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2nd National Girls' Education Conference

On June 1, the 2nd National Girls’ Education Conference was hosted by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology – “Working Together Towards Promoting Opportunities for Girls through Quality Education”. At the event, Ambassador Haugen gave a speech with reference to the Joint Programme on Girls’ Education (JPGE) funded by the Norwegian Embassy and the importance of sectors working together to support each other’s investments in adolescent girls and young women’s opportunities in Malawi.

Honourable Minister, Emanuel Fabiano, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

Principle Secretaries

Chief Directors and directors

Representatives for international partners – multilateral and bilateral

Ladies and gentlemen

Friends and colleagues

All protocols observed


  • Too many girls and boys in Malawi do not complete their basic education. This has grave consequences, not only for the children or youth themselves, but also for Malawi as a country. The young population of Malawi needs education so that they can break the inter-generational cycle of poverty, and further contribute to economic growth and development of the nation. It is very difficult to harness the potential of the youth if large youth populations are uneducated.
  • The situation for adolescent girls and young women in Malawi is particularly challenging. They have fewer opportunities in the society than boys, and more girls than boys are dropping out of school. This is particularly prevalent when they are in their early puberty. The increase in teenage pregnancies, as documented in the recent HDS, is worrying and one contributing factor to girls dropping out of school.
  • Girls, more often than boys, at a young age need to attend to household work. Hence, their education and other opportunities in society are not a priority.
  • Adolescent girls are more often than their male peers expected to marry at a young age.
  • Due to violence and rape, young girls get pregnant at and age far too early. These pregnancies contribute to major health threats, sometimes also life-threatening. As high as 29 percent of girls aged 15-19 have already given birth or are pregnant.
  • Due to this situation, and also due to a general lack of knowledge and life skills education on how to make better choices for oneself, girls are easily victims to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS. We are all aware of the grim data from the last demographic survey portraying an unfortunate increase in the proportion of girls being infected by HIV. 10,8 percent of girls in the 15-19 age group are HIV positive in Malawi.
  • Acknowledging the challenges young girls and adolescent girls are facing in Malawi, Norway – when developing the education support portfolio – chose to address these issues through the education sector. The investment scheme became the UN managed Joint Program on Girls’ Education (JPGE). In the situation analysis prior to establishing the project as well as in the results report produced during the implementation, it became clear that the school – as the central hub in the community – could be the vehicle that contribute to solve these issues. However, the key sectors, education, health, youth, gender, agriculture and others, have to work in a joint fashion and support each other.
  • If these interventions, coupled with relevant education of high quality, contributes to keeping girls in school, long term effects can be expected. We will be able to see reduction in birth rate, maternal mortality rate, and in the prevalence of HIV infections. We will also be able
    to note improvements in the overall nutrition and food security for families as well as increased participation in society by young women and girls.
  • Through a holistic and human rights-based approach aiming to improve the opportunities of adolescent girls and young women, we should strive to reach closer the SDG of “leaving no one behind”.
  • The good news is that we have a solution to this challenge! The JPGE  addresses key threats such as poor food and nutrition, inadequate protection, poor quality schooling, and violations of girls’ sexual and reproductive rights. It does so by working holistically through the different sectors. It is therefore relevant for the broader SDG agenda, but more specifically the SDGs related to poverty reduction (1), nutrition and food security (2), health (3), education (4), and gender equality (5).
  • This multi-sectoral approach yields results through a forceful coordination and leadership. This has been proven at the district level in the three pilot districts of JPGE, something we will hear more about later today. The Chief Secretary to the Government, Mr. Lloyd Muhara, visited the project in May this year and confirmed the impact on health, education and gender. I am pleased to be able to share with you that the Chief Secretary was impressed by what he saw, and we understand he will a champion for the project within the government system.
  • The recent mid-term review of the programme, which will be presented today, documents,  amongst other,  increased retention, especially among girls,  decreased drop out, improved learning, higher completion rates, reduced violence in schools and improved teacher approach and attitudes.
  • The Norwegian Government is very pleased about the results so far. We are also satisfied to see the building up of increased dialogue between the key ministries, education and health in particular, with the aim of resolving some of the issues in a collaborative manner.  The JPGE model is a model that yields results and Norway is committed to support JPGE in a second phase.
  • However, solid coordination and guided leadership should be further developed and established at the national level. This is particularly necessary for a multi-sectoral approach that targets adolescent girls and young women in Malawi and their opportunities in society.
  • We acknowledge that the Marriage Act will have a positive effect on young girls and women’s opportunities when it is properly enforced, but there is still some way to go to ensure girls their sexual and reproductive health rights.
  • At school, girls should be informed about their rights, and empowered to claim them. Investment in suitable life skills education is therefore imperative to equip the girls, and boys, with knowledge on how to conduct their lives and protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies.
  • Our goal of today’s consultation is to provide recommendations for the way forward on how the delivery across sectors can be enhanced in the best manner.  Norway will align the phase two of the JPGE to an agreed structure and we hope other partners would join in.
  • The project attracts interest in Oslo. Our political leadership and headquarters, including our Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs has good knowledge of the JPGE in Malawi. She visited the project in November last year. She was pleased with the achievements, but stressed the need for continuing the work in a manner that includes girls and boys so that girls and boys opportunities are developing equally.


Thank you!   Zikomo kwambiri.