A tough future for Tiya

In the village of Dama in Malawi, Tiyankhulenji Richard just wants to go to school, but her family needs her to take care of the household. NCA is now working to build a well and preschool in Dama to help make life a little easier.


She is not difficult to spot as she walks across the fields in the village of Dama in Malawi. She is tall and beautiful with fashionable clothes and a pink accessory in her hair. The smiles at us and she has just listened to music in the shade of a tree with her friends Justina and Cathleen.

Not long ago, there was little that separated Tiyankhulenji from most young people, but that has suddenly changed.

Child marriage has increased

Tiyankhulenji Richard (wearing a pink shirt in the photos) lives in a small village with no electricity or clean water in a country that is ranked as one of the worst in the world when it comes to gender inequality. It is a country with a high percentage of child marriages and harmful customs against girls and women. During the pandemic, the number of child marriages in Malawi has increased from 12% and 50%  in several places.

When girls drop out of school, they are often married off because their parents cannot afford to have them at home.

Tiya, as she is called among friends, would most like to go to school.

- I love reading books in my language, Chichewa, but when I do not go to school, it is not so easy. My family can not afford to send me to school, and I find that incredibly sad. It's sad to see my girlfriends go to school while I have to be home and help.


To get to Dama we have to drive a long way out into the countryside on bumpy gravel roads. The village is located next to a river. The river is the only water source other than a well they have dug up for use after the rainy season.

- I do not like that we have to fetch water in the river. It is so unhygienic, especially when it dries up, says Tiya.

Now there have been extra trips to the river. She has in fact been given responsibility for the household after she left school.

- I go to the river or the well five times every single day to fetch water. Instead of doing homework, I wash the house, cook, fetch water, wash up and wash clothes, she says quietly.

Tiya is one of eight children, and the family is in financial difficulties. What they earn on corn is far from enough to pay for school.

Unhygienic water

Ideally, she just wants the same opportunities as her friends, namely to be young and spend time at school and chatting with friends.

- I am very interested in fashion and go to the market as often as I can. There I buy new clothes, creams and soaps, she says.

Music and ball games are also an important part of her life. It is not difficult to see why she thrives on the sports field. During a match between the youngest and oldest girls in the village, she scores goals several times.

- I love playing netball, I never get bored. At the same time, I can be with my girlfriends again after they have been to school.

The group of friends gathers as soon as they finish homework and school.

- We talk a lot about girls' things, I do not want to say more, she giggles.

NCA will build a preschool in Dama as well as a well. The project is part of a larger collaboration with the Development Fund and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), funded by the Norwegian authorities.


Photos by Håvard Bjelland/NCA.