Friday, 26 August 2016

YONECO Employs Bawo to Influence Behaviour Change among Men

Men playing Bawo during the launch of YONECO Bawo League
Bawo is a favourite traditional pastime among men in Malawi and some parts of the African continent.  Bawo is in the group of ancient ‘count and capture’ board games. The game is popular in both rural and urban areas where men form a circle around the board which only allows two challengers at a time. Passing by a Bawo Game; what welcomes a person is the sound of laughter and shouts from the players and other men who sit or stand to watch the game as they also wait for their turn.
Bawo Game presents an opportune time whereby most men find it easy to have man-to-man discussions and crack jokes with their peers. Thus, YONECO has thought it necessary to use Bawo Game as a way of engaging men in the fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV), Violence against Children (VAC) as well as preventing the spread of HIV and mitigating its impact. YONECO is in a drive to make sure that in their discussions, the men should also talk about GBV, HIV, VAC and other social challenges as a way of influencing positive behaviours among men.
Key Note address by Prof. Maluwa Banda   during the launch
20 August, 2016 marked the launch of K 400,000 YONECO Bawo League which will be played in Zomba and Machinga districts.
In his keynote address, the Board Chairperson for YONECO, Professor Dixie Maluwa Banda, stated that it is YONECO’s strategy to actively involve men in the fight against GBV, VAC and HIV.

“As an institution, YONECO realised that men are usually left out in the interventions that are aimed at fighting against HIV and ending violence which is usually perpetrated by them. Thus, we saw it wise to innovatively and continuously incorporate men in our programming”, said Professor Maluwa.
 Talking to the press; the Executive Director for YONECO, MacBain Mkandawire, stated that the organisation will also train some of the men as Peer Educators so that they should, at a particular point in time, facilitate the discussions. He stated that YONECO is very optimistic that the Malawi society will benefit a lot from the Bawo League as men will eventually start looking at issues of gender inequality, child rights and HIV from a different angle.
YONECO ED making a speech during the launch of the league 
“Having men to discuss and engage each other on various developmental issues is very cost effective and it is a pathway to the creation of an HIV and violence free society”, said Mkandawire.
Mac Bain Mkandawire further added that the Bawo League will also be used as a tool that will inform YONECO’s programming. On this aspect, the Executive Director for YONECO stated that there is a fundamental challenge in social behaviour programming whereby organisations think that they know everything while they do not. This, he said, is the reason why there is a need to cast the net wider and engage communities through various innovative approaches in order to solicit and unpack the information so as to design effective and efficient interventions.
The Chairperson for Zomba Bawo Association, Hasheem Banda, thanked YONECO for the support and he stated that it will help men to understand what constitutes GBV, its dangers and how it can be prevented. He further stated that the intervention will help the men to spend their time wisely as they will benefit a lot from the discussions and eventually prevent HIV as well.
The launch was held at YONECO Head Offices in Zomba district.

The League being launched in Zomba district  

Thursday, 4 August 2016



Eric Veeto Nyengani captured in one of the field days 
To think about what happens in the ICS program, it is a great achievement. This programme really takes you to another level in life because of the confidence; skills and knowledge one gains after taking part in the International Citizen Service (ICS). The amazing and fantastic knowledge someone gains by the end of ten weeks can contribute to big achievements in their life, as they may be more capable to pursue their own plans in life with the confidence and skills you gain from the ICS placement.

Now everyone understands that confidence can be increased, and different people express it in different ways. However, the sorts of skills that are achievable from ICS are also communication skills, relation skills and speaking in public.

The partnership with the foreign volunteers, more especially those from the UK help to create an environment for skills and knowledge sharing. This may seem challenging at the start, for example one may not be familiar with their language and culture and they usually speak fast. But with time, all the volunteers from both corners of the world may become more familiar with the differing culture and language.

I think we have lots to learn from our UK colleagues in the way of living and culture, as we will also be able to share our culture and way of living with them so that they are able to act on it. Which I hope by the end of the day we will both be able to change and for the better.

We have so many things in common, and in some ways we differ. But the most shocking difference, for myself, is the type of marriages they conduct which I think will be more difficult for Malawian’s to accept. For instance, homosexuality! Malawian culture is still predominately Christian and extremely traditional when it comes to it’s values and beliefs. Change is slow, but sometimes as I said for the better. However I think that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and Transgender) change within Malawi will be difficult for the nation to accept, at this time. Country wide there is a debate that introduces rights and changes concerning homosexuality, but it is being contested. The UK and national volunteers have had discussions about this topic and I have learnt how another country has different values to mine. But to understand Malawi, one must understand our traditions and respect those long held beliefs, because for us they aren’t just teachings, but are the bedrock of our communities, therefore it is difficult for us to reject them.

Another challenge and aspect to ICS is the development of a nation while its citizens are not active in its development. Nkhata Bay is one of the districts, in the warm heart of Africa, which faces this type of challenge. It takes for each and every citizen to contribute to the developmental activities taking part in his or her communities. It is a shared responsibility!

Most of the youth in Nkhata bay involve themselves in, what Malawians consider to be immoral behaviours. For example, drug and substance abuse, high prostitution rates, which young girls are involved in instead of attending classes at school. This behaviour is exacerbated by influences such as peer pressure and being involved in sexual activities, which result in unwanted pregnancies. These issues then contribute to early abortion and school drop out rates.

These issues are severe, but it is not an entirely negative picture of Malawi. I think with the coming of the ICS programme, we will help stop this behaviour and improve our communities for the better. Also in ways that the youth will be able to access information concerning these issues and the dramatic effects they have on their futures.

The programme is here to help and assist in anyway it can for the communities development, peer influence and in the ways youth can accomplish their goals. I hope in the near future we will see Malawi develop and for the better.