What girls in Malawi gain – and give up – by choosing education

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In July 2005, I traveled a thoroughfare in Lilongwe, Malawi, past chicken farms, and then took dirt roads into Bowa village. Our SUV rocked side to side over the pocked roads, constantly sending my hand up to the grab bar. We passed pairs of schoolgirls in blue dresses that brightened the landscape of earth and sky.

Malawi is a largely rural country in southeastern Africa, known for rich traditions, strong community ties, and natural beauty. The economy is growing, and life expectancy has leaped over the past two decades to over 65 years. Still, more than half of its roughly 20 million people live in poverty. Yet despite facing challenges, Malawi is affectionately known as “the warm heart of Africa.”

That summer I was an intern with CARE, a global organization fighting poverty and injustice. I was evaluating the impact of CARE programs in villages like Bowa. There, I met Selina and Anesi Bonefesi. Their story changed my life and many others.

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