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Non-formal education often represents a last chance for adolescent girls who do not attend school to receive some education to improve their health before they become mothers. This paper describes the development of a literacy and health education curriculum for adolescent girls in southern Malawi who will never enter formal schooling. The curriculum was redefined in the light of participants’ feedback and providers’ observations. The health messages could effect change but would have had limited impact on girls’ health practices without the participation of the wider community. The curriculum’s innate visibility ‘under the trees’ was a key factor in facilitating villagers’ involvement and exponential learning.

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