Creates opportunities for young women in Malawi through targeted initiatives in education, mentoring, and leadership development.
Advancing Girls’ Education (AGE) Africa provides secondary school scholarships, Career Guidance Education and participatory Life Skills programming in Malawi for 79 young women in public high schools and two at University. Additionally, through a partnership with a Malawian NGO, we support the Life Skills training of 400 young women.
Malawi is country where just 7% of girls finish high school, and less than 0.3% of women attend university. By comparison, 100% of AGE Africa’s students finish all four years of high school and last year 100% of the graduating class qualified for higher education. AGE Africa’s achievements are the result of an innovative approach that combines scholarships with youth development programs designed to halt attrition, and nurture self-awareness. AGE girls graduate with the ability to access educational opportunity, earn income, and to advocate for their own life choices in communities where few women are able to deviate from the norm.
- Mission | Theory Of Change
AGE Africa’s mission is to provide life-changing opportunities for young women in Malawi through targeted initiatives in education, mentoring and leadership development. In the short-term AGE Africa’s goal is to graduate talented young women from severely impoverished backgrounds who are equipped with the knowledge, and self-confidence they need to make informed choices about their futures.
In the long-term AGE Africa believes that gender equity in Africa can be achieved through a critical mass of female graduates who are empowered by learning and self-awareness to inspire social change in their home communities. The organization is committed to growing this critical mass by developing programs that can work hand in hand with the existing systems to accelerate the pace of that change. Their goal is to create a best practice model for girls’ retention and achievement in school that has proven results in every tier of public secondary education in Malawi. In 2010, AGE Africa started working towards this goal by piloting and documenting the impact of their program model in different tiers of schools. In 2011, they increased their student base by 200% in under 10 months, and in 2012 they will have their largest graduating class since founding.
- History | Track Record
AGE Africa was founded in 2005 by graduate student, Xanthe Scharff Ackerman. While interning with CARE in Malawi, Xanthe published an article that featured a Malawian mother in a rural village whose daughter (Matilda) who was unable to attend school because the family could only afford to send one child, and so had sent a boy. Moved by the injustice of Matilda’s story, readers donated funds to support her education. AGE Africa was founded by reader donations and aggregated into a scholarship fund for the first 5 AGE students. In 2007, after two years of watching its students struggle to stay in school despite their scholarships, AGE Africa’s team began to think critically about how to bridge the gap. Between 2008 and 2010, AGE hired its first program team, conducted a baseline study to understand students’ core needs, and piloted their first extra-curricular programming. In the latter half of 2010, AGE Africa drafted a strategic plan for programmatic growth and developed a vision for affecting systemic change. Since that time, AGE has tripled its student base while dramatically increasing student outcomes: in 2012, all graduates will apply to higher education!
- Grant Usage
A grant from One Percent Foundation will support AGE Africa’s engagement at one new school—funding the educations and personal development of 10 young women. AGE is poised for this growth. There are currently two target schools they would like to engage by year-end but they need the support of new funders like OPF to get there. Their goal: 120 girls in 2012. Each young woman who is added to the program receives four years of a full scholarship, small business training, sexual & reproductive health education, gender-based violence prevention, leadership development and the information she needs to access tertiary education.
- Financial, Staffing, & Project Summary
AGE Africa began 2011 with a $72,000 cash operating reserve, which appears as part of their year-end balance. Excluding this sum, their surplus was only $22,000 at the close of FY2011. Because they are committed to growing the budget and programs responsibly, this $22,000 surplus will be added to the operating reserve for 2012. The organization has 4 full-time staff members (1 in the US, 3 in Malawi) and 5 part-time staff (1 in the US, 4 faculty volunteers in Malawi).
- Working Group Analysis
Core to AGE Africa’s theory of change is a commitment to the idea that social change occurs through the awareness, empowerment and engagement of young people. Just as AGE Africa uses education as a medium towards this end, The One Percent Foundation cultivates a sustained commitment to philanthropic giving and community engagement. Most AGE students come from villages where there are no women who’ve made it past the 8th grade and where few are literate. AGE Africa believes that by pursuing healthy, productive futures, young women will inspire generations of girls behind them who’ve never had the ability or courage to imagine a future that’s different from a life of rural subsistence farming. The organization is already seeing this begin to take hold: their students tell them again and again how they are unequivocally committed to helping their communities and the girls who will come after them. The AGE program seeks to instill a sense of responsibility, personal commitment and self-awareness. AGE believes that OPF’s core values of engagement, community, responsibility, respect and commitment mirror the foundation of their work.
- Nominator Endorsement
Aileen Goldstein: AGE Africa’s mission is highly focused: they work exclusively on young women’s education in Malawi, specifically getting girls engaged in their primary education so that they are positioned to continue on to college. This matters in a country where only 7% of young women receive secondary education (contrast this with roughly 50% of young women in Kenya). AGE also continually re-assess their program, iterating around the results they see each year. Consequently, their graduation results have been improving steadily. Only now that they’re seeing this progress are they beginning to expand, and their plans are ambitious but achievable. They have established contacts at the Ministry of Education in Malawi to extend the AGE curriculum to all schools in the country. If they can achieve the same success at the country’s lowest-rated schools that they have achieved at current schools with the AGE curriculum, the government will adopt their program. OPF’s grant will enable AGE to engage one of these low-tier schools. They have two already identified, so the project is “shovel-ready.”