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.