Monday, 12 September 2016

Reflections on Childhood versus Technology

Children having fun with ICS Progressio volunteers in
Nkhata Bay district 
It is now been over a month since I first arrived in Malawi. Amongst all of our cultural differences, the thing that has stood out to me the most is the sense of community and how happy everyone here is. Families in Malawi do not have much as compared to us back home in the UK and yet they seem to be so happy with their lives. It's such a breath of fresh air to see children being children. Playing outside and getting covered in dirt, instead of sitting inside playing with various electronic devices. 

Personally, I feel that as the UK has developed and our technology has advanced, we have lost some of the simple ways of having fun. We have grown as a country and yet we have not grown to our full potential as individuals. Here in Malawi, the children spend time from dusk till dawn outside: playing, falling over, making new friends, and discovering what is around them. As individuals, these children seem so aware of their surroundings and they find new ways of recreation by themselves playing with what's around. For me, technology is what I use to survive and communicate. From small things such as checking the time to getting directions, I am always relying on technology.

When we first landed at Lilongwe International Airport, my first point of call was to charge my phone, get a simcard and get internet access. This just shows how much we, from the UK, cannot go without technology for very long.

However living out here I have learnt that you do not need the latest gadgets to have fun and communicate. The simplest things that are locally available make people happy. Just sitting playing games with my host family or having a conversation over dinner - no technology needed.

Let the game begin! ICS Progressio volunteers captured during one
of their sessions with children in Nkhata Bay district- Malawi
 In Malawi, children do not have phones; if you want to speak to your friend you talk to them in person. I have
 made such strong bonds with people here by just being with them. When we have had electricity blackouts we have had to find new ways to pass time other than watching TV or being on Facebook.
The sense of oneness in the villages of Malawi is something to admire. People leave their homes open all day, everyone and anyone is welcome to come round and will always be greeted and looked after. The relationship everyone has with their neighbours is one of trust.

Being in this beautiful country has taught me so much and given me much to reflect on as well. Here are some questions I feel we should all think about: 

       Do we really need as much technology as we use every day in our lives? 
       How have we become very reliant on materialistic things, just by growing up in a different the part of the                world?

by Maria Tariq

Monday, 5 September 2016

Trials and Tribulations of the Girl Child in Nkhata Bay District

ICS Progressio volunteers conducting a life skills session
 with young girls in Nkhata Bay
Malawi is a country with a fast growing population. The country possesses attractive topographical features that beckon people from across the globe to pay us a visit. The country is well known for its peaceful co-existence and great scenic beauty. This story is about the life of girls who live in this beautiful country called Malawi and the focus of this entry leads us to the northern region of Malawi, particularly in Nkhata Bay district.

The situation of young girls in and around Nkhata Bay district attracts the attention
of both local and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like YONECO (Youth Net and Counselling).
Visit various work places and you will notice that there are more male employees than females. Furthermore, the top positions in such workplaces are also held by men. There exists a disparity between males and females when it comes to their participation in socioeconomic activities. Most vibrant business ventures are owned by men and this is so heartrending as one wonders where women are in all this.  

What does this tell us about girls in Malawi?
 If we again take our story to the typical rural villages of Nkhata Bay, you will find that there are many girls who dropped out of school and have now become mothers while their male counterparts are still in school.

Why is the situation like this?
Posing this question to a number of girls, one of the most common answers which one gets is poverty. To a certain extent, poverty triggers a number of undesirable circumstances that force girls to drop out of school, marry at a tender age and start bearing children even before they reach their 18th birthday. I know some girls who used to travel over 10 kilometres a day to and from school.  Some girls in this kind of a situation try their best to walk but they eventually get tired of the long distance which they cover 5 days a week.

Some lustful men take advantage of this and entice the girls with money forcing the girls to sleep with them in exchange for transport money to hire a Kabanza (Taxi Bicycle) to school.

Furthermore, there are also other dangers that accompany the issue of girls covering long distances to school. We talk of Gender Based Violence cases which the girls are exposed to as they are going or coming from school. There have also been incidents of rape cases which force a majority of girls to withdraw from school because they are afraid of being raped.

After dropping out of school various challenges come up in the lives of these innocent Malawian girls who do not have anything better to do at home. Basically, their lives are then characterised by teen motherhood, child marriages and their associated problems.

Is this the only course a girl’s life can take?

Sometimes, traditional backgrounds and a lack of exposure to role models also play a part in forcing a girl to marry or fall pregnant at tender age. In most village settings, you cannot find a girl who successfully finished primary let alone secondary school education. Having role models or being aware of the importance of education can make girls understand and work hard despite challenges like distance. On the issues of fear of being raped; girls can avoid such a scenario by just walking in groups and no one can dare come near them. It is very clear that dropping out of school because of poverty does not help matters rather it just increases the poverty levels.

However, there is still a need to make sure that there are enough schools with enough learning and teaching materials. Some girls whom I had a chat with also told me that they do not feel comfortable to sit on the floor. Isn’t this the responsibility of the government, well-wishers or the corporate world to support with materials like books, desks etc

Things are not supposed to be this way. There is a need for CHANGE. The situation is not only bad for Malawian girls  who live in Nkhata Bay district, many girls in various parts of the world especially those in Africa face a number of changes. We can do something to improve the social economic welfare of all including girls, boys, women and men.  Equity, equality and fairness should rule us and be the cornerstones of our society. The weapon of change is in our hands! What steps are you taking to bring change in the lives of girls?    

By: Brian Chiumia