Rotary club helps bring success to Malawi girls

Oak Bay Saanich #yyj

Success is being seen in the form of smiling faces bearing graduation certificates from the Atsikana Pa Ulendo (Girls on the Move) school in Malawi, thanks in part to local Rotary Clubs.

Last Saturday the secondary school, near Lilongwe, Malawi, saw 72 girls graduate after completing four years of schooling.

The project was supported by Rotarians across the country, including Oak Bay Rotary, which hosted the school’s co-founders in November 2008.

“Our club gives a couple thousand a year towards the school fees for the girls, but we also put up $11,400 two years ago to put in a water system for the school,” said Oak Bay Rotary president John Edgell. “It is one of the treasured projects in the Oak Bay Rotary Club.”

Rotary member Tricia Timmermans went to Malawi in 2005, before the school was built, and has made this school a focus of her attention for the last six years. Her motivation stems from the fact Malawi women are typically married off by the time they’re 14, their future already written.

“These girls are now understanding that they are actual people, and are people with a choice. To me, that’s huge,” Timmermans said.

Three of the girls will be coming to Canada on full scholarships, including one student who’ll attend Pearson College in Metchosin. The college shares a connection with the Malawi school through Christie Johnson, who helped found  Atsikana Pa Ulendo and now works at Pearson.

Gender inequality is a huge issue in Malawi, which prevents many women from getting an education. The school provides girls with the experience to become self-sufficient through education, rather than having someone else make decisions on their behalf.

“I think that the school has a great future,” Timmermans said. “These girls will have a great future, their families will have a much better future than what they would’ve had without an education.”

For more information on the school, visit www.malawigirlsonthemove.com.

– with files from Oak Bay News

kslavin@saanichnews.com