Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Hon Lunguzi; Undeniably a Pillar of Hope in Youth Development

Hon. J- Lu (center) a face of SRHR and youth development  in Malawi
I have interacted with Hon. Juliana Lunguzi, the Member of Parliament for Dedza East constituency on several occasions the notable ones are Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) conferences and of course parliament.  One thing that has always struck me about her is that she is very dedicated to the promotion of people’s SRHR and youth development.

This entry is not about her political life but rather her ceaseless passion towards the promotion of vulnerable girls and young people in Malawi.

During this year’s National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCOM) Annual Meeting on SRHR that was held in Lilongwe, she told the young participants who gathered in the meeting  that even though her age is outside the United Nations definition of a youth, she will not stop championing the rights and welfare of young people.

This is amazing, I guess this is one of the reasons she has become darling to many young people in the county. The lady simply has the welfare of young people at heart.

It is not a secret that young people are vulnerable to all kinds of health challenges in the country. The mere fact that young people are excluded from taking part in decision making processes tells a lot about their situation.  The youth do not actively participate in making decisions about their health and some strategies that are aimed at promoting young people’s welfare are developed without their input.

It is against this background that Malawi needs to do more about young people’s SRH situation as HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s), unsafe abortions, Menstrual hygiene, lack of access to contraceptives and SRH information are still menacing young people.

Hon. Lunguzi, has been a role model who has put all her energy pushing for quality and comprehensive SRHR services so that young people can grow in a good environment that is capable of enabling to attain their goals so as to meaningfully participate to the development of their communities.

One of the most interesting approaches she uses is working closely with the youth whereby she encourages them to actively participate on different issues. She is always disseminating awareness messages about HIV/AIDS and SRH to young people. Furthermore, her continuous engagements and advocacy efforts with various duty bearers is commendable as well.

It is important to support young people and we should always remember that the average population structure in Malawi is youthful and empowering them will ensure sustainable economic and health development in the country.

Lastly, I firmly believe that it is very hard to develop this country if we continue ignoring the health of young people hence I look forward to many J- Lu’s in Malawi!!!

Friday, 24 June 2016

Adolescent Empowered

Written by Yusuf Khan

I have been in Malawi for three months now and my journey is nearly over.  I have visited various schools and communities, help run awareness days, and trained peer educators.  I have felt a sense of compassion and thoughtfulness that I have not felt anywhere in the world. There, however, exist deep prejudices, which scar a culture admired for its compassion.   

One such intolerance faces girls, even more so to those who become pregnant whilst not married. The story of Funny Manda (not real name) a girl who became pregnant at the age of fourteen is a story that should be heard, as it is a story which defied the imperceptive attitudes that subject many to a life of silence and regret. Pregnant and without the support of the father of the child and without the option of an abortion, as it is illegal in Malawi, Funny Manda, a child, was alone and frightened. Under the belief that she would have to leave her house for becoming pregnant she stayed silent for three months until the weight of the situation became too much. Much too her surprise her parents were supportive and said they would help her and her child. Unfortunately, this meant that she would have to drop out of school.

With the help of her parents, she supported the child and herself for three years. Now 17 and with no prospects in life except that of being a mother; Manda struggled with mounting stress and boredom. She decide to join her local youth club provided support and assistance to those in need.

It was here where YONECO (Youth Net and Counselling), whom support local youths clubs through running workshop sessions and offer peer education training visited. Hearing her plight, YONECO offered her an opportunity to empower herself and control her future through paying all her school fees, equipment and uniform. 

Funny Manda will now attend university allowing her the opportunity to support her parents and her child. She will be able to offer her child an education and offer her parents security in their old age. She will be able to offer assistance to others and contribute to her community. This simple act of paying Funny's school fees has meant she has had the opportunity to become the women she dreamed of becoming and having the confidence to tell her story so others will not suffer as she once did. Curently, Funny is at Chifira Community Day Secondary School doing her Form Three.  


Written by Yusuf Khan

YONECO (Youth Net and Counselling) works to empower communities stricken with sexual illness, misinformation and drug and substance abuse in the Nkhata Bay district of the northern region of Malawi. Nkhata Bay has many of the youth less educated on matters regarding sexual health and the use of contraceptives, which is why there are relatively high levels of teen pregnancy and those suffering from avoidable sexual illnesses.

The work of YONECO who conduct workshops is empirical in such communities, as it not only educates individuals on such matters but also empowers them. Empowerment I believe to be the most important thing we can give to these communities, as it is giving individuals the confidence to implement what we teach. For this reason I am telling the story of Joseph Chisambi, a boy who was empowered by work conducted in his school.

Joseph’s story starts when he was 12 years old. He met a girl and soon started a relationship with her. Workshops delivered to Chisu Secondary School by YONECO taught him the importance of preparing for goals in life and the importance of abstinence, which Chisambi listened to intently he told me. For this reason when his girlfriend pressured him to have sex without the use of contraceptives he refused. Despite her attempts he still refused, intent on going to university and achieving a degree in Agriculture Development.

Frustrated on such an outcome, the girl then decided to have sex with various other men. Soon after, she fell pregnant. Without the option of an abortion, as it is illegal in Malawi, the young girl had the baby and then married a local man whom was considerably older. YONECO and other NGO’s within the Nhkata Bay district work to keep pregnant teenagers in school. They stepped in to persuade her to continue her education.

Joseph Chisambi is now 18 years old and will finish school soon to pursue his degree.  The work of ICS and YONECO who conduct workshops is empirical in such communities, as it not only educates individuals on such matters but also empowers them. Joseph is an example of the long-term achievable development run by NGOs, as they look to achieve goals not through forcing change on communities or achieving short-term goals through providing handouts but rather to give people the strength to make their own change.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Exploring the Dangers of Using Sex Stimulant Drugs among Young People

some of the sexual prowess drugs used
The use of sex stimulant herbs and drugs has become rampant among young people in the country as an effort to reach certain degrees of sexual performance and pleasure.

As a scribe who is dedicated to develop and enhance the lives of welfare of young people, I thought it wise to have a chart with one of the old men who sell traditional sex stimulant herbs, powders and some concoctions to young people.

During our conversation, I learnt various vernacular brand names which the sex stimulants are called. The old man’s stocks had names like Nkhondo Kubedi, Nthuburo, Gondolosi, Tseketseke and Mamuna Sagonja and many other funny names

At face value, these names tell a lot in terms of their perceived potency and the brand names are worth tempting an individual to part with his or her hard earned money hoping to experience what the names suggest
The old man proudly told me that over the last few years, his business of selling these concoctions and herbs is constantly flourishing as he now has a wide market base. 

 To my dismay, the business man told me that in the past, most of his customers were old men aged fifty and others above the age who felt that their performance in bed had reached sunset. With a cunning smile on his face, the man told me that young people are now his greatest customers. The old man further boasted that he serves about 20 young males every day.

You can agree with me that it is not only him who is involved in this kind of business.  There are many others in this business across the country and this customer base shows how lucrative this business has become because of young people below the age of 24.

On the same note, there are also other foreign drugs such Viagra, Levitra and foreign concoctions that have flooded the market in Malawi.

According to some medical specialists in the field, the hype in the use of aphrodisiacs has been attributed to a number of factors such as physiological, cultural perceptions, peer pressure, pornography and lack of information about sexual reproductive health among many young people.

Sadly, our society defines masculinity by one’s sexual ability. Consequently, those who feel that they are not up to the expectations resort to use drugs and herbs to achieve this.

I have been pressed to write this article by the dark and ugly sides of taking both the traditional and imported drugs that explore ones sexual prowess without proper consultation and prescription by qualified medical personnel.

Studies have shown that most of these herbs and drugs can damage one’s reproductive system, the liver as well as cause instant death to people who have hypertension and diabetes.

Young people are supposed to be aware that aphrodisiacs are dangerous to their health and it is a pity that many young people are ignorantly using sex stimulant drugs and herbs without knowing the disastrous side effects which the trusted concoctions have on their heath.

Let me implore the government and other Non- Governmental Organizations to carry out more awareness activities to protect the healthy wellbeing of our reliable young people.

And to my fellow youths; I urge you to come out from your shells and consult qualified medical personnel so that you should have comprehensive knowledge about sexual reproductive health and enjoy its associated rights. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Heartrending Tale of a Teenager who Stood against Forced Marriage

Written by Yusuf Khan and Flora Mhone

The case of Mercy from Luwalazi in Nkhata Bay district as told to by Divinous Mzuzmara during one of YONECO’s community gender equality Awareness campaigns bears testimony to the trials and tribulations which young girls more especially those who live in rural and remote parts of  Malawi face once they reach adolescence. 
Mzumara explained that in 2012 it pained him when Mercy (15 years old then) who was in Form 3 of her secondary school studies was  abruptly decreed by her parents to drop out of school so that she should marry a man who was 10 years her senior. 
‘It is always lucrative to pay tuition fees for a boy than a girl” were the words Mercy was told by her parents when she refused to drop out school in order to achieve her dream of becoming a journalist.
Upon her refusal, Mercy was reminded that girls are a source of income to their parents when they are married to a well-to-do man. The parents further explained that such a marriage, whether the bride is young or not, is the best gift any girl can give her parents to show appreciation for raising and bringing her to earth.
Like many families in Malawi, the parents had a little disposable source of income in the name of Mercy and were misguided by a belief that girl child education is a pointless exercise worth ignoring.
To her parent’s dismay, 15 year-old Mercy refused to sign matrimonial vows and eventually what was a verbal form of abuse became physical and mote psychological. Her mother began beating her over trivial matters and her father was no saint either as he also used all forms of torture at his disposal. 
Nonetheless, Mercy stuck to her guns and faced the consequences of her ‘disobedience’. The trend continued until the innocent girl thought of a safe haven at her neighbours house just to realize her dream of becoming a journalist. Famished and bruised, she managed to survive through the generosity of the neighbour who later on got fed up with clothing and feeding her – Mercy was shown an exit door with nowhere to go. 
Mercy was confused, alone and with nowhere to go. Some concerned community members approached Youth Net and Counseling (YONECO) for assistance. YONECO’s District Manager and other officers contacted Mercy’s parents who were counseled and cautioned about the consequences of their intentions.   The parents later on realized their folly and apologized daughter who is now pursuing a career in journalism and she is very optimistic that her dreams will come true. She has vowed to support her parents once she finishes her studies and she hopes to become an icon of hope among other young girls in her community
Unfortunately, there are thousands of other young girls with such tribulations that are too big for them and they eventually succumb to pressure from parents, relatives and other community members. Forced child marriage is real in Malawi and it is up to all state and non-state actors to contribute towards the fight against the menace.
The legal age for marriage in Malawi is eighteen years. However, like many laws in Malawi, little is being done to implement it and reprimand those who force the underage into marriage. Child marriage is a great concern in Malawi and such lawful matrimonies are more prevalent in the rural areas where harmful traditional norms and practices are greatly affecting the rights and welfare of girls.
Despite several notable and praiseworthy efforts by the Malawi government as well as local and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), there is a prominent recess in the efforts of enforcing the laws and consequently, young girls in the country are being impeded from enjoying an equal footing of their human rights.
This is manifested by the low literacy levels among females. Thus, women are given very few options in terms of access to formal employment as well as resources for them to meaningfully engage in income generating activities. Several studies have also indicated that women’s overreliance on their husbands fuels Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Females in most parts of Malawi, whether young or young or old, have been branded as responsible for subsistence farming, guardians of the chronically ill and other gender incentive responsibilities. Women are exposed to such side-line duties at a tender age and they are forced into such depressing situations because of conservative patriarchal norms that are very prevalent in rural areas where a great percentage of Malawians live.