Joyce and Chrissie were best friends growing up together in rural Malawi. Joyce was smart, but Chrissie was the best student in primary school. And yet, when it was time to make the step up to secondary school, Chrissie's family couldn't afford the $6 fee. While Joyce continued her education, Chrissie married early, had many children and never left the village.
Today, Joyce has become President Joyce Banda, only the second female head of state in Africa and an uncompromising advocate of girls' education. After all, she doesn't want anyone to end up with the same struggles as Chrissie.
Banda launched her own foundation, Joyce Banda Foundation International, in 1997. Education is at the heart of its work - including offering free secondary school for orphans.
In Malawi, primary education is compulsory for all students and has been provided by the government for free since 1994. However, classrooms are overcrowded, supplies are sparse and teachers are often working with hundreds of students at once. Banda has repeatedly called on donors - from both governments and private corporations - to support not only primary education in Malawi, but also the secondary and tertiary stages as well.
Banda recently wrote: "When I travel through my country and talk to the people, I see myself and Chrissie in the children I meet, who are bursting with intelligence and creativity and joy."
While hosting delegates from the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, who visited Malawi in January, Banda reflected fondly on Dorothy Tembo, one of the first recipients of the Edith Ntila scholarship - named after Banda's late mother. Dorothy, an orphan, was able to attend Bunda College in 2006 and then won the scholarship to attend Makerere University in Uganda, where she earned her master's degree in agricultural economics.
"Now she's able to support herself and her family, because she was able to get educated," explained Banda. "Maybe it's not a topic that you or I would have wanted to study, but it changed her life."
To date the scholarship has been awarded to 117 students, but the Ntila bursary programme is just one of the many ways Banda is supporting education for women and girls. She also founded the Young Women Leaders Network and the Joyce Banda Foundation for Better Education, which both work towards improving social and economic conditions for women and girls throughout Malawi. In Banda's own words: "We cannot afford to squander the potential of girls such as Chrissie any longer."
Courtney E Martin is a blogger, speaker and author of five books, including Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How The Quest For Perfection Is Harming Young Women. Additional research by Elise Mann.
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