It’s almost a century since Mamie Martin launched her pioneering work to improve the lot of young women in Malawi, but the cause she championed then is still paying massive dividends now.
Falkirk woman Mariot Dallas has newly returned from the annual general meeting of charity the Mamie Martin Fund in Edinburgh, where the details of a sample 25 women’s careers were read out.
Thanks to the support they have received to gain proper education they are now fully engaged in everything from computer science to maternity.
None of it would have been possible in past generations, because of entrenched attitudes about women and sheer lack of opportunity - the cost of education is high, relative to means, and traditionally women weren’t expected to seek education and a career anyway.
That situation is slowly but surely changing Malawian society in profoundly important ways, giving women a sense of self worth and a range of opportunities that would hever traditionally have been available - or even dreamed of.
Mariot Dallas said: “Some 25 years ago, Margaret and John Sinclair set up the Mamie Martin Fund, with help from friends, family, neighbours and members of Ladywell Church, Bannockburn.
“Their aim was to support the education of girls in northern Malawi in memory of Margaret’s mother Mamie Martin, who lived in Malawi with her husband Jack, a Church of Scotland missionary in the 1920s and developed a passionate interest in encouraging girls and women into education.
“Now the Mamie Martin Fund is still taking forward her concern, and is paying the school fees of 102 girls through the four years of their secondary education.
“To mark the 25th anniversary, the Trustees have put together a gallery of 25 women who have been the recipients of MMF funding to show what the impact has been on their life.
“These women are now active across a range of different professions and are enriching their own lives, that of their families and communities as well as their nation.
The guest of honour at last week’s AGM was Mrs Mercy Sibande, the charity’s Malawi manager.
Her fortnight’s stay involves a busy programme of visits and meetings, and she will return to Malawi with an increased understanding of the work done here by MMF donors and supporters - as well as partner organisations such as the SOKO Fund, which supports women in further education.
Mariot Dallas said: “Mercy has already proved to be an engaging and inspiring speaker when she visited Easter Carmuirs primary school in Falkirk, where the pupils impressed her with their thoughtful questions.
“At the AGM, she described how her role includes personal support and guidance for the MMF girls as well as the administrative duties.
“Mercy will also be attending the Cross-Party Group on Malawi at the Scottish Parliament”.
Meanwhile the influence of Mamie Martin on her family - who knew her only through her letters and diaries - was reflected in the attendance at the AGM of Mamie’s nephew, grandson, grand-daughter, great-grand-daughter and great-great-grandson, as well as friends old and new.
Shortly after Mercy returns home, Moira Dunworth and Mariot Dallas will set off for Malawi for the annual Trustee Visit.
They will be based in Mzuzu and have a packed schedule of school visits and meetings.
Mariot will also have some personal time in Bandawe, where a small casket of Margaret’s ashes will be buried near her mother Mamie’s grave.
The cause these two women pursued lives on - and those 25 young women exemplify their success.
Statistics can look impressive, and every charity likes to report positive results , but last Friday’s Mamie Martin Fund annual general meeting had a more immediate and compelling way of showing what “success” means in terms of individual lives.
They were just 25 names and faces from among many, but they “tell the story” about what the Fund has meant for young lives more impressively than any spreadsheet. The 25 include Elvas Bernadete Singini, now a qualified prosthetist, Linvell Chirwa, now running a hospital maternity ward, and Machina Kumwenda, currently in her four year of a Bsc in physical planning.
These three are just random indicative samples of the sort of lives these young women are building, not only for themselves but also their society and nation.
In Mamie Martin’s day women in Scotland had a tough time gaining access to the professions - though for the lucky ones able to get decent education there was at least a chance - while in Malawi there would have been no prospect whatsoever.
Change has been steady and incremental, and the present generation’s children will have high expectations of what they might be able to achieve.
But the effort continues, with a cause born in Forth Valley still plugging quietly, undramatically away to bring Mamie Martin’s vision ever closer to reality.
An online video clip https://youtu.be/VUZuRFVhh9Y explains what MMF really means, and you can find more on the charity, and how to support it at http://www.mamiemartin.org
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