The sole aim of the Soko Fund (SC035554) is to help women in Malawi benefit from university education. Thanks to the work of the Soko Fund, Malawi now has many more women graduates in education, healthcare, business and public policy management.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Education is essential to its economic development. Focusing on women increases the long-term impact, since this extends the benefits of higher education far beyond the individual, to the wider family and community. We believe in the ability of university education to change lives. We work with partners at each step of the journey from school to university and beyond, to maximise the chances of success for the girls and women with whom we work.
Through partnerships with secondary schools in Malawi, we encourage girls to make university education their ambition. We currently work with seven partner secondary schools, giving them the opportunity to nominate potential Soko Scholarship candidates. Organized talks by Soko graduates serve to raise the profile university education across a wider school network, and a mentoring programme for school students supported by Soko graduates is under development.
Soko provides scholarships to women from disadvantaged communities to study vocational degrees at one of Malawi’s four public universities (University of Malawi, Mzuzu University, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Malawi University of Science and Technology).
Each Soko Scholarship covers the full cost of tuition and a small allowance, which the students can use for accommodation or study materials. Scholarship candidates are nominated by partner universities and recipients are selected on the basis on proven need and academic potential. Scholarships are reviewed annually. Students must successfully complete each year to the satisfaction of the university for their scholarship to be renewed.
The number of awards is determined by the amount of money available each year, together with careful estimates of future income. It is Soko’s policy that all scholarship holders who complete each year successfully will be supported until graduation.
The Soko Graduate Association (SGA) was launched in 2017 to address the post-graduation challenges women in Malawi continue to face in securing employment. Managed by Soko graduate Nancy Chimalizeni (on a part-time basis, 40 hours per month), SGA provides:
• Online Job Centre and peer support network: Graduates can access and share information about job opportunities, giving mutual advice and support. In the last year, this has led to 22 graduates securing employment.
• Workshops to build knowledge and skills, including strategies for applications and interviews.
• Internships to enable graduates to gain work experience. The SGA has established six internships in different organisations including First Aid Africa, TAPP (an agricultural NGO) Lilongwe International Library, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority and Malawi Music Fund. Two graduates have recently been offered employment by the organisations where they had internships. The SGA has plans to expand the number of internships by linking with African NGOs Development Network (ANDNET) in Malawi. This would give graduates access to work experience opportunities from its members.