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How We Work Determined to Develop Malawi

At Determined to Develop (D2D), we take a collaborative approach to our work, and believe that those who live in the area are best able to assess needs and create solutions for the community. We do not impose what we think should be solutions from the top-down, but rather work with community members from the ground-up. Our commitment to collaboration allows us to maximize impact and assist in the development of Chilumba in a responsible and positive way.

All our projects have community ownership, which is demonstrated in two ways:

First, communities are enlisted to identify their needs and solutions, which becomes the basis of our work. We participate in regular village needs assessment meetings attended by Village Headmen (chiefs), local village development committees, women’s groups, civil society leaders, and other community members. It is from these meetings that the concept, planning, and implementation stages of any of our projects begin. Furthermore, all work is vetted by community stakeholders.

Second, communities contribute to the running of each project. Our approach emphasizes the personal responsibility and accountability of all partners involved. This grassroots model for development utilizes local knowledge and ensures that we work in collaboration with traditional leaders and community-based networks, respecting cultural values and traditions. This process is assisted by the community liaison officer, who ensures that we stay fully engaged with everything taking place in the villages and vice versa.

We have expanded our programming, but maintain our focus on a relatively small geographic area of Chilumba, Malawi. Remaining a local organization has a number of benefits. We have developed a strong rapport with stakeholders in the area, which helps us to run our many projects effectively. Working on the ground also allows us to have close and on-going monitoring of all projects, and we pride ourselves on being able to adapt projects where necessary and learn through evaluation. This approach also ensures that all money donated is used in the most cost-effective way, as we have minimal overhead costs.

As a development organization, it is important to us that our initiatives are in-line with those of broader development strategies, both in the national and international context. These strategies include the Karonga District Development Plan, Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III, and the United Nation’s Standard Development Goals. Each of these strategies includes specific actions for improved youth education. By aligning our programs with the initiatives in these development strategies, we ensure that our programs are following the best fit for the development of Malawi.

Learn more about how D2D works by clicking below:

D2D Think Non Formal Education Malawi

Keeping Girls in School Using Non-Formal Education

Challenge: Adolescent girls dropping out of school in large numbers.

Girls dropping out of school is commonplace among the villages within D2D’s catchment area and reflects a nation-wide problem. Often adolescent girls are influenced by family and peers to marry or have a baby early in attempts to secure financial and social stability, but in reality, this often perpetuates an ongoing cycle of poverty as girls do not complete the education needed to lift themselves out of this cycle.

Findings: Driscoll, C.E (2016) Determined to Develop: Factors Contributing to a Girl’s Decision to Drop Out of School in the Chilumba Catchment Area of Malawi

Early marriage and pregnancy are known contributing factors for girls dropping out of school early in the Chilumba area of the Karonga district in Malawi. Consequently research in this study sought to determine additional reasons as to why girls drop out of school early in this area. Face-to-face private interviews were conducted with adolescent girls from four local schools, NGO Determined to Develop’s senior Girls Club, and surrounding villages over an eight week period. Respondents comprised of both school attending girls and girls who had dropped out from school, of which the latter was found to be faced with poverty-related challenges in particular. Such daily challenges reported by girls included a lack of basic needs such as clothes, food, soap, and money including school fees, a lack of parental support, and harassment and infidelity from men. Peer-pressure, lack of self-esteem and domestic issues were also reasons for dropping out. Girls who had dropped out of school generally felt this had been their only option within their personal circumstances and believed that marriage, or getting pregnant in the hope of being proposed to, could provide greater financial stability despite being able to recognize the importance of education. Orphans felt the impact of these challenges considerably more. The study concludes that only when a girl’s basic necessities are met can she thrive in school and non-formal education programs, which are recommended to allow girls to build confidence and a support network within a safe space. Analyzed data in this study was also used to construct a two year non-formal education curriculum for Determined to Develop’s Girls Club.

Solution: Non-Formal Girls Education Curriculum

D2D has developed a two year holistic non-formal education curriculum (NFEC) for three age groups of girls, offering an overall six year plan from ages 13-18, to be delivered at weekly Girls Club meetings. Lessons are delivered in a safe female-only space where girls can exchange ideas in a fun and collaborative learning environment. The curriculum is currently being piloted in D2D’s weekly primary and senior Girls Clubs meetings, with a goal to have the finalized version complete in 2020.

The two-year curriculum targets three age groups of girls, offering an overall six year non-formal education plan for ages 13-18. It is interactive, engaging, and promotes life skills which can empower girls to resist societal pressures that may negatively impact their education, health and wellbeing. Lessons cover a wide range of topics including reproductive health, goal setting, public speaking, leadership, and confidence building. This curriculum is meant to compliment the formal education that each of the girls receive in school, including the Malawian Life Skills Curriculum.

Challenge: Assessing the effectiveness of current Girls Club programming

Findings: Breitenstein, L (2018) Girls Club Curriculum Evaluation

Literature surrounding curriculum assessment strategies was analyzed and similar programs in Sub-Saharan Africa were reviewed. From this collected information, three major points were identified: (1) D2D’s program is the longest program identified in the literature review. By comparison, the next longest program lasts 18 months. This was important to keep in mind when watching for repetitiveness within D2D’s curriculum. (2) There are four main themes that Girls Clubs choose to format their clubs around: sexual and reproductive health, financial literacy, rights education, and soft life skills. D2D’s Girls Club program falls under the category of soft life skills. (3) The most effective way for D2D to perform its curriculum evaluation is a combination of interviewing participants and facilitators.

Sixty-four interviews were completed, and the data collected was organized and analyzed. The data was codified into overarching categories in order to make it easier to present. Interviews were followed by conversations between D2D Girls Club facilitators and the researcher in order to identify places within the curriculum that could be modified. The modifications were suggested based on the data collected during the interviews.

Recommendations include: (1) Referencing suggested curriculum modifications and implementing them into the curriculum, (2) Restructuring its Girls Club program to follow a Form 4 mentorship program, (3) Conducting curriculum evaluations every three years.

Improving Girls’ Financial Independence Through Income-Generating Activities

Challenge: Lack of economic involvement and financial opportunities for adolescent girls

Adolescent girls in rural Malawi lack access to financial opportunities and are not involved in financial decision-making within their families. Ignoring the possible economic contributions of adolescent girls creates a barrier to equitable development. 

Findings: Langford, M (2018) Exploring Best Practices for Adolescent Girls’ Economic Empowerment in Rural Malawi

The study followed a community-led approach to promote responsible and sustainable development research. The study was primarily qualitative, relying on purposefully sampled interviews and focus groups to gather data. Data were transcribed and analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Existing D2D women’s IGA program documents were also analyzed to inform future organization for the adolescent programs.

Interview data revealed rural Malawian adolescent girls do not perceive themselves to have access to financial decision-making or income-generating opportunities, and they believe a sponsored IGA program would alleviate barriers to their economic participation. Interviews with adolescent girls, community members, and business owners promoted kaunjika (used clothing) and raising chickens as the most feasible business options because of the profit margins and relatively low skill needed to sustain the business. Interviews also revealed a concern about the girls’ ability to balance education and business-related responsibilities, but all potential stakeholders still viewed the project as worthwhile.

Based on the collected data, the researcher has three main recommendations. First, the IGA program must include financial literacy training to promote sustainable economic development. Second, educational attainment should remain the ultimate focus for the girls. This should be reflected in the business training and written program by-laws. Third, the organization of the IGA should be peer-led and supported to give the participants the most ownership and responsibility of the program.

Education in Malawi Africa
Education in Malawi Africa
Education in Malawi Africa

Solution: Leadership Workshop

Leadership training is crucial to both ensuring the sustainability of D2D programs and developing the future leaders of Malawi. This is why D2D intentionally tries to include a leadership component in all of its programming. This includes hosting twice annual leadership workshops for all D2D sponsored youth. The workshops are three-day events that take place on holiday breaks, and lessons focus on leadership skills, goal setting, health, and safety.


Solution: Computer Literacy Training

The D2D technology center provides rural Malawians the chance to learn to use and operate a computer, an opportunity they might not otherwise have access to. Housing 17 fully-functioning computers, the center offers lessons to locals of all ages which are facilitated by trained Malawians and international volunteers. Over 430 hours of lessons have been given in the technology center to 203 local primary school students, secondary school students, and community members.