Rise Up: Protecting Malawi’s Girls from Early Marriage

More than half of Malawian girls marry before age 18. But not Memory Banda.

Memory Banda advocating with a Parliamentarian
Memory Banda advocating with a Parliamentarian

Unlike so many girls in her own community, Memory stayed in school and refused to marry until she finished her education. She beat the odds, defied convention, and fought to change the future for all girls. 

In 2011, Memory joined the Girls Empowerment Network (GENET), one of Rise Up’s key partners in Malawi. Rise Up provided funding and support to GENET, who trained Memory and 200 more girls in leadership, advocacy, and public speaking.

These girl leaders then mobilized hundreds of other girls to raise their voices. Together they convinced 60 chiefs to pass bylaws that raised the minimum marriage age to 21. These bylaws protect thousands of girls from child marriage.

Memory and the girls’ campaign led to Malawi’s 2015 passage of a national law outlawing child marriage.

Memory shared her powerful story in a TED Talk that now has over 1 million views.

Rise Up continues to support GENET and the girl leaders to ensure effective implementation of the new law to protect millions of girls from early marriage.

Recently, Rise Up received $2.5 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scale up this important work to end child marriage by creating ENGAGE (Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equality). First Lady Michelle Obama recently ENGAGE to be part of the White House Let Girls Learn initiative.

We are excited to partner with the Gates Foundation and the White House to capitalize on this big legislative win. Scaling our work in Malawi will help protect hundreds of thousands of girls from early marriage and enable them to finish school.


—Denise Dunning, Founder and Executive Director, Rise Up


Read more about ENGAGE and their strategies to end child marriage here.

Rise Up is a member of Women’s Funding Network. They enable girls, youth, and women to transform their own lives, communities, and countries. Rise Up leaders have advocated for over 100 laws and policies impacting 115 million girls, youth and women across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. 

Influence and Amplification