Taking CHARGE through CHATS: A program to reach 12000 girls in secondary school in Malawi
by Kristina Lederer, AGE Africa
Last September, at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative, Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa (AGE Africa) joined a collaboration of 30 civil society organizations, governments, private sector partners, and multilateral organizations in making a historic commitment to improve educational and leadership opportunities for young women and girls. This alliance, ‘CHARGE:’ Collaborative Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education, is spearheaded by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Julia Gillard, Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Universal Education and former Australian Prime Minister. Altogether, CHARGE has committed over $600 million dollars to reach 14 million girls over five years, and according to a Press Release by the Clinton Foundation, the initiative will “ensure that girls can attend and complete primary and secondary school; make schools safer and more secure; improve the quality of learning for girls; support girls’ transitions to higher education and employment; and cultivate local country leaders to champion this work at the grassroots level” (September 2014).
While the gender gap has narrowed in many countries over the past two decades, Malawi is a country that has particularly poor statistics regarding girls’ educational attainment. In Malawi, girls are under-enrolled in secondary school, compared to boys, nearly 2:1. Nationwide, less than 27% of girls enroll in secondary school, and less than one quarter of those who enroll will graduate. Less than 1% of girls will go on to higher education. For this reason, AGE Africa’s mission is to provide life-changing educational opportunities to young women in Malawi through targeted initiatives in education, mentoring, and leadership development. Their core curriculum, Creating Healthy Approaches to Success (CHATS), is a peer-led mentoring and “Girls’ Club” program which targets the multiple causes of girls’ dropout by giving them the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy life choices. Through CHARGE, AGE Africa has proudly committed to scaling up their CHATS program to reach 12,000 girls enrolled in rural secondary schools in Malawi by the year 2019. CHATS Girls Clubs utilize peer-to-peer facilitation, leadership, self-advocacy, career guidance and life skills education as tools to address the multiple causes of dropout and to give young women viable alternatives to early marriage and early pregnancy. To learn more about CHATS, visit AGE Africa’s website here.
At the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative, Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton announced the launch of No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, in partnership with the Brookings Center for Universal Education. This initiative seeks to fulfill the “unfinished business of the 21st century” to advance the status of girls and women. To facilitate the work of CHARGE, No Ceilings has committed to convene the collaborative, track progress, and enable outreach to future partners. "I am so proud and grateful to all who have joined this exceptional initiative,” said Julia Gillard. “We are here today to make a difference, to tackle head-on the next generation of girls’ education issues. It is our job to ensure that girls not only have access to education, but also to a quality education and unbounded horizons for future opportunity. Our work begins now” (2014).
Kristina Lederer is the Director of Development at AGE Africa.