AGE Africa’s 5th annual All-Scholars Retreat in July brought together 88 secondary school students from throughout Malawi’s Southern Districts for a celebration of their achievements and opportunity to learn. The theme this year was: SHE Empowered! – Promoting Safety, Health, and Education for the Girl. The scholars hailed from all 22 of AGE Africa’s partner schools, and they came together in Blantyre for a week of education and fun!
The first day focused on issues of sexual and reproductive health and began with a talk and Q&A session by general practitioner, T. Bonyonga. The physician answered the girls’ practical questions and concerns on the issues they confront in their daily lives, ranging from hygiene to HIV/AIDS.
The afternoon invited local activist, Mphatso Jumbe, who spoke to the scholars about what it means to be a girl. She encouraged the scholars to discuss their responsibilities as girls and the importance of taking care of themselves in a healthy and responsible way. This was followed by a Malawian movie night, which touched on many of the themes of the conference, including issues of school dropout, gender-based violence, and sexual and reproductive health.
The second day of the retreat centered on gender-based violence. A local guest speaker took the girls through their rights and privileges, which protect them from gender-based and sexual violence under Malawian law. She also highlighted the importance of talking to others to help tackle the stigma that women often face once they have been affected by gender-based violence.
The afternoon saw the return of Mphatso Jumbe, who continued her talk from the previous day. She helped dissect scholars’ assumptions about gender roles, as well as how these roles create an environment for gender-based violence to occur.
The third and final day of the All-Scholars Retreat focused on education and exposed the girls to a diverse lineup of speakers, who represented a variety of different professions. A doctor, plumber, electrician, pharmacist, and architect all came in to share their journeys, as well as information about their field. Together, they showed the scholars that there are multiple paths to becoming successful and gaining independence!