Rob Trask writes from Malawi:

Malawi. Day seven.

Today was my last day of meetings before I fly home tomorrow. I met with some more amazing community support groups at the offices of NAPHAM and the larger than life executive director of Malawi Inter-Faith AIDS Association, I really enjoyed my chat with him. But rather than more narrative, what I want to bore you with today are my thoughts on Malawi.

This is one of the poorest countries in the world, its currency is in free fall, inflation is making wages uncompetitive and more strikes loom on the horizon. Joyce Banda has just pledged to turn things around in 18 months, perhaps too optimistic, but I really hope she achieves it. I reserve judgement on her as a leader but more comment on her as an inspiration, in particular to the women of Malawi.

I have so many fond memories of this trip and I have learnt so much. But there is one story which has really made an impression. I met a young girl, who as her male-dominated community demands is dressed all in white. She is, I am told, the only girl in the central and northern regions in further education. I hope that I have misunderstood, but I fear this may be the painful truth.

She tells me that she has run away from home, twice, to avoid arranged marriages and has worked as a house-keeper to fund her own school fees. She now educates other girls her age who have been forced to leave their education for a life of oppression.

But the more this young lady achieves, the more she influences others. For the first time in her community young girls are being sent to school as parents aspire for their own children to replicate her achievements. She has become an ambassador and a role model. The Pastor aptly described her to me as the 'Lighthouse' of her community.

Rob Trask is a finalist in the Guardian International Development Journalism Competition and is visiting Malawi with Progressio to write about the role of faith in responding to HIV.

Photo: Shupe of the Gospel of God Church. Photo by Rob Trask.

Read Rob's previous blogs from Malawi:

Home truths about HIV

Community support groups can beat HIV

Writing about HIV and faith

A journalist in Malawi: Each community is unique


My daughter went with your organization to Malawi last year and she had a wonderful experience, the pictures were amazing that she showed the family, she loved her time there