Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Position of Women and Girls in 50-Year Old Independent Malawi.

The fact that 51 percent of the total population of Malawi is made up of females simply tells us that there are more males than females. However, I doubt if this fact manifests itself in our everyday endeavors.  

There are so many instances that suggest that women are disregarded by our society’s norms and customs.  This is an outright shame to Malawi as a nation that is governed by democratic principles and adheres to the profound human rights of all. If we are really serious about developing this nation, then why do we seem to be clinging to our old patriarchal ways? No one has ever justified the reason why we leave out a larger percentage of our population in many of our development efforts.

School enrollment rate and annual school dropout rates of boys and girls, you will notice that more girls drop out of school than boys and enrollment numbers are quiet high on the column of boys than that of girls. The pass rate of boys and girls in national examinations are enough to put one into a military posture of attention. It appears as if the boys had an easy syllabus when well leaned teachers than their female counterparts.

The reasons for such heartrending scenarios are simple, there are only a few who really want to see girls excelling in the society. Not many people are willing to engage themselves in the noble cause of fighting against the evils that  prevent women and girls from excelling.

People call all sorts of derogatory names to sex workers and shout sarcastic remarks as if dehumanizing them is a cure for all their problems. Nobody says hang on! Who do such women sleep around with? Every community knows who the men are but they take it as a normal thing- 'males vanquishing the females by virtue of their being males'. However, just because the partners are females, the society becomes judgmental and condemnatory.

Earnestly, gender equality is one major indicator of modernity. A civilized society is one that respects and grants equal freedoms and opportunities to all people regardless of age, skin colour, gender and what have you.

The recent tripartite elections that were held on the 20th of May this year have also shown how far we might be away from civilization. Out of the total 193 parliamentary seats only 32 aspiring females emerged as victors while the other positions were scooped by men.  The Local Elections results were also the same as only 56 female candidates won as Ward Councillors while men got the lion’s share.

A lot of sarcastic remarks were made and some reached the point of saying women should not vie for positions because their rightful place is in the kitchen. If it were really so, why do women crowd under five clinics with their infants (some who will grow up and have the audacity of saying ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’) on their backs? If it were true that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, we could have been seeing men and their toddlers crowding under five clinics and women cooking in the comfort of their kitchens.

Furthermore, people should avoid generalisations, they are illogical. If a constituency or ward had a female leader who did not perform during her reign in power, does it mean all women cannot manage the mantles?

However, all is not lost because those who have won positions know how best to address the challenges which women and girls are facing. The country is expecting a lot from them; the youth, women and children have long outstanding issues that really need to be addressed and who knows better than their elected representatives?

It is high time Malawians respected the rights of women as well as girls. There is need to incorporate women and girls in all our national agendas. They too have their desires as well as aspirations and their capacity to develop this country should not be underestimated. Male chauvinism has no place in the democratic and 50 -year old independent Malawi.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Free Sexual Reproductive Health Counselling is Just a Phone Call Away

As YONECO is still cerebrating what TNM (Telecom Networks Malawi) has just done, the youth, women, children and all right minded people have all the reasons to celebrate as well.

The country’s first mobile service operator has donated a set of computers worth MK 2 million to YONECO to be used in the free toll helpline call centre. Further to this, TNM has also pledged a total of MK 4.8 million annual funding to YONECO in order to sustain the toll free helpline services.

The company has set a good example which the corporate world should emulate as Civil Society Organisations and the government work towards the betterment of all people in Malawi.

YONECO’s Tithandizane National Helpline Service provides necessary and rapid support to abused children and women at different levels. Young people can also access counselling on issues pertaining to their sex and sexuality as well as HIV and AIDS counselling.

My emphasis on this issue in this entry   is on the youth of Malawi. The vulnerability of all individuals who are in this age bracket needs no emphasis. Just for the record, the millennium youth are in a fix due to certain changes which have occurred in our society over the last few decades. This has greatly affected the channels through which young people used to get information on issues pertaining to their sexuality in Malawi.

Gone are the days when adolescent boys and girls were sent to their uncles, aunts or grandparents for some sex and sexuality orations soon after reaching puberty. The implication is that today’s young people are relying on half-truths if not outright lies relayed by their peers. These are also young people who have no knowledge or experience on matters of sexual reproductive health.

For precision’s sake, young people have limited opportunities when it comes to getting reliable and alternative sources of information regarding their sexual reproductive lives. The upshots of this sad scenario are very catastrophic as manifested in the shocking numbers of teen age pregnancies and all the attendant problems like obstetric fistula, the country’s teen HIV prevalence rate and teen marriages.

Now, YONECO and TNM have come in to fill the information gap whereby young people, who are usually shy of getting face to face advice from reliable sources, can easily make an anonymous call to YONECO’ toll free line and get all the necessary help they may need. YONECO’s National Helpline Service has experienced and well trained counsellors who are capable of, among other things, offering reliable counselling sessions on issues concerning sexual reproductive health of young people.

Furthermore, I would like to emphasise that the service is not just for young people! When you are in need of counselling, do not falter to call 8000 1234.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

African Child Day: As we go Towards Compulsory Education in the Continent of Africa

Every year on the 16th of June is the African Child Day; the day came into being in memory of children who were killed in the Republic of South Africa in their pursuit for democracy and independence from the Apartheid regime. The commemoration brings together all Civil Society Organisations, more especially those that that are involved in child protection, and governments to reaffirm their commitment to the welfare of children.

The Day is celebrated by all African Union (AU) member States .This year’s commemoration will be celebrated under the theme; A child friendly, quality and compulsory education for all children in Africa.
According to the AU, although most African countries are working hard to empower and enhance children’s rights, there is still a gap in terms of the education of children in the continent. Education plays a major role in the development of an individual and the society as whole. This greatly informs and reminds African countries that they have an obligation to provide quality education to children. There is need to create an enabling environment for children to learn and education should also be free and compulsory to all African children. 

There are so many factors that impinge children from exercising their right to education. For instance, most Malawian public schools lack necessary teaching and learning materials. The case is overwhelmingly serious in rural public schools and illiteracy levels of people in such rural communities are also very high. The number of teachers does not, in any way, match the number of learners and a lot has to be done in terms of providing other resources and infrastructures like class rooms, sanitary facilities as well as portable drinking water for the learners.

As we commemorate the Day of the African Child, governments should remember that all learners have strengths and challenges. It is, therefore, the governments’ role to make sure that such challenges are overcome and that each individual student’s capabilities are nurtured to fruition. What African governments should know is that compulsory education, to a greater extent, entails an increase in enrollment and this means that teaching and learning resources and materials will also be needed in huge and abundant supplies. For a society to develop, it must sustainably support and invest in the education of its young ones.

All in all, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the quality of education is good and free. In light of the recent Boko Haram abduction of innocent school children in Nigeria, my call to all governments is that they need to make sure that the education systems are child friendly in safe and secure learning environments.