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Like any other young girl, Jenipher Sanni has dreams of making it big in life. She has just completed her secondary school O level examinations this year. At only 20, she has lived two different sides of life; being married and also being in school.

Her return to school from marriage was not that easy too. Like many girls in her community, they only have one community day secondary school known as Mdinde in Mangochi. It has no boarding facilities.

Married at 14

At the age of 14 years, in 2009 Jenipher dropped out of school and became a second wife to a man who already had two children with the first wife. She was abused. She endured this life for a year.

She recalls that being married at that age is not that strange in her community.

“I was married when I was 14 years. In my community - getting married at this age is not strange. It is seen as normal” she says

In 2010, a community mother group supported by a local NGO, Malawi Girl Guides-MAGGA- with funding from UNFPA, came to Jenipher’s rescue. She was pulled out from the abusive marital relationship and put back in school. She is one of the first beneficiaries of the UN Joint Programme on Adolescent Girls (UNJPAG) interventions in Mangochi.


The interventions include menstruation management, girls’ participation in leadership, prevention and management of gender based violence and sexual reproductive health information for adolescent girls among other mentorship programmes

Long walk to school

When Jenipher went back in school, she had to endure yet another challenge. She had to walk a distance of more than two hours one way, to get to school and this affected her performance in class.

However, this did not discourage her, she kept on pursuing her education.

In 2015, UN Foundation through UNFPA Malawi visited their school and provided bicycles to support the mobility of girls at the school. Jenipher was one of the girls that benefited from the donation. The two-hour walk was drastically reduced to a 30-minute ride to school and her performance improved.

Launch of 1000 bicycle campaign in the US

In July 2017, Jenipher was privileged to share her story with the world at the 6th Annual Girl-Up Leadership Summit in Washington DC with about 300 delegates who are advocates for girls’ education.

This annual event was organized by UN Foundation. At the event, she launched a campaign to buy 1000 bicycles for school going girls in rural Malawi.

“My visit here is also a motivation to many girls back home. I also talk with my fellow girls in my community on the effects of early marriages and the importance of staying in school” she said before launching the campaign during the second day of the summit.

“Jenipher is an example of how our work as UNFPA has transformed lives of many girls in Malawi, without which they would not have a vision for their lives and their potential denied. She is now a mentor for her fellow girls from Mangochi” said Dorothy Nyasulu, Assistant representative of UNFPA Malawi who accompanied her during the mission.

JPAG impact in Malawi

The UN Joint Programme on Adolescent Girls, JPAG was implemented from 2010 in the districts of Chikhwawa and Mangochi. The initial funding for the project was from the UN Foundation and later, it was further supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Malawi. The project ended in December 2015 but the investments made during the project are still evident in Jenipher and other girls.

“With all these changes in my life – I am considered a role model in my community- I am motivated by that responsibility -and I work hard every day – because I know that I stand as a role model and mentor to other girls -and I don’t want to disappoint them -I continue to work hard” she concluded in her address to the delegates.

By Leticia Nangwale