Friday, 25 August 2017

A WATCHDOG AT HEART

By: Richard Chilango & evelece Chinga’mbe

It was an era of advocacy, it was a period of activism, it was a moment of sponsorship, it was a minute of support, it was an epoch of youth interventions, it was an age of sponsorship, it was a full-stop to child marriages, it was the death of male chauvinism, it was a tombstone unveiling ceremony for gender based violence, it was the Revelation of women’s inferiority complex and happy birthday to their self-belief. In summary, it was a time when women, children and youth rights campaign was at its orgasm.

Be it that you haven’t heard about this human rights watchdog in mention, then you need to be updated, that one true organization is Youth Net and counselling (YONECO), Its Tithandizane helpline center has a free toll line with which helpline councilors respond to all the calls from clients and victims of abuse. You can pop into YONECO premises on a familiarization tour, but you won’t see the councilors vagabonding the premises like a lost sheep in wilderness deprived of wolfs, standing at the edges of the cafeteria for a viewpoint won’t do favors. Telepathy will only betray for the councilors routinely work indoors for the sake of a tête-à-tête mediated environment, and that’s always best for guidance and counselling in the long run.

If you were to see the councilors, you would find a presentable, decent person with a helpful look, pondering hard on how best to respond to questions rendered by clients. Often times, the councilors will hold the phone receiver on one hand and a pen on the other hand. The men clad in long decent shots and shirts that have a bowtie, the women also slay it executively unless it’s on a Fry day. 

The watchdog (YONECO) is present wherever human rights are being infringed or deprived, it’s always omnipresent in its catchment areas and thus speaking of districts like Nkhatabay, Rumphi, Salima, Mchinji, Mangochi, Zomba, Chikhwawa, Ntchisi, Ntcheu, Machinga, Mulanje, Likoma,  Nkhotakota and Phalombe at times.

People who have a liking for the radio developed an interest to keep a keen eye on the name YONECO FM (YFM) and doors are left wide open to receive anybody who is dying to place their feet on the majestic vicinities of YFM. A visit by an audience full of praises causes a YONECO journalist to smile in appreciation and that elevates their work energy going forward. A woman who has spent two years and six months admiring the Golden voiced Olivier Gondwe , dreaming of setting her eyes on the award winning ,titus Linzie, causes the journalists in mention to keep up the good work in progress.

It’s no cause for pity that journalists have one day to rest out of the seven days believed of making a week, for their work is a calling. Although their work terms and conditions indicate room for leave days, their never on a hundred percent holiday, they do not worry that they are in the wrong profession as long as they are informing, civic education and entertaining the general public, but most of all they have excellent working conditions and privileges.

Rumor is it that journalist are luxurious people, but journalist belonging to this watchdog are different. All that lingers in their freedom fighting mindsets is rights advocacy. On Monday the journalist attend to staff briefing meeting where issues are looked at from an institutional point of view, Tuesdays to Sundays are for advocacy, news reporting, and radio presentation, outside broadcast and field work.

After paternity and maternal holidays the journalist works day in and day out to backlog time lost and wasted away over the leave holidays. No wonder the aftermath of maternity holiday makes one feel like a newly employee. The journalists have for so long been used as a weapon in fighting for the rights of special groups of people though modern times has created a breed of social media loving journalist who would spend a moment of forever twitting about their luxurious shoes instead of utilizing such platforms to convey messages of sexual reproductive health and rights. But thanks heavens the watchdog has a different breed of reporter’s and presenters, they kind that uses ICT tools in communicating SRHR issues.

Were you to ask a journalist what makes them feel sorry, they would tell you one laughable thing, that they always feel sorry for seedless watermelons, if you ask them why?, they would respond to you that what if they wanted to have babies.

Working tirelessly in a boardroom full of files, accountant officers will patiently sit on the desk waiting for officers who went out on field to liquidate and submit their field reports so that they file such information and keep it in their safe keeping whilst awaiting audit. The finance manager will pass by the desks of each and every accounts officer all just to make sure work is being done at the desired expectation and right pace. The manager will pass by the next desk, where a man is enjoyably wondering when next will he go out for field work, and that tells a story, a story of a watchdog with a lot of opportunities to offer. He stops by the desk of the young man who is counting every minute, and loathing the hours, the finance managers laughs in shame knowing that YONECO is a service delivery organization.

Sitting on an office chair, is a happy employee of the watchdog with a pen that is scribbling what your eyes are founding merry in. 





  


CHIWAMBA DIES ON THE CROSS


By: Richard Chilango jr



Home grown literary sensation, Jack Mapanje, would often times start his literary pieces with the art of imagery to unveil the bad deeds rendered by the then regime towards the silent majority, as a favorite author of mine. I would duplicate his style if I could, but he was a genius born to write without difficulty whilst for me to put down something, I write down with bitter blood, with utmost effort, with sour gall well blended with shame and guilt. But all the same for a poet is before anything else, a person who passionately fell in love with language, and lucky me, I happen to be betrothed to linguistics.

It is with reference that Poetry makes the nation go round, imagine a Malawi without the likes of the evergreen, Okoma Atani Malunga, the vibrant, Aubrey Chinguwo, and the issue based ,Robert Chiwamba, best famed for his breakthrough hit “muzafa imfa yowawa”. Over time literature in the nature of poetry has been used as a fighting mechanism against all sorts of oppression, and also in showcasing ones grief, happiness, sorrow, love, hate you name it. Bestselling anthologies are what they are because of literature best described poetry.

It won’t be translated as mere exaggeration if I go open blank to bear witness that secondary school would have been hell on planet earth if not for Shakespeare’s series of classics, the tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet” left our faces flooding with tears of joy. Like the romantic shivers aroused by romantic lines which read “when Romeo saw Juliet it was love at first sight.” Not to mention of the political classic, “Smouldering Charcoal”, it left many a great number of us with a sense of origin and that in itself is a miracle for rivers that do forget their origin easily dry up.

It is beyond human belief to say that literature is not in other people’s vocabulary, how art thou hard to endure in a world without readings. For the eye’s responsibility goes past fulfilling and appreciating the visual living creatures and statues.

Nevertheless, it is of paramount importance to censor the nature of the content for all that glitters is not gold. Some poetic products tend to be propaganda oriented and not for a good cause, as such one turns into the biblical meaning of a prodigal son.

The genre of poetry that we opt for is derived from our own behavior mirror, if you fancy warfare poetry then time nurtures and embraces you into a war veteran. If you’re in frequent contact with something, you are joined into holy matrimony as it becomes the true definition of a perfect soul mate. For one Becomes part of that something and that something becomes part of him/her. As it is with belief that there is some poetry which is not youth friendly, especially when it reaches a vulnerable audience.

As a nation, its best we acknowledge the implications of negative poetry as it yields brainwash, violence, drug and substance abuse, juvenile maladjustment, mental disorder and the list is endless. Some poetic lyrics tend to advocate sexual intercourse, drinking and debauchery, teen dating, obscene language, and drug abuse.

The lyrics always talk about sex, binge drinking, drugs and violence. According to poetry, all these are said to be good, nice and sweet. However, what our unsuspecting minds quickly switch to whatever the famous poets are scribbling. Thus the youths end up in multi sexual relationships, alcoholism and other harmful behaviors, and such is bad for development in the long run.

It’s on a sad note to learn that poets enjoy the benefit of a life contrary to their work, furthermore there are totally different from what we witness in their literary works.

Yes! It won’t be welcomed as news if we say of the many problems that are being faced by the youths in the country. On the other hand, it won’t be fair to attribute all the blame on poetry. There are also other nice poems that are informative on issues of sexual reproductive health rights and civic education at large. Such poems have positively contributed to the prevention of HIV, teenage pregnancies, drug and substance abuse and other harmful behaviors among young people.

A classic example is that of, Robert Chiwamba’s, advisory poem“Mukapanda Kupewa” it’s a piece that is illuminating some of the dangers of indulging in unprotected sexual intercourse and acts of such. The persona makes a point to the youths on the need to abstain; where not possible then condoms should be an immediate remedy. The narrator opts for a sombre mood just to express thy magnitude of grief upon seeing the many a great number of souls with which the deadly HIV virus is busy claiming day in and day out.

Another classic is “Malapiro Pa malawi”, it’s a verbal poem that Laments the trending salary inclement and also has room to advocate for salary adjustment, for sometimes the youths indulge in wrong acts because they are lacking a financial muscle to carter for their needs. In a country where salaries are not worthwhile low cash flow takes shape, people will do anything in their prowess to make sure they don’t die a financial death, and that spells doom for the vulnerable minds, for some will go as far as indulging in commercial sex to make ends meet.

As such, it would be better to provide better salaries to the youths and the majority at large on whatever job that they have done.  As such there is need for government to take immediate action.

Ooh indeed! Chiwamba has played martyrs having scribbled and recited that one poem “Mukapanda Kupewa” and the newly released “Malipilo Pa malawi”.                                

Monday, 21 August 2017

Those Responsible for Provision of SRHR Information should be Answerable to Increased Teen Pregnancies.

After getting pregnant in her early teens, Farida (not real name) thought that this marked the end of the world. Fari, as her friends used to call her, couldn’t think of anything apart from just staying at home, sleep, watch kids play in the backyard and all sorts of easy things and some slothful activities. The thought of taking her life did not cross her mind only once but numerous times. Her fear and stress were mainly triggered by what people will say and what his father will do to her as he had said several times that he will operate any girl who will fall pregnant under her parents’ roof.

Time came when Farida could no longer hide her pregnancy.  The question her parents had was how their daughter could fall pregnant with all the pieces of advice they bombarded her with day-in-day-out. What went wrong?

Farida grew up in environment where she could interact with her parents and was able to ask several questions. The parents were able to explain every phenomena but they were unable to open up when on issues to do with Sexual Reproductive Health.

While at school the little girl fell in love with a boy whom at one point in the relationship, the two had sex. Two months down the line, she did not realise that missing her periods twice could be a sign of pregnancy. In fact, she was happy that she had stopped menstruating. Of ourse she was later told by an older friend that is when she thought it wise to hide the pregnancy until she finds a way out - and so she thought

Upon noticing the changes on their daughter, Farida’s parents called her for questioning. The little girl didn’t know what to say and remained quiet like a book on a library shelf. Words escaped her and she just kept on looking at her mother’s bewildered face.  They took her to the hospital for pregnancy test where the parents’ fear was confirmed.

Here is the saddest part; Farida’s male counterpart who was responsible for the pregnancy decided to apply a permanent solution to what he thought was spark that will set the whole world on fire and terminate its existence.

The nurse who did the examination on her had to counsel the girl. It was in this counselling session where it was known that the girl did not know that when a girl starts experiencing monthly periods she can get pregnant once she indulges in unprotect sex. Little did she also know what safe sex means and the thought that she could get STIs including HIV through unsafe sex seemed to have never crossed her mind.

Things turned out very well for Farida. Her father was properly counselled as well and he understood the role he had to ensure that Farida’s dreams are rekindled and achieved. Today, as I am writing this article, Farida is no longer the sad one you have been seeing in the eye of your mind. She went back to school and her hard work and dedication paid off and she is able to support her child.


Parents, health care workers, faith leaders, aunties and uncles, youth workers e.t.c are responsible for ensuring that young people are given access to age appropriate sexual reproductive health information. Young people really need that kind of information for them to make informed decisions. Such people are the first to blame young girls and boys whenever the boy or girl has faced a sexual reproductive health challenge. Who should be blamed here? The one who is  supposed to provide guidance or the one who falls into a pit because he or she was not told that there is a pit along the path?

Saturday, 12 August 2017

2017 International Youth Day; A Reflection on Demographic Dividend and SRHR of Young people


On first August this year, I checked the United Nations calendar for International Days and the chart reminded me that Saturday, 12 August, 2017 is the International Youth Day (IYD). This day is one of the days I find myself very busy organizing community events, sharing each and every moment with colleagues, and acquaintances on social media and other platforms.
This is an important day especially when we look at various issues as well as the fact that the youth form the majority of the population. The youth have a stake in all decisions that are made today as they are directly affected by whatever outcome the decisions will being. Further to this, the youth will also remain to shoulder the burden that may be caused by the decisions.
Thus, looking at this year’s theme; “Youth Building Peace: The Role of Youth in Population, Health, Environment, Skills Development and Entrepreneurship”, I find it befitting. The current population growth rate is very shocking and has a negative bearing on the already depleted resources.

Looking at the situation of the youth in Malawi, I ask myself questions and cannot easily find answers. The lives of young people in Malawi and most developing countries is marred  by; unintended teen pregnancies, forced child marriages, increased Sexually Transmitted infections (STI’s) including HIV, harmful traditional practices. With all these SRHR challenges, access to Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) is a nightmare.  Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is becoming a threat to young people in the country and at the same time inflicts holes into the country’s  social and economic fabric.
This year’s international Youth Day has reminded me of the OAU’s Africa Day which is celebrated on every May 25 each year. This year’s theme focused much on the demographic dividend and how African countries should leverage its advantage in developing its young, talented and hopeful populations. However, the quest can only be achieved if our government is ready to invest in SRH of young people. Provision of comprehensive SRH package to the youth is very critical to youth development, health, well-being, and other necessary elements that are necessary to propel   sustainable economic growth in Malawi.
For those who are not familiar with the demographic dividend, a simple explanation according to UNDP refers to accelerated economic growth that begins with changes in the age structure of a country’s population. A shift to fewer dependent people relative to working-age individuals, accompanied by investments in employment, entrepreneurship, education, skills development, health, rights, governance, and youth empowerment.
My immediate observation is that the issue of proper attention to the health of young people is paramount if the country would want the youth to be at peace and even harnessing the demographic dividend as a way of promoting young people in the country. A fight against poverty cannot end when girls as younger as 14 are forced to enter into marriages, when there is a lot of unprotected sex among youths which leads to a lot of teen pregnancies and transmission of STI’s and HIV. In this situation government will continue to spend more and more money to provide treatment for STI’s and HIV drugs, not only that but large chunk of budget will be allocated to subsidies so that people are able to access services. This is not peace.
Let me finish by highlighting that, UN did not make any mistake to include the international youth day on its calendar, this serves as a reminder to all countries across the globe to reflect on how they can advance the welfare and rights of youth, this year’s theme talks more building peace as countries have recognizes that the current generation of youth are the largest in history and young people often comprise the majority in countries marked by armed conflict or unrest, therefore considering the needs and aspirations of youth in matters of peace and security is a demographic imperative.
But my point is that the youth cannot be agents of change, the youth cannot be actors in conflict prevention and sustaining peace unless we properly set our priorities and place our emphasis on developing the lives of young people. Malawi cannot develop if no investments are made towards the health of the youth in the country. Happy International Youth Day.


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Polygonal SRH Puzzle

The youth form a larger part of the total population of the world. It is very heartrending to note that this large sect of the world’s population is facing a lot of challenges and among them are issues pertaining to drug and substance abuse that lead to mental illness, death and many other problems. Of paramount importance and worth the world’s attention and collective action is the issue of Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) of young people.

The problem mainly comes in due to the fact that the youth across the globe do not have access to SRH services. Adolescence has its own accompanying elements and among them is the need to seek knowledge about one’s sexuality. As such, the youth lack knowledge and they rely on information from their peers. Usually, this information is based on myths and half-truths and they act based on the misconceptions and they eventually face the dire consequences.

Firstly, the youth, more especially girls are greatly affected by Sexual Reproductive Health problems like maternal death and fistula. These two ‘beasts’ have claimed thousands of young lives across the world. The root of the problem emanates from the fact that young girls start engaging in sexual activities with either boys of their age group or older men. Due to lack of knowledge on the issues of sex and sexuality, they end up being impregnated. Because of their immaturity, many die during delivery and some end up with obstetric fistula.

Secondly, SRH problems have led to an increase in school drop out rate more especially in low income countries. The lack of knowledge on issues of sex and sexuality combined with the lack of SRH services like contraceptives has led to an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies. In Malawi and most traditional societies, when a boy impregnates a girl, culture and society dictates that they should marry. Thus, bringing food on the table becomes the order of the day to such couples and the responsibility leaves them with no room to go back to school. 

Thirdly, HIV and AIDS has and is still claiming lives of young people throughout the world. HIV prevalence rate is dangerously high among the youth in spite of several attempts by governments, funding agencies and NGOs to put the situation under control. The problem has, in the long run, affected youth representation in various critical and key positions in the society. As such, implementation and formulation of some human development initiatives do not consider the youth.

The issues of SRH are very crosscutting hence the need for a systematic approach to deal with the problem. Culture and societal norms need to be tackled as well as the two are also among the main perpetrators of among the SRH problems among the youth. It is like a puzzle that has to be solved in order to save the next generation.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Promoting Youth Friendly Health Services Among young people

Malawi should address the issue of unwanted pregnancies among young girls who are dropping out of school because of pregnancy. Heartrendingly, most of them do not go back to school after delivery as they dedicate their time to raising their babies and most are held back by the fear of how their schoolmates and teachers will treat them.  The issue of teenage pregnancies in Malawi has also led to unsafe abortions among the youth. 

As a way of putting an end to this, young people should be practically accorded their right to sexual reproductive health and family planning services. Furthermore, the policies that are aimed at promoting young people’s sexual and reproductive health should be operationalized without much ado because the issue at hand requires immediate action.

Investing in young people’s sexual reproductive health will greatly empower them so much that the youth will remain healthy, attain their education and realize their goals in life.
Young people have the right to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health, including the number, timing, and spacing of their children and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

All young people, regardless of sex or marital status should have access to sexual and reproductive health services, which includes access to safe, effective, affordable, and youth friendly health services of their choice.

There is also a need to facilitate the process of encouraging peer education which also helps young people to obtain clear information about sensitive issues pertaining to sexual behavior, reproductive health, STIs including HIV and AIDS. Provision of youth friendly health services in tertiary education institutions and workplaces and other places where young people congregate is also viable and cost effective 

The youth in Malawi need to increase their knowledge base on current and relevant information about sexual reproductive health.

Of late, behavior change campaigns for young people have also been neglected and the consequence of this has been strongly felt in all parts of the country and that is in both rural and urban settings.

The government and non-governmental organizations need to maintain and develop effective monitoring systems of such initiatives to inform programing and improve service delivery.
On the other hand, when all is said and done, my fellow young people should also know that the onus is in their hands. No matter what the government and NGOs will do, the youth themselves are key to this. A lot of money, time and resources have already been spent on the promotion of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and  rights but the youth themselves are also to blame for not being active.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

YFHS and Social Economic Development of Young People

“I have a 2 year old child and living positively mainly because I had no access to HIV”, these are words that were spoken in a discussion whereby young people were debating the importance of accessing Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS). The narrator of this heartrending account, a youth worker from Mangochi district, told me that the girl continued to explain that she firmly believed that if she had access to YFHS about 3 years ago, the turnout of events in her life could have been different.

When a certain youth worker who was facilitating this session told me about the statements, I felt that the whole nation failed this young girl big time. Why would someone grow from childhood to adolescence without knowing critical issues about sex and sexuality? As I have always argued, parents and older relatives also know that they are supposed to discuss such matters with young people. Every adult realizes the need to discuss SRHR issues with a growing up young person. However, shyness forces people to continuously curtail such important sessions until it becomes too late to so. The consequences are so dire and at times irreparable. 

I for one believe that older citizens as well as duty bearers should know that they are also to blame when the country is registering increased cases of unintended teen age pregnancies and shockingly high prevalence rate of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).    We need to acknowledge our failure to protect innocent young lives as it is our responsibility to ensure that the young people are going into the adult world which they are conversant with and prepared for.

It is illogical to leave things to chance and expect that young people will one way or the other know about their sexual reproductive health. If one does not take that initiative to discuss SRHR issues with a young person who is growing into adolescence, the end result is that young person gets wrong information from their peers. Let me share with you what a group of adults told me about the most misleading SRH information they once got from friends and realise after some years that it was all a lie. Here are some of the misconceptions that were mentioned;

·       sleeping with boys or men helps a girl to get vitamin K
·       A girl can avoid conception by having a bath immediately after having unprotected sex
·       Infertility in men is caused by failure to undergo sexual cleansing during adolescence

These and many other factors are the reasons why allowing young people to access YFHS is the best option which parents and guardians of adolescent young boys and girls should choose. Young people’s access to YFHS will help everyone serve a lot in terms of time, money and other resources as problems that are caused by young people’s SRH challenges are costly. Furthermore, parents and guardians should accept that they are not experts in SRH. Sometimes, if parents or guardian are feeling shy or hesitant to discuss SRH issues with their adolescent boys or girls then they should let the YFHS Providers do the needful. Leaving the specialists to do the work is paramount in as far as prevention of SRH challenges which young people face is concerned.    


There is a need for all to know and understand that access to YFHS among young people is very key to social and economic development of young people. The welfare of young people and their lives in future is shaped by how their sexual reproductive health is taken care of today.