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Malawi Ambassador Joins Triathlon to Support Girls’ Education

by Anna Gawel

The Nation’s Triathlon, now in its eighth year, winds its way through the iconic monuments of Washington, D.C., as athletes race, bike and swim to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. But one athlete-ambassador had a different cause in mind when he competed this year — a cause closer to home.

Steve Matenje, the ambassador of Malawi, joined a team of 50 athletes, corporate team representatives and embassy staff (including his deputy chief of mission) to support Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa (AGE Africa) as part of the Tri for Malawi Team Challenge fundraising effort.

Ambassador of Malawi Steve Matenje
Ambassador of Malawi Steve Matenje participated in this year’s Nation’s Triathlon, held Sept. 7 in Washington, D.C., to help raise funds for Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa (AGE Africa), which provides life-changing opportunities to young women in Malawi through targeted initiatives in education, mentoring and leadership development. Photos: Advancing Girls' Education in Africa

The team swam 1.5 kilometers, biked 40 kilometers and ran 10 kilometers, raising $107,000 to support the education of 140 Malawian girls.

“In Malawi, women and girls are not just disadvantaged when it comes to accessing education, they are simply left behind. Less than 13 percent of our girls nationwide are attending secondary school, and only about half of those will finish,” said Ambassador Matenje. “AGE Africa, more than any other organization I have seen, is reversing this trend for each life it touches.”

AGE Africa’s mission is to provide life-changing opportunities to young women in Malawi through targeted initiatives in education, mentoring and leadership development.

Ambassador of Malawi Steve Matenje
Ambassador of Malawi Steve Matenje, center, with Africa54’s Ndimyake Mwakalyelye to his right, were among a team of 50 athletes, corporate team representatives and embassy staff who biked, raced and swam as part of the Tri for Malawi Team Challenge fundraising effort.

The nonprofit was founded in 2005 by Xanthe Ackerman, who was in Malawi as a graduate student intern working with the humanitarian organization CARE. Xanthe wrote an article for the Christian Science Monitor about a local woman and her daughter, who was not attending school because the family could not afford the $156 a year that the local secondary school cost for the required uniforms, books and supplies.

Readers of the article were so moved that they sent donations to support the young woman’s education. The first AGE Africa scholarship fund was enough to pay for all six of the village girls who had qualified for secondary school. These first six young women pursued their education despite tremendous pressure to drop out of school and get married.

Ambassador of Malawi Steve Matenje
Ambassador of Malawi Steve Matenje and his teammates biked 40 kilometers, swam 1.5 kilometers and ran 10 kilometers in the Nation’s Triathlon, raising $107,000 to support the education of 140 Malawian girls.


By January 2012, AGE Africa opened the year with 79 young women on scholarships at five partner schools (and two universities), as well as 350 girls in the group’s extracurricular programs.

Donations from the Tri for Malawi Team Challenge will help another 140 girls go to school.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Why a triathlon?’ and the answer is simple: Because most of our students walk more than a triathlon sized distance each week just to get to school,” said AGE Africa Executive Director Aubryn Sidle. We do a triathlon in honor of our students’ commitment to their education. I am pleased to say that 100 percent of the funds raised through this effort will go to Malawi to support scholarship s and mentoring programs for 140 Malawian girls.”


Anna Gawel is the managing editor for the Washington Diplomat and a contributing writer for Diplomatic Pouch.

 

 
 
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