Thursday, 27 August 2015

A Parenting Circle Saves a Teen Mother from a Chronic Disorder

By Wanangwa Mumba

About half of nearly 120 million women who give birth each year experience some kind of complication during their pregnancies and between 15 million and 20 million develop disabilities such as severe anaemia, incontinence, damage to the reproductive organs or nervous system, chronic pain, and infertility. Maternal disabilities have received relatively little attention, because they are often concealed.

A 19 year-old young lady from the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Ngokwe in Machinga district survived this condition. After giving birth to a baby boy in November, 2013, she started experiencing unbearable pelvic pain. The lady had a combination of obstructed or prolonged labour and infection during and after labour (sepsis). These conditions are usually associated with severe postpartum infections and increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, and neurological injuries, as well as a condition called "Foot Drop" that makes walking difficult and chronic pelvic pain.
In spite of all the pain, the young lady saw nothing strange because she perceived it as a mere consequence of childbearing. This was perpetuated by the fact that she was then an adolescent mother and adolescent mothers often lack knowledge, experience, and strength than older mothers hence they are susceptible to complications during pregnancy. Teens are least likely, of all maternal age groups, to get early and regular prenatal care.
The condition greatly affected her and her family as she walked with difficulties and the pain was unbearable. Consequentially, she started suffering from psychological problems like feeling isolated from the community. As a subsistence famer, the condition also affected her crop production and this meant hunger.

Early in the year 2014, YONECO, through its trained parenting facilitators, introduced community support structures for parents (Parenting Circles) in some parts of Machinga district. The circles operate in such a way that the members share their personal experiences, challenges and successes in the course of upbringing children. Furthermore, the groups also provide help and guidance to other members in regards to parenting skills. In addition, they discuss various issues pertaining to child rights and protection since the family, as a basic unit of the society, is better positioned to enhance the promotion of children’s rights. 

The process of sharing personal challenges helps the members to identify with others, break down isolation, and give hope to those struggling with seemingly insurmountable difficulties in parenting. It was through one of such forums where the case of the 19 year-old was brought to light. Some members of the group enlightened her parents that their daughter’s condition is curable and they were advised to seek medical attention.

The circle facilitator guided and supported the young lady and her parents and after seeking medical help, the condition has been cured and her life has turned back to normal. 

Saturday, 15 August 2015

The January 2015 Floods: A Blessing in Disguise to 69 Year-Old Woman from Phalombe

Edina Chimombo writing down her name on a piece of paper

In 1969, Edina Chilombo got into a wrong bus as she was coming from Mulanje on her way to Phalombe and she found herself so many kilometers away from her destination. Worse still, she had no any money in her pockets and the sun was setting.

 This was not the work of a ruthless magician or a spell from a covetous sorcerer, Edina trusted someone to show her a bus to take her to her destination, Misomali area, because she could not read the signs that were flagged on the windscreens of each commuter bus. Either intentionally or unintentionally, the person showed her a wrong bus which took her to a different direction.

According to ‘Gogo Edina’, as she is fondly called by her fellows in Thambe village where she lives, this is just one of the many ordeals which she has been going through in the last 60 years or so because she was unable to read or write.

Gogo Edina stated that among other things in her entire life, she will also live to remember the 2015 tormenting floods which washed away crop fields, household property, destroyed houses and livestock in the district. She was not spared by the disaster and she was heavily affected just like many other inhabitants of Thambe Village in the area of Traditional Authority Nazombe in Phalombe district. However, she called the January, 2015 floods, which compelled the Malawi government to declare a state of national disaster, a blessing in disguise.

“I am calling the floods a blessing because of what came out of the whole situation. YONECO brought us tents and established some structures in the flood evacuation camps. There were Gender Based Violence (GBV) prevention and reporting structures, women were being taught how to knit as well as adult literacy and numeracy classes also commenced within the camps.

Women showing some of the items 
that were knit
By the time we were returning back to our homes, many women were able to manipulate yarn and create a fabric, read, write and count. We were also aware of GBV reporting mechanisms. All these skills are greatly enhancing our social and economic welfare,” explained Gogo Edina. 

Some other women from the village echoed what the lady said; “we have Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) groups and now that we have been imparted with numeracy skills; each member is able to calculate the shares and interests… Furthermore, some women will soon be generating some income out of the items they knit like shawls and sweaters”, added another woman from the village.

It was further added that the GBV awareness campaigns that were conducted in the area also helped to improve men’s and women’s relationships in the community. There is tolerance and understanding and this is something which Gogo Edina called an ideal situation she has always been looking for.

Gogo Edina also returned to the issue of literacy and she laughed as she recalled a time when she relied on her granddaughter to read everything for her.  

“I am a dedicated member of the Roman Catholic Church, but my failure to read and write has always been a thorn in my fresh.” She said.

“I have always wanted to sit down on my own, read the Holy Scriptures and reflect. I never thought this could come to pass but here I am; able to read and write,” said Gogo Edina.

However, Gogo Edina explained that the small font of the Bible verses prevents her from reading effortlessly because her eyes are not strong enough to make out the words.

In her Lhomwe language, Gogo Edina jokingly said; “erimakilhowa yawi metho alha ehoneke” (people have bewitched my eyes, I am not seeing properly). She added that she is planning to get a pair of reading glasses so that she can enjoy all the Bible stories which people have been reading for her.

 However, every Sunday she happily sings and reads along the Christian Hymn Book. Currently, she travels by bus without being afraid of repeating the ‘1969 scenario’. Sometimes when she was registering her name for the government-supported Farm Input and Fertilizer Subsidy Programme, she was not sure whether her name had really been jotted down in the register or not. Gogo Edina smiled and said; “this year it will be a different case because I now know how my name is spelt.”

Soon after the January, 2015 floods which distressed a lot of people in several districts, YONECO, with support from UNFPA, implemented a project called ‘Restoring Hope to the Survivors of the Flood Disaster’.  Under the initiative, YONECO established Places of Safety for women and adolescent girls where, among other things, adult literacy and numeracy classes were held, women were trained how to knit and GBV reporting and prevention mechanisms were also being strengthened in the flood evacuation camps.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A Visitor to Remember!

The founding Executive Director of CorpsAfrica, Liz Fanning, enjoying youth activities at Chinamwali Youth Drop in Centre
Young people who attended a Youth Function at Chinamwali Youth Drop in Centre will live to remember a visit which the Executive Director for AfricaCorps, Liz Fanning, made to the Centre on 4 August, 2014. 

Young people engaged in a discussion at Chinamwali Youth
 Drop in Centre 
In the company of the Principal Secretary II for the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, the two visited YONECO’s Ntcheu and Chinamwali Drop in Centres where the youth gave them a warm reception.

Liz Fanning joined the youth who were dancing as YONECO Children’s Band was playing a number of their tunes plus other copyright hits of famous Malawian musicians.
YONECO Children's Band performing live during a Youth
Event at Chinamwali Youth Drop in Centre 
The fun reached a highpoint when the PS II for the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports joined the vocalists of YONECO Children’s Band after he realized that there was no any bass vocalist. No sooner had he joined the vocalists than the sound started sounding exceptionally excellent.

The Youth Drop in Centre was full of fun and the event was also covered live on YONECO FM.
Before the Zomba event, the Executive Director for AfricaCorps and the PS II for the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports also toured Ntcheu Youth Drop in Centre where they were warmly welcomed by a drama performance and a live music performance by Mazanje Band.

The Principal Secretary II for the Ministry of Youth Development
and Sports joins YONECO Children's Backing vocals at Chinamwali
Youth Drop in Centre 
On this occasion, the Principal Secretary II for the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports urged the youth to be focused and hardworking for them to realize their goals in life. He further urged the youth to nurture, unearth their potential and to be true leaders of today.

On behalf of Ntcheu Young People, Carol made a very insightful speech that highlighted a number of activities which the youth in the district are doing to enhance their socioeconomic wellbeing. In her speech, she also pointed out several challenges which young people are currently facing in the district.

Carol making a speech at a Youth Event in Ntcheu District 
YONECO established Youth Drop in Centres in most of its operational districts with the aim of improving young people’s welfare through the provision of recreational materials, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRH and R), life skills sessions as well as literacy classes.
A drama performance by Ntcheu young people during a youth event that was
held at Mastimale ground
 Liz Fanning, making a speech to young people at Mastimale ground in Ntcheu district