Monday, 22 January 2018

The Fruition of Meaningful Youth Empowerment Interventions in Mangochi.

By Esnart Priminta

Whoever thinks that the youth are incapable of bringing about positive change in their communities should properly examine this claim.  This entry is based on positive outcomes of youth empowerment initiatives that really technically refute the misguided view of young people as individuals who are wayward, irresponsible, na├»ve and defiant.  

YONECO strongly believes in the youth. The institution looks at young people as capable human beings who are dynamic and able to contribute positively to the development of their society. For quite some time, the youth have been sidelined in different decision making processes and even denied access to critical information. This has led to a lot of young people making uninformed decisions which have led to negative outcomes in their lives and to an extreme extent, this has costed their lives. The environment has not been friendly for youth development.

 In countries like Malawi, a lot of young people have suffered the cruelty of the world in the hands of socio-cultural norms and beliefs.  All these things have in one way or the other contributed to the overall stagnation of development in the country. HIV prevalence rate among the youth is shockingly high, with an increased rate of child marriages which is currently at 47%, increased teen pregnancies and school dropout rates among other things.

In 2016, YONECO with funding from Simavi embarked on a programme called Get Up Speak Out (GUSO). The five-year programme is aimed at contributing towards ensuring that all young people, especially girls and young women, are empowered to realize their SRHR in societies that are positive towards young people’s sexuality.

Justin Yusuf who hails from Nankumba, which is YONECO’s GUSO project impact areas, said young people are now able to take active part in different developmental activities as well as voicing out their rights
“YONECO organized a training for community leaders and young people in Meaningful Youth Participation and I was one of the young people who attended the training.

“After the training I went back to my village and held some discussions with chiefs and other community leaders to start considering young people in various community development processes. As I’m talking to you now, I am an influential member of the Village Developmental Committee.” 
Yusuf further stated that currently there are 4 young people in the VDC a thing that has greatly contributed towards ensuring that young people’s needs and aspirations are considered in the formulation of community and district development plans and activities.

“Older community members are now appreciating the role which young people are playing in the society,” said Youth Network Chairperson at Nankumba – William Phiri.  

Among other things, the youth have managed to lobby for the establishment of two under five clinics so that children can be accessing medical services easily as was not the case in the past. Young mothers were unable to travel long distance to access postnatal care services but now, this issue is water under the bridge.

According the Youth Network Chairperson, youth involvement in developmental work has also increased their access to sexual reproductive health service. The change has come about dude to the fact that they are now able to take up issues and engage the right authorities to address the issues.  This has further nurtured young people’s commitment in taking care of their reproductive health and there is hope that by 2020 the issues of child marriages and teen pregnancies will be history in his area.

Yusuf said “As young people, we know that we have a greater responsibility of developing this nation. GUSO project has helped to stimulate our action towards improved SRHR and other essential services.

He continued to say that increased uptake of sexual reproductive health services will ensure that young people are protected from unplanned pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

“At first parents would not allow their children to access SRH services and use contraceptives but after the training we reasoned with them and are now able to appreciate the need for  us to access SRH services. Even chiefs are now taking an active role in fighting harmful cultural practices and socio norms that bars young people from accessing SRH services,” said Yusuf.

As if that is not enough, Yusuf added that they have now planted tree seedlings as one way of dealing with issues of climate change. He said they are now able to coordinate and collaborate with different organizations and networks and currently a construction of a bridge is under way which will help ease the challenges people were facing particularly during the rainy season.

Yusuf thanked YONECO for still believing in young people and equipping them with the necessary information and the needed skills. He said as the youth, they are planning to do more to improve their communities as time goes.

“Let me also take this opportunity to ask my fellow youths that we should utilize these kind of opportunities and not wasting them. We are leaders of today and tomorrow hence the need for us to be proactive in whatever we do,” concluded Yusuf.

GUSO Project is being implemented by a consortium of 6 organizations that formed what is called the Malawi SRHR Alliance. Apart from YONECO, other implementing partners are; Centre for Alternatives for Victimized Women and Children (CAVWOC; Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR); Centre for Youth and Civic Education (CYECE); Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM); and Coalition of Women Living with HIV (COWLHA. The project is being implemented in Chikwawa and Mangochi district where YONECO is targeting T/A Mponda and Chimwala. 

Lessons from YFM Roadshows on GBV in Mulanje

by Esnart Priminta 

Communities in Mulanje district have condemned the tendency of some men who sleep with their step and biological daughters.

This was revealed during roadshows that Youth Net and counseling-YONECO conducted in the district in raising awareness on gender based violence during the 16 days of activism against gender based violence.

According to one Mr Jabu who patronized one of the shows, men threaten their daughters to stop giving them support if they refuse to have sex with them.

On the other hand, women conceal the truth when they find their husbands sleeping with their daughters for fear of losing their marriage and the support they get from them.

Another girl from Mathambi in the district confessed of a certain family where the man sleeps with his 15-year-old step daughter but threatened the woman not to reveal to anyone saying this might lead to his arrest and the family will suffer which she obliged to.
However, this behavior is risking the lives of many girls said Mary Deston.

Deston therefore commended YONECO for conducting the awareness campaigns for this has made them to understand the gravity of the behavior and know where they can report the cases.

The shows were conducted in different parts of Mulanje including, Mathambi, Namphungo, mwanakhu, Namphungo, Mkando, Chinyama, Likhubula and Chinyama among other places. Different artists performed during the shows as one way of entertaining the audience and keeping them active throughout the shows. The artists were Blaze, Stich Fray, Phil Jay and Katelele Ching’oma.

YONECO conducted the roadshows with financial support from Action Aid through Christian Aid under the project Adolescent Girls and Young Women-AGYW.

Saturday, 6 January 2018


By Mabhuchi Mujuma Nyasulu

Doll drumming over the years of drinking and smoking heavily. I discovered that ‘Urges’ are an invisible bad and ugly company to be-friend with. The worst thing is they make you dance to their tune and end up doing what you don’t want to do. 

Contrary to the mental independence of Young people, The Youths in particular, Malawi. There are, a - don’t want to be forced to do something - but rather, the subject to be brought around the table were they discuss in groups and express their opinion and experiences. I am glad to say that after the desire of freedom enters in my heart of change, this is how my mind balances my life style in overcoming ‘Urges’.

v  Doing exercise @ Home or go to the gymnastic;                                                                        whenever my heart is confronted  with the thirsts to smoke, my mind tells the ‘Urge ‘company to flee from me and do a 40 – 40 press up or else I get angry Go jogging.
v  Drinking something non-alcoholic;
My substitute to Cannabis it’s what I love to called Avocado syrup. It is a traditionally known as Chindongwa, Thobwa or Mahewu.The drink grows better when it ferment with pounded vegetable ital. fruits in it like Bananas and Avocados.
v  Take a shower or Laundry;
The consequence of adhering to ‘Urges’ is they don’t just frown your face they also spoil your pillow. Your Pillow is where you lay your head all night long.The very places were the mind rests, having a spare clean Pillow and Stockings is important.
v  Cooking Something Interesting;
My ‘Urge’ of smoke are totally dissolved with my favourite African Potato dish, which  heart yearns and it is served with a well boiled goat brown stew and mashed Irish potatoes.
v  Getting to watch a Video;
My ‘Urges ‘are now wrestled with my love to watch Educational movies. Inspecting the loop holes in the movie and my desire to raise the standards is esteemed. I have no doubt that it will make the world of wonderful counselling more serene.
v  Take a drive;
I have come to realise that to be uplifted in a tri - cycle, motor bike or motor vehicle. Time passes swiftly as if you are meditating. The mind is made to be active as if its introduced are new to the mother earth. The joy of riding in tales the life of an overcomer. The comfort it brings looking through the window as if the mind is browsing through the moving environment, I have no doubt that it’s healthy for the brain.
v  Have Sex;
The benefits of having sex  are that it eases stress; may make prostate cancer less likely; lessens pain; improves sleep; lowers heart risks; count as exercise; boost libido and  helps immune system humming. Though it’s considered a taboo by tradition.
v  Getting a haircut or Manicure;
I have managed to label my bold head hair style, Zero. When I look at the mirror I do admire myself and so my friends tell me so. I feel better than the illusions of the mind that are triggered by ‘Urges’.
v  Starting a woodwork project;
Apart from looking for a job, I do have a narc of designing anything which I see and call it lovely. Probably that how I was inspired to design my YONECO tie. With the few days I have worked at the Town drop in centre have seen children coming to eat and immediately off they go. It is necessary to launch a hands on project which transform the mind of street kids to do something positive in their life.
v  Go to the Library or book store;
Books they have an open arm of transforming the mind to be stable. Learning something new every day it is an excellent habit of transforming our dreams to reality.
v  Write an autobiography;
I found it worth it to Google my genealogy on the internet discover my refined identity which is worth it to speak better things about. You never know that you are greater than what you think. A man’s memory is bound to be a distortion of his past in accordance with his present interests, and most faithful autobiography is likely to mirror less what a man was than what he has become

There is a need to adhere to counselling and consultation time after time

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Plight of Young People Living with HIV in Malawi

It is now a known fact that HIV is now manageable as compared to how the situation was in the last two decades. People living with HIV are now able to live healthy and productive lives without the fear of death which loosely became the synonym of HIV some years ago.

Through various ways, more and more young people are living with HIV. The coming in of Antiretroviral Drugs is a major step towards having healthy and strong young people. Both those Living with HIV and those who are not are able to contribute positively to the development of the country in their capacities as young people.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about providing necessary support to young people who are living with HIV. However, I have not really seen a lot in terms of action towards ensuring that Young People Living HIV/AIDS are given the much needed support. If there is a group of people who need to be heard and their concerns addressed are the young people who are living with HIV.

The inattention that is given to YPLHA has led to increased number of them to default drugs and eventually develop AIDS. Many young people have been lost due to our uncaring attitudes.

Having HIV is a health issue and just like any other personal healthy issue, YPLHA have been longing for privacy. They have always wanted to make sure that their HIV status is not known to others. This is due to a number of valid reasons and it would be good to work on the issues that are there to guarantee them this wish. For instance, YPLHV who are in boarding schools face a lot of challenges to get a permission to go to hospital to collect ARTs.

Why do teachers have to ask so many question?

Why do teachers disclose this to every staff member who later go out to tell other students?

This leads to the worst stigma ever on the school compass. When their status is known, YPLHA have to brave and endure discrimination in all its various forms. However, it is hard to concentrate when the whole compass seems to be sidelining you and maybe a few others. We should not except such young people to excel in their studies because the position they have been places on is worse than I a prison cell where everyone treats another as a fellow prisoner and not an outsider.

There are so many situations that have put the lives of YPLHA in danger. We need to work on this as a nation. Let us listen to the voices of YPLHA…even their silence has to be properly comprehended, it is a communication and we need to know what it means.  

YONECO Distributes 15 Bicycles to YCBDAs in Mangochi.

YONECO distributed a total of 15 bicycles to Youth Community Based Distribution Agents (YCBDAs) in the areas of Traditional Authority Mponda and Nankumba in Mangochi district.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, District Youth Friendly Health Service (YFHS) Coordinator, Chisomo Petros, applauded YONECO for the support. Petros said this will greatly contribute towards ensuring that young people who live far from health service delivery points are able to access various Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services within their vicinities.
“Provision of services is very key in ensuring that young people are able to prevent various SRH challenges like unintended pregnancies as well as reducing the prevalence rate of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
This gesture will greatly contribute towards reducing various SRH challenges which young people, especially those who live in rural areas and hard to reach areas face” said the YFHS Coordinator.
One of the recipients from T/A Nankumba, Luis Gama, thanked YONECO for the bicycles. In his remarks, Gama said the bicycles will enable them to reach out to many young people in his area.
“Our concern was on how we can easily reach out to young people with the services because of mobility challenges that are there. On behalf of all young people from Nankumba, I would like to thank YONECO for the support and ask other NGOs to emulate this good example,” said Gama.
The bicycles were distributed after the 15 recipients were trained on provision of SRH services. The training was conducted with technical support from the Reproductive Health Unit (RHU) of the Ministry of Health. In his remarks, the National Coordinator for Reproductive Health Services in Malawi, Hans Katengeza, urged the YCBDAs to properly take care of bicycles and to make sure that they are reaching out to as many young people as possible.
HIV and STI prevalence rate among young people in Malawi is shockingly high. This is attributed to a number of factors and among the key challenges is lack of access to SRHR services due to long distances. Thus, YCBDAs come in to close the gap by providing some SRH Services to young people within their localities.
The bicycles were distributed with support from Simavi- Netherlands through Get Up Speak Out (GUSO) Programme which YONECO and its partners in the Malawi Sexual Reproductive Health Rights Alliance is implementing in Chikwawa and Mangochi districts. Other partners in the Alliance are; Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE) and Centre for Alternatives for Victimized Women and Children (CAVWOC).

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Stigma and Discrimination Forcing Us to Abandon Our Kith and Kin

An aerial view of a rural growth centre in Mangochi district 
It is so sad that there is still stigma and discrimination in this contemporary world where people are more cultured unlike in the past. People discriminate fellow human beings because of all sorts of reasons like health status, gender, age, tribe, race and what have you. Discrimination and stigma are like cactus - they grow and flourish without any known source of nourishment. Every person is a human being before they are LGBTI, male or female, young or old, living with or without HIV and I firmly believe that this is an irrefutable fact.

Stigma and discrimination still exists in this period whereby the human race is more cultured than before. This one of the most common topics which I and my uncle who lives in Mangochi usually discuss whenever we meet. This uncle of mine is a respected deacon in one most famous protestant churches in Malawi. His values have always compelled me to admire him and I sometimes ask myself if this praise of his character does not fit into the condemned category of idol worship. All in all, just know that he is a man of good character who once angrily told people to let go someone who was caught stealing from his shop. To the amazement of those who were planning to try out new tricks in the field of mob justice, my uncle said; ‘Who are we to judge and punish? Let this man loose and may he go in peace and not in peaces’.

However, there is one side of my uncle’s character that was hidden to me until last Saturday when I went to visit him. Ever since he moved to Mangochi district, I visit him on Sundays once in every five or six months. I prefer to visit him on Sundays due to several reasons and among them is the fact that Sundays are easy days of the week whereby I do not go to work and he also closes his shop. …yes, another reason is the fact that there is usually no traffic. Conversely, I visited this young brother of my father on Saturday due to what I will loosely call ‘circumstances beyond my control’ for fear of airing my dirty lined in public. As a consequence, visiting my uncle on such a day meant spending my time in his shop. My uncle’s wife led me to a small trading centre that is situated within the vicinity of a very busy public health facility.
My uncle’s tailoring shop that also doubles as a grocery store directly faces the entrance of the Health Centre just across a small dusty road. I had to endure a lot of hardship with this arrangement. To begin with, the shop was not well ventilated and with the semiarid October heat, my skin looked just like a melting chocolate on a stick. Further to this, he was so busy and engaged with his customers or at times he was busy counting his money and eventually forgot about me. Later I realized that enduring all these mishaps, the situation I was in was some kind of a blessing in disguise as it gave me an opportunity to know who my uncle really is.

All that was just the bone and here is the meat… There came about four customers on the shop and a young man joined the queue. To my surprise, my uncle harshly asked the boy what he wanted to buy. I asked myself “what has happened to this man’s inherent hospitable nature?”
After a short silence, the boy said he wanted any paracetamol to which my uncle responded some milliseconds before the boy finished pronouncing the last syllable of his sentence. His response was simply “I don’t have.” The look on my uncle’s face read; “say one more word and I will punch your face.” To my dismay, I quickly searched the shelves with my eyes and saw two boxes of paracetamol. 

There were some murmurs among the men and women who were on the queue and my thinking was that the noise came about in protest to the treatment the fella got. I was wrong, the people were in support of what my uncle did and I instantly realized that the boy is an outcast in the village.  The comments which people made were like “if you had served him, we could have all one back without buying anything”. Another woman said, “at least he is not my relative”.  I saw anger in the eyes of everyone and I hope you know how it feels to be the only amiable person among many who are angry.  I was curious to know why the boy seemed so condemned by the community members. The boy must be something else. He was also being despised by a man who forgave someone who stole his hard earned money!  
When all the buyers had gone, my uncle said, ‘my late brother raised you well son. You are not like that little brat who came to buy soap a few minutes ago’.

“I don’t claim to be better than the next man uncle and I demand to know why you treated that boy like that?” It was my turn to be angry I guess. My uncle thought I will forgive and join his side by telling me that he dislikes the boy because he is gay. He accentuated the word ‘gay’ and pronounced it as if it has more vowels and consonants than it has. I didn’t know whether to laugh or stay quiet. I was unable to comprehend this whole scenario and heartrendingly, my uncle was also doing this.  

I reminded him that he once made headlines in village talks and gossip for letting a thief who was caught stealing from him go scot free for fear of judging someone a responsibility which said is solely left in the hands of the Creator. I asked if the boy’s sexual orientation has ever affected him personally. Your guess is as good as mine, he did not respond. Of course, he later said people cannot buy anything from his shop when they realize that he treats the boy fairly. This brought me to question about why the uncle hates the boy. “Is it the influence of society or it’s your personal disposition to hate gays?” I quizzed.

For the first time I saw the wisest man I have ever known stammering and lastly, he said it is a sin. I am not a theologian nor do I like grounding my arguments on religious doctrines but I know that there is no greater commandment than the ‘Golden Rule.” I told this uncle of mine who has succeeded to hide his hypocrisy for so long. I gave him the tool he reads every day and asked him to read Mathew 7:12, Luke 6:31 and Leviticus 19:18. I knew he has read all these verses but he just read them as mere piece of literature and had no impact on him. After reading almost at gun point, my uncle said I am just human, son.

Now, being human should not be an excuse to inflict pain we inflict on our fellow human beings no matter what. I asked my uncle if he noticed that the boy seemed to be in pain to which he afformed by nodding. I added that according to the direction which the boy came from, he might have been at the hospital but a certain self-proclaimed righteous health worker also refused to treat the innocent boy hence he thought of buying the pain killer from the shop. Should the boy live in the pain he is in because he is gay? The boy was not trying to force you to be like him why are you trying to force him to be like you?” These were more rhetoric devises than questions and did not expect answers from the cornered lion whose appearance suddenly started to resemble a mere cat.

Meanwhile, my uncle’s wife was just waiting for us to finish our discussion to remind us that she has brought some food. As my uncle was reflecting or pretended to be, silence ensued and the aunt notified us about the food and she complained how she spent all her energy and creativity to create something so short lived. This was in reference to the fact that I and my uncle eat like locusts in a corn field.

“I was listening to all what you were discussing” My uncle’s wife said. Neither I nor my uncle responded and our silence gave her courage to continue. In her narrative, she unearthed my uncle. I could sense that the issues she brought up were bottled up somewhere in her in her mind and were just waiting for the right time to erupt like a volcano.

One of the heartrending things she said was on how my uncle treats people he feels are HIV positive. She said that when such a person approaches his shop, he quickly slips his hand into a plastic paper and receives the money from them (those he says are HIV positive). The quotable quote came from my ‘auntie. She said that “the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS that was in the 1980s was propelled by the fact that very little was known about how HIV is transmitted hence it is strange that in this era there are still exists others who are stuck in old-fashioned way of thinking”. I added to say that worse still among those who have this mentality is your husband and my uncle.  

We have young people who are losing their lives simply because they were unable to access health care services because of the same stigma and discrimination. These vices; stigma and Discrimination have forced us to abandon our kith and kin and more often than not, when they need our support most.

We lose a lot and benefit nothing with our stigma and discrimination. People have been cured from fatal ailments with prescriptions or surgery made by a gay or lesbian physician. I have seen the elderly offering wise counsel and women saving lives. The problems we face as people are far much greater than the issues that divide us. We are all challenged by climate change, hunger, floods and what have you. Now, instead of joining hands to fight our common enemies we are busy finding grounds for hate and animosity.  Try to force yourself not to discriminate anyone on any ground and see if you will lose anything.

One thing I would like to emphasize in this entry is that young people who are living with HIV are being persecuted in our midst. Young people who are LGBTI do not have peace either. These groups of people cannot easily access health care services and this results into what most people do not want to accept - increased cases of STIs including HIV which are not fatal but lead to death and other incapacitation due to failure to access medical care in good time. 

With support from the through Simavi, YONECO and its partners in Malawi SRHR Alliance is implementing a project called Get up Speak (GUSO) in Chikwawa and Mangochi districts. Among other activities in this programme, YONECO has strengthened youth clubs, facilitated the establishment of Youth Radio Listening Clubs, training health care workers in the provision of Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS)  trained adults in Meaningful Youth Participation and other areas. The aim is to ensure that all young people, especially girls and young women, are empowered to realise their SRHR in societies that are positive towards young people’s sexuality. No young person should be left behind because of age, sexual orientation, gender …

Do not just watch innocent young lives being ill-treated. Together, let us Get Up and Speak Out for youth rights!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Mental Health is key to Increased Productivity

By Mabhuchi Nyasulu

A Solidarity March during the Commemoration of the
2017 World Mental Health Day in Zomba, Malawi 
I really love to see the increased levels of people that are mentally healthy, both the employed staff and non-employed persons in the warm heart of Africa. I have also fallen in love with the modern vernacular interpretation of mental health in Chichewa is “Maganizo angwiro”. This is a suitable description unlike a derogatory term that was used some decades ago.

 We are aware of different obstacles which people face in life and those that negatively affect productivity in a working environment. The beauty of commemorating world mental health day is to bring together people from all walks of life in order to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. The primary purpose that gains interest as this event gains momentum is the reflection aspect of it. It takes a sober mind to appreciate that united we stand divided we fall. Everyone plays a role in bringing producing such a desirable fruit.

Extending this narrative further to the theme of this year’s commemoration; rules and regulations could be facilitated to safeguard the well-being of employers from stress and anxiety. Sometimes, simple things like having lunch or braai, speak out their mind on ethical work progress helps to boost the mental health of workers. New strategies at work, even to, or delegating strategies of management burn out workshops, a trip to the lake with a group of staff would emulate relief of work pressure and getting the mind refreshed with new and constructive ideas. 

Some people, find peace and tranquility and enjoy life when they eat a well-cooked delicious food. I for one prefer boiled hot potatoes and roasted beef in brown stew. The aroma is medicinal to my nostrils and quickly impacts positively to my psyche. A smile automatically addresses people’s cheeks and they can’t help it but giggle. We tend to ignore things that are good for our mental stamina. For instance, there is something magical that happens to me when I take an early morning walk from Zomba 4 Miles to 3 Miles passing by My Place Lodge. After this good walk my mind says ‘I am healed …I’m healed!’ …my appetite gets back and it comes as if I have never eaten before and every dish I take seems so marvelous. As I chew my food I hold no grudge with anyone and forgiving becomes the song I swallow.

My plea to all employers is that there is a need to set institutional guidelines that should foster a safe environment for employees’ mental well-being. How often do employers allow staff to recuperate and socialize? Of course I am not advocating for turning work places into kindergarten but employees also need some sporting activities like social football/netball etc so as to relieve stress and anxiety. Mental Health is one of the factors that negatively impact on staff returns and this automatically makes it key to increased productivity. Let us all think about this as we commemorate the 2017 World Mental Health Day under the theme: Mental Health in the Work Place.  

Viva mental health in work places!