Tuesday, 30 July 2013

My Take on HIV/AIDS and the Youth.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic remains one of the greatest health challenges facing the world today. It is heartbreaking to note that prevalence is also very high among the youths. The youths carry hopes for every nation’s future and if they are lost it means the world is lost as well. They also form a larger percentage of our society and their early demise entails an inevitable lost generation.

Many capable and resourceful youths who could have contributed to the development of their countries are dying of the disease leaving behind helpless old people and orphans.

There is an imminent danger that lies ahead of us in relation to the aforesaid challenge which emanates from HIV predominance among the youths. In view of this fact, several organizations and institutions are very active sending HIV and AIDS awareness messages in an attempt to scale down the spread of the virus. Furthermore, a good number of such significant messages are meant to cater for HIV/AIDS information needs of the youth. Conversely, the youth are still indulging themselves in promiscuous behaviours that put them at the risk of infecting their youthful blood with the virus. Thus, the high prevalence of HIV among the youth is not a result of lacking information or ignorance but it is mainly due to an arrogance nature that is commonly associated with young people.   

In this view, it is awfully shocking to discover that someone so young decides to shatter his or her whole future just for youthful pleasures that only last for a few years. The problem is that many of them do not value their lives, they only think about today and do not give a thought about their tomorrow. They are so blinded by youthhood so much that they do not take heed of wise counsel which is offered for free and available in unimaginable quantities.

There are scenarios whereby some male and female university students, who reside outside their designated school compasses, live together in one house. This also fuels reckless sexual encounters among them. Furthermore, the young male students also happen to have other partners as well and likewise their female counterparts who also go out with sugar daddies. The web does not end there because the old men also have their wives plus many other sexual partners.

Do you think the messages are not enough? What do you think could be done to supplement the efforts that are aimed at reducing the spread of HIV?..

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Avert Teen Marriages

Every year, an estimated number of 14 million girls get married before they turn 18. The constitution of the republic of Malawi Section 22 (3) stipulates that ‘for persons between the age of fifteen and eighteen years, a marriage shall only be entered into with the consent of their parents or guardians’. A serious look at the situation in Malawi, girls who are in that age group are usually at secondary level of their studies. Worse still, many girls below the age of 15 (more especially those in the rural areas) are primary school pupils. Thus, with or without consent, teen marriages only bring misery and despair to the girls and the society as a whole.

There are different reasons why young and energetic girls rush into matrimony. As an ideal way of trying to change this obviously imperfect state, I strongly suggest that we need to first of all look at the root causes of it. The solution to the problem under scrutiny in this write-up sorely lies in a proper analysis of the grounds of early marriages among teen girls.

Firstly, culture is among the factors that fuel teen marriages more especially among girls of this age group. The customs and beliefs that are characteristic of our society allure young girls to drop out from school just to get married. For instance, let us take initiation ceremonies as an example; the core reason of this practice is to initiate young boys and girls into adulthood. Thus, the young initiates are told and taught about the things adults do and how they are supposed to carry themselves as adults in their society. As it has also been said on numerous occasions by various social commentators that the practice itself is not entirely bad but certain elements of it are very destructive.

 How can elders initiate a 13 year old girl into adulthood and expect her to continue with her studies and live under the roof of her parents’ house? Thus, the young initiates easily fall into marriage traps that are set by older men who are twice older than them. Furthermore, they know that adults are independent of their parents and that they have their own dwellings where they reside in. Consequently, the initiated teen girls look no further to fulfill the perceived necessities- they just jump into the hands of any man who asks for their hand in marriage.

My proposition here does not in any way propose that we should cast off initiation customs but that we should rather take out the undesirable elements. However, there is a strong resistance to change but change has to take place. This calls for a war of ideas and constructive arguments to mend the situation in a civil manner. The custodians of our culture just hold dearly the customs that were embraced a long time ago by our ancestors without questioning the purposes of some customs. Traditional customs are made by people and they are for the people as well. We can decide to change them in order to discourage harmful practices that impinge the well-being of adolescent girls and their communities.

Other factors that also fuel teen marriages include poverty, the lack of proper life skills and planning lessons, the lack of role models and career guidance sessions as well as many other similar features.
Real societies protect and create an enabling environment for its girls to realize their full potentialities. Change is inevitable but it cannot take place on its own, it needs people like us. That is me, you and everyone out there!  

Friday, 26 July 2013

African leaders to shift HIV, malaria, poverty targets by 15years (2030)

Over time, the government is seen to be failing and have completely failed us. Despite their numerous promises, political wills, strategies and roadmaps, there is no headway to combating and reaching the goal of just a simple MDG 6; to halt and reduce the spread of AIDS, TB and Malaria. Can you predict the number of new infections of HIV, TB that will be recorded by 2030? Do you foresee the number of pregnant mothers and children that will die of Malaria? Malawi and other African countries for decades, has trudged largely behind the rest of the world, with many of our problems originating from bad leadership and corruption. Shifting timelines is the order of the day.

Youth Net and Counseling together with other organization are working hand in hand in combating the spread of HIV; mitigating the impacts of AIDS, and making sure that some of the affected people undergo counseling process. There is a lot we need to do!!  Let’s Unite and fight against AIDS/ Malaria/TB.
We young people we need to place our hands on activities that we deemed fit to create a better world for ourselves. Our leaders will not and cannot help us achieve a world with #ZeroNewInfection #ZeroStigma&Discrimination and #ZeroAIDSRelatedDeath.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Orange Day

Violence against women has been a menace to the whole world so much that in some parts of the world, women reached the point of perceiving it as a norm. Now is the time for them to see a change.
In July last year the Secretary General for UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign proclaimed every 25th of the month of July as Orange Day. Initiated and led by the UNiTE campaign Global Youth Network, worldwide activities implemented on this day by UN country offices and civil society organizations strive to highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls. The initiative to deal with violence against women further stretches its arms on not on every 25th of November which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
This time around the world is in the ‘Say no to violence against women and girls in cyber space’. Turn cyber space orange for Orange day. Change your Facebook profile picture to the UNiTE campaign’s July 25 ribbon image, post pictures of yourself wearing orange, Use & share the photo of the UNiTE Ribbon.
On Thursday July 25, the UNiTE campaign in conjunction with various partners will host a Twitter discussion. The issues will focus on how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be used to prevent and end violence against women. Join us. Share information about similar initiatives that you know about.  You are also urged to invite others to do the same. Learn about innovative projects. Follow @SayNO_UNiTE and #orangeday on Twitter.

YONECO as an organization has many programs that are aimed at preventing gender based violence in addition to empowering girls and women through the use of several innovative approaches.  Thus, we talk of the National free toll Helpline- a tool where people more especially the youth and women access information and assistance on various issues that affect them. So let’s unite in ending Violence that is instigated on girls and women.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Educating the Youth, then What?...

Investing in the education of Malawian children is one major scheme that the government of the Republic of Malawi and other various stakeholders in the sector are tirelessly undertaking. Perhaps, this is in the realization of James Coleman’s concept of ‘Social Capital’ and the need to invest in the youths to guarantee a better tomorrow. To be frank, Malawi’s leaders have time and again employed the now overused axiom that ‘the youth are the leaders of tomorrow’. They really know the full essence of it so much so that one prominent leader once thought using only one time indicator in the truism was not enough and naively called the youth  ‘future leaders of tomorrow’, there by distorting its positive meaning. Nevertheless, their commitment in ensuring that the youth are acquiring some education is somehow evident and goes without saying.  Although Malawi is ranked among the least developed countries, it tries hard to endow its education sector despite its mean economic resources. The focal point I am driving at is: millions of Kwachas are spent on educating them so that they should do what with their academic knowledge?

If leaders and policy makers were to be serious and ponder on answering such a question, no ill intentioned individuals will continue thwarting their intended goal. This is because, in as far as their statements go,  it seems the attempts to educate the youths are beyond mere rhetoric.  If that is the case, then maybe someone out there is busy defeating their purpose or they have not set their priorities right. I mean, they do not think or believe that spending a lot of money and resources to get some academic knowledge and papers is an end in itself. There is need for the country to reap and benefit the fruition of its initiative. After their successful academic voyage, the young and sophisticated individuals need to start offering their services in various sectors so as to develop the country and this is not the case. This simply begs another question: ‘whose problem is it then?’

If we are to look at this conundrum using a categorical syllogism technique, the youths will be nowhere near our premises. Thus, a deductive reasoning will leave us with two culprits and among them could be the government. As it has already been mentioned earlier, addressing this challenge requires the government and other concerned sectors to set their priorities right.
Somehow, it seems barbaric to point a finger at something that one feels is not right without proposing what is to be done instead.

I will firstly say that our graduates from various academic institutions need to be employed after their successful completion of their studies. This is the ideal way to go and it is obvious for we do not need renowned geographer to tell us that Kilimanjaro is bigger than Zomba Mountain.

There are several challenges they face to find employment and yet the government, which is the biggest employer in the country, spent huge sums of money on them starting from their free primary education up to their tertiary studies. However, employment opportunities are available but the issue of experience is the prohibiting factor. It is very sad to note that it is the very same government which starts using the ‘killer clause‘in its vacancy advertisements which read: All applicants should at least have 7 years work experience.

How does the government expect someone it was spending money on his or her education a few months before to have the so called work experience? The aforementioned clause in many vacancy advertisements is an enemy of all graduates. As such, they spend a lot of years doing nothing and we cannot speculate on the aftermath of it but maybe a neurosurgeon can assist. Furthermore, I am not trying to imply or evoke a repetition of the 2011 Egyptian saga but I would rather propose or set an agenda for possible ingenious solutions.

There are also a lot of companies that always want experienced people to fill in various vacant positions within their systems or beef up their human resource. Sadly, the companies also mention the issue of experience with an addition of age requirement. This seems as if they are looking for non-Malawians for such young people with a work experience they prescribe are not many or simply not available in this country. Never the less, there might be a few who were lucky after graduating and this also means that the very same faces shift from one employment to another. Such companies do not take on board interns from our colleges. They simply rely on others to give someone the work experience and some additional job training and that is when they come out from their cocoon and go out on a poaching spree. Thus, most institutions and organisations are also sharing the mindset hence the problem is also becoming big.

This point leads me to commend Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO). Since 2003, YONECO has been hosting interns. In its strategic plan, youth internship programme was adopted as a strategy to improve knowledge and skills for youth development. So far, the programme has reached out to over 90 interns from local academic institutions like Chancellor College, Natural Resources of tCollege, Catholic University of Malawi and Development Management Institute (DMI) amongst others. The programme has also reached close to 30 interns from various countries outside Malawi.   

Other institutions, organizations and government departments need to borrow a leaf from such pacesetters. The government needs also to look at the problem of youth unemployment with a sober mind and put in place other workable means to rectify it. The mechanisms are many and to me they seem to be numerous. The government and stakeholders need to go back to their boardrooms and try to answer the question: we are educating the youth, then what should happen to them and the country   after completion of their studies? Otherwise it is counterproductive to spend money on ensuring that the youth have gained academic knowledge just for the sake of it.