SNHU GEM’s Gender Specialist Intern in Malawi, Precious Maluba, discusses the experiences of women refugees in higher education.
This International Women’s Day, Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement (SNHU GEM) is celebrating women creating change and highlighting the unique challenges many women face in their pursuit of higher education.
We spoke with Precious Maluba, a Congolese refugee living in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s in management with a concentration in logistics and operations, and interning with SNHU GEM as a Gender Specialist Assistant. “I was inspired by the nature of the gender specialist position,” says Precious. “As a female student who faced challenges, I felt I could help my fellow students adapt to the reality of life while pursuing an academic goal.”
As a single mother of three and a refugee learner, Precious is acutely aware of the hardships that women refugees face when pursuing their education. “Women in Dzaleka Refugee Camp face many family responsibilities that take up much of their study time,” she explains. Other factors, such as financial status, lack of job opportunities, or health issues can also impede their studies.
Precious recognizes these challenges in her own life, allowing her to understand firsthand the obstacles and the support refugee women need in order to pursue higher education. While growing up in the Republic of the Congo, her mother worked hard to earn enough money to cover the school fees for Precious, but lacked money for other supplies and essentials. “I lacked everything a student would need to do well in class,” she recalls.
After Precious was forced to flee from Congo to Malawi, she continued her education as a refugee at Dzaleka Refugee Camp. It wasn’t an easy journey. She recalls enrolling in a scholarship program while pregnant with her second child, and graduating while pregnant with her third. “I studied as a pregnant and nursing mother,” she says.
In her role as Gender Specialist Intern, Precious is planning a focus group to discuss creating more support systems for students, including a daycare center for those with young children and free personal hygiene and feminine products. SNHU GEM hopes that these resources can help break down barriers and make higher education attainable for more women like Precious.
Precious has a final message for women refugees who are looking for pathways to higher education: “I advise my fellow female refugees to apply for the SNHU GEM program. They just need to be focused, not allow anything to discourage them. SHNU GEM will support them as they pursue their studies.”