where e-learning is possible, issues of cyber abuse and exploitation are new realities. Reduced economic activity will aggravate the reasons for and risk of early marriage and pregnancy. Lessons from other crises teach us that adolescent girls are at a higher risk of not returning to school after prolonged breaks.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) has published the following resources that are relevant to our education programs, and other areas of intervention during COVID-19 Response. Both are worth reading. However, knowing that JRS staff in the field overwhelmed, this guide seeks to synthesize notes that are related to our work within the education sector.


Feb 4, 2020

Naweza "I can" Progress Report

Girls' Club student participates during a session
Girls' Club student participates during a session

This report focuses on the achievements, challenges and success stories for Phase 1 of the Naweza Project. It also gives a plan of what should be done in the second phase, while we carry on the work that should be done in this phase.

Provision of scholarships for college students to improve access and quality of education
Currently, six students are in Malawian universities. Two girls are registered at Mzuzu University, studying Nursing and Information Systems, respectively. Since February 2019, are newer students registered with the Catholic University, studying Social work, Business studies and Nursing.

The current Mzuzu University students finished their second semester in March. They requested laptops to ease their school work and Naweza provided the much-needed laptop support. In Phase 1, the Naweza project facilitated 35 applications for youth who wanted to be considered for admission into public universities for the 2019/2020 academic year. Should the applicants be accepted, the young men and women will be funded by DAFI, a German scholarship program that supports young refugee men and women through public universities of the host country. There will be recruitment of a scholarship Coordinator funded by DAFI who will also oversee the scholarships for Naweza and DAFI.

This is an opportunity for Naweza because as DAFI concentrates on University scholarships, Naweza will increase its intake to target more girls with scholarships in secondary school.

Building fence around secondary school to improve security
As part of enhancing protection and security of girls in secondary school at Dzaleka, the Naweza project funded the construction of a school fence which is at 80% in terms of completion. The fence will be completed in the second phase of the project.
The fence has increased security, reduced vandalism to school property and encroachment of community members on school property. It was noted by the deputy head teacher that before the fence was erected, community members encroached on school land. Building the fence closer to the school has created a boundary and encroachment has been halted.

The fence has also reduced vandalism to the school. The deputy head teacher also said that before the fence the school had some of its property stolen and or vandalized the fence has helped reduced vandalism and theft of school property.
Building of the fence has enhanced security and protection of the students and teachers as well. The deputy teacher cited incidents where students could be attacked by passersby. She cited an instance where a stone was thrown through the window by an unknown assailant which was a protection issue at the school; however, the building of the fence has helped to make the school more secure and protected. The building of the fence has also helped teachers with student and time management. Without the fence it was easy for students to come to school at any time however with the building of the fence, it is easier to maintain discipline and manage time.

Naweza Clubs: Empowering Girls with Life Skills
Girls face many barriers to economic, personal and academic success. Although education is viewed as an opportunity within the community, it is a stressful and challenging time where girls face real threats to their development and often get little support. Studies have shown that girls who are well-prepared, well-supported, and able to withstand social and emotional pressures are better able to succeed in their academic careers. Furthermore, education translates into higher income for families, and higher levels of literacy for generations that come afterward. For refugee girls, there are many barriers to accessing education. To be successful, girls must protect their physical well-being, stand up for themselves, resist social pressure to drop out of school, and gain skills that sustain them.

At Naweza, we understand that girls will not be able to realize their rights without the knowledge and skills that will empower them to self-advocate for their own life choices, develop a sense of agency by cultivating their self-esteem and empowering them with the knowledge they need to stay safe, healthy, in school and in control of their lives. These critical ‘software’ aspects of girls’ development are the focus of the Naweza Girls’ Clubs. The clubs were specifically established to:
• Provide a safe space for girls to socialize, identify, and find home grown solutions to common problems;
• Create friendships and sisterhood for girls to encourage each other in their educational
• Empower girls to understand their rights and how to access these rights, as well as create consciousness among girls about gender and gender-related issues;
• Build confidence and assertiveness in girls to enhance their participation in school and in social activities;
• Help girls acquire various life skills, including leadership skills, critical thinking and public speaking skills.

Community engagement to promote girls’ education.

The engagement of diverse stakeholders helps to ensure support for the Naweza project. Although already discussed, there is need to underscore the importance of greater parental and community involvement in the project. There is also a need to involve teachers as focal persons in the school. In Phase 1, we carried out one community engagement session with the community at large. While we have engaged parents of students on the scholarship program on a regular basis, we have not done enough to raise community awareness of the importance of girls’ education and the prevalence of gender stereotyping within the community. We held community engagement meetings to sensitize the community on the need to educate and empower girls within Dzaleka community. The event was held on 4 December 2018 around Dzaleka camp, using theatre and dance to raise awareness on about the need to educate girls. We have also used the HIV awareness-sports- bonanza to increase the visibility Naweza project and its activities within the camp. Because of these awareness-raising initiatives, we are frequently consulted on issues regarding girls’ education and empowerment.

Distribution of sanitary pads

Through project implementation, we found that lack of sanitary products contributes to girls’ absenteeism from school, especially when they experience their menstrual period. The provision of secure toilets and menstrual supplies was deemed a promising strategy to promote girls’ attendance and performance in school. During Phase 1, the project provided 7000 sanitary packs – comprised of pads, Vaseline and soap—to help girls during their menstrual period and to keep them in school. Naweza has been distributing pads directly to the girls. Pads distributed by PLAN International Malawi (another implementing partner in the camp responsible in part, for the distribution of non-food items or NFIs). PLAN distributes pads to heads of household, who in turn, often sell the supplies. As a result, the girls—the intended beneficiaries—are not always receiving the sanitary pads.

After school program students of Naweza
After school program students of Naweza
Community awareness-raising about girls education
Community awareness-raising about girls education
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