In Malawi, the challenges faced by girl students in particular seem undefeatable.
Almost half of students don’t finish primary school. Girls face a disproportionate risk of acquiring HIV. Many are married or pregnant before age 18. And most, along with their families, live on less than $2 USD per day.
Despite all this, they have hope that, armed with an education, they will overcome the odds and achieve their dreams.
A bicycle can help. By giving girl students a means of transportation, they are no longer constrained by long distances – to school, the health clinic or past the risks that await them on the roads.
That’s why World Bicycle Relief, though the Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), distributes 70% of Buffalo Bicycles to girl students. This July, we’re partnering with FHI 360, a non-profit dedicated to improving lives through locally-driven solutions. Together, we aim to implement an innovative, integrated, and community-led plan to improve the education, health, and economic futures of students in Malawi.
Meet some of the students defying the odds with the help of the bicycles from supporters like you:
Seventeen-year-old Maggie has two children – Ruby, 2, and Joseph, 5. She went back to school because her baby didn’t have food and clothes. Despite the expenses of school, Maggie and her family see education as the way out of poverty.
Her grandmother is grateful that Maggie is back in school and has a bicycle. “We encourage her to continue because maybe she will get a job. Then we won’t worry. Getting an education with the help of the bicycle will make her undefeatable in the future.”
“When I see other people are educated, they are able to meet their needs,” says Maggie. “There was a time when Ruth was sick with malaria, I was able to take her to the clinic. I carried her on the bike.
After becoming pregnant, Catherine dropped out of school in Grade 2.
“I didn’t expect to come back. I was pregnant, then miscarried. After 10 months, she was a stillbirth. For me, it was done,” 19-year-old Catherine says.
Then, one day, a friend suggested she start back and helped her reenroll. With the help of her friend’s father, Catherine started back in Grade 2 again – this time with the use of a bicycle.
“Since we’ve got the bicycle, now our poverty has been reduced. Walking in itself is poverty. Now I can simply get on the bicycle,” Catherine says.
Mary has a 3-year-old daughter, Bashir, but realizes the importance of school.
“The way we are, our status, to achieve something in life, the key is education,” she says.
Mary’s mother takes care of her daughter during the day so she can attend school. But at night, Mary sleeps with her daughter – “That’s the bonding time.”
Before the bicycle, Mary, 20, faced challenges on her walk to school. “Men would be stopping and saying, ‘if you become my lover, I will be dropping you at school and dropping you at home.”
But with a bicycle, Mary can arrive at school safely and quickly, earning her the opportunity to learn – and perhaps attend university someday, like her brother.
“I have a chance to be somewhere and study – that’s why I have a bright future ahead of me.”