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'I believed in my dream to finish my education'

A former child labourer from Malawi who refused to give up her dream of getting an education is using her experience of being one of the first people to carry the Queen's Baton to inspire others to believe in themselves.

Monica Dzonzi was just nine years old when her father died and although she longed to attend primary school, her family were unable to afford it.

However, while refusing to give up her ambition to study and one day go to college, Monica spent her days panning and digging for gold.

She would then walk many kilometres at night to collect firewood and bananas to sell in the morning.

With this money she paid for herself to finish primary school.

Although her family and friends put pressure on her to stop studying and get married, Monica never stopped believing that she could make something of her life if only she could finish school.

However, after a few years she had to resume work in order to pay for her fees, uniform and travel to secondary school. Aged 15, she did this by selling popcorn and biscuits to local people.

"People used to tell me 'just get married'," says Monica. "But I believed in myself, and in my dream to complete my education. Now I want to be somebody in my community. I want to encourage young girls and boys to work hard and go to school, no matter how poor a family they come from."

Monica represents the potential of the partnership between Unicef and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, who are working together to transform children's lives in the Commonwealth.

Monica is now a Unicef Youth Ambassador and a coordinator at a youth centre in Malawi where she teaches other young people IT skills.

"I was so pleased to take part in the Queen's relay, because I want people to know my story and to believe that it is possible to achieve your goals."

* The Herald and Sunday Herald Children of the Commonwealth series will run over the coming months as the Queen's Baton travels the world on its way to Scotland. As well as bringing our readers inspiring stories from key locations on the baton route, we're also raising money for UNICEF, an official charity partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. There are a number of different ways to donate: you can call 0800 044 5777; or you can click on unicef.org.uk/herald; or you can text 'CHILD' to 70111 to donate £3. If you prefer, there is a coupon in the Saturday Herald magazine and in the Sunday Herald. UNICEF is the world's leading children's organisation, working to save and change children's lives.

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