Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Plight of Young People Living with HIV in Malawi

It is now a known fact that HIV is now manageable as compared to how the situation was in the last two decades. People living with HIV are now able to live healthy and productive lives without the fear of death which loosely became the synonym of HIV some years ago.

Through various ways, more and more young people are living with HIV. The coming in of Antiretroviral Drugs is a major step towards having healthy and strong young people. Both those Living with HIV and those who are not are able to contribute positively to the development of the country in their capacities as young people.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about providing necessary support to young people who are living with HIV. However, I have not really seen a lot in terms of action towards ensuring that Young People Living HIV/AIDS are given the much needed support. If there is a group of people who need to be heard and their concerns addressed are the young people who are living with HIV.

The inattention that is given to YPLHA has led to increased number of them to default drugs and eventually develop AIDS. Many young people have been lost due to our uncaring attitudes.

Having HIV is a health issue and just like any other personal healthy issue, YPLHA have been longing for privacy. They have always wanted to make sure that their HIV status is not known to others. This is due to a number of valid reasons and it would be good to work on the issues that are there to guarantee them this wish. For instance, YPLHV who are in boarding schools face a lot of challenges to get a permission to go to hospital to collect ARTs.

Why do teachers have to ask so many question?

Why do teachers disclose this to every staff member who later go out to tell other students?

This leads to the worst stigma ever on the school compass. When their status is known, YPLHA have to brave and endure discrimination in all its various forms. However, it is hard to concentrate when the whole compass seems to be sidelining you and maybe a few others. We should not except such young people to excel in their studies because the position they have been places on is worse than I a prison cell where everyone treats another as a fellow prisoner and not an outsider.

There are so many situations that have put the lives of YPLHA in danger. We need to work on this as a nation. Let us listen to the voices of YPLHA…even their silence has to be properly comprehended, it is a communication and we need to know what it means.  

YONECO Distributes 15 Bicycles to YCBDAs in Mangochi.

YONECO distributed a total of 15 bicycles to Youth Community Based Distribution Agents (YCBDAs) in the areas of Traditional Authority Mponda and Nankumba in Mangochi district.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, District Youth Friendly Health Service (YFHS) Coordinator, Chisomo Petros, applauded YONECO for the support. Petros said this will greatly contribute towards ensuring that young people who live far from health service delivery points are able to access various Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services within their vicinities.
“Provision of services is very key in ensuring that young people are able to prevent various SRH challenges like unintended pregnancies as well as reducing the prevalence rate of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
This gesture will greatly contribute towards reducing various SRH challenges which young people, especially those who live in rural areas and hard to reach areas face” said the YFHS Coordinator.
One of the recipients from T/A Nankumba, Luis Gama, thanked YONECO for the bicycles. In his remarks, Gama said the bicycles will enable them to reach out to many young people in his area.
“Our concern was on how we can easily reach out to young people with the services because of mobility challenges that are there. On behalf of all young people from Nankumba, I would like to thank YONECO for the support and ask other NGOs to emulate this good example,” said Gama.
The bicycles were distributed after the 15 recipients were trained on provision of SRH services. The training was conducted with technical support from the Reproductive Health Unit (RHU) of the Ministry of Health. In his remarks, the National Coordinator for Reproductive Health Services in Malawi, Hans Katengeza, urged the YCBDAs to properly take care of bicycles and to make sure that they are reaching out to as many young people as possible.
HIV and STI prevalence rate among young people in Malawi is shockingly high. This is attributed to a number of factors and among the key challenges is lack of access to SRHR services due to long distances. Thus, YCBDAs come in to close the gap by providing some SRH Services to young people within their localities.
The bicycles were distributed with support from Simavi- Netherlands through Get Up Speak Out (GUSO) Programme which YONECO and its partners in the Malawi Sexual Reproductive Health Rights Alliance is implementing in Chikwawa and Mangochi districts. Other partners in the Alliance are; Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE) and Centre for Alternatives for Victimized Women and Children (CAVWOC).

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Stigma and Discrimination Forcing Us to Abandon Our Kith and Kin

An aerial view of a rural growth centre in Mangochi district 
It is so sad that there is still stigma and discrimination in this contemporary world where people are more cultured unlike in the past. People discriminate fellow human beings because of all sorts of reasons like health status, gender, age, tribe, race and what have you. Discrimination and stigma are like cactus - they grow and flourish without any known source of nourishment. Every person is a human being before they are LGBTI, male or female, young or old, living with or without HIV and I firmly believe that this is an irrefutable fact.

Stigma and discrimination still exists in this period whereby the human race is more cultured than before. This one of the most common topics which I and my uncle who lives in Mangochi usually discuss whenever we meet. This uncle of mine is a respected deacon in one most famous protestant churches in Malawi. His values have always compelled me to admire him and I sometimes ask myself if this praise of his character does not fit into the condemned category of idol worship. All in all, just know that he is a man of good character who once angrily told people to let go someone who was caught stealing from his shop. To the amazement of those who were planning to try out new tricks in the field of mob justice, my uncle said; ‘Who are we to judge and punish? Let this man loose and may he go in peace and not in peaces’.

However, there is one side of my uncle’s character that was hidden to me until last Saturday when I went to visit him. Ever since he moved to Mangochi district, I visit him on Sundays once in every five or six months. I prefer to visit him on Sundays due to several reasons and among them is the fact that Sundays are easy days of the week whereby I do not go to work and he also closes his shop. …yes, another reason is the fact that there is usually no traffic. Conversely, I visited this young brother of my father on Saturday due to what I will loosely call ‘circumstances beyond my control’ for fear of airing my dirty lined in public. As a consequence, visiting my uncle on such a day meant spending my time in his shop. My uncle’s wife led me to a small trading centre that is situated within the vicinity of a very busy public health facility.
My uncle’s tailoring shop that also doubles as a grocery store directly faces the entrance of the Health Centre just across a small dusty road. I had to endure a lot of hardship with this arrangement. To begin with, the shop was not well ventilated and with the semiarid October heat, my skin looked just like a melting chocolate on a stick. Further to this, he was so busy and engaged with his customers or at times he was busy counting his money and eventually forgot about me. Later I realized that enduring all these mishaps, the situation I was in was some kind of a blessing in disguise as it gave me an opportunity to know who my uncle really is.

All that was just the bone and here is the meat… There came about four customers on the shop and a young man joined the queue. To my surprise, my uncle harshly asked the boy what he wanted to buy. I asked myself “what has happened to this man’s inherent hospitable nature?”
After a short silence, the boy said he wanted any paracetamol to which my uncle responded some milliseconds before the boy finished pronouncing the last syllable of his sentence. His response was simply “I don’t have.” The look on my uncle’s face read; “say one more word and I will punch your face.” To my dismay, I quickly searched the shelves with my eyes and saw two boxes of paracetamol. 

There were some murmurs among the men and women who were on the queue and my thinking was that the noise came about in protest to the treatment the fella got. I was wrong, the people were in support of what my uncle did and I instantly realized that the boy is an outcast in the village.  The comments which people made were like “if you had served him, we could have all one back without buying anything”. Another woman said, “at least he is not my relative”.  I saw anger in the eyes of everyone and I hope you know how it feels to be the only amiable person among many who are angry.  I was curious to know why the boy seemed so condemned by the community members. The boy must be something else. He was also being despised by a man who forgave someone who stole his hard earned money!  
When all the buyers had gone, my uncle said, ‘my late brother raised you well son. You are not like that little brat who came to buy soap a few minutes ago’.

“I don’t claim to be better than the next man uncle and I demand to know why you treated that boy like that?” It was my turn to be angry I guess. My uncle thought I will forgive and join his side by telling me that he dislikes the boy because he is gay. He accentuated the word ‘gay’ and pronounced it as if it has more vowels and consonants than it has. I didn’t know whether to laugh or stay quiet. I was unable to comprehend this whole scenario and heartrendingly, my uncle was also doing this.  

I reminded him that he once made headlines in village talks and gossip for letting a thief who was caught stealing from him go scot free for fear of judging someone a responsibility which said is solely left in the hands of the Creator. I asked if the boy’s sexual orientation has ever affected him personally. Your guess is as good as mine, he did not respond. Of course, he later said people cannot buy anything from his shop when they realize that he treats the boy fairly. This brought me to question about why the uncle hates the boy. “Is it the influence of society or it’s your personal disposition to hate gays?” I quizzed.

For the first time I saw the wisest man I have ever known stammering and lastly, he said it is a sin. I am not a theologian nor do I like grounding my arguments on religious doctrines but I know that there is no greater commandment than the ‘Golden Rule.” I told this uncle of mine who has succeeded to hide his hypocrisy for so long. I gave him the tool he reads every day and asked him to read Mathew 7:12, Luke 6:31 and Leviticus 19:18. I knew he has read all these verses but he just read them as mere piece of literature and had no impact on him. After reading almost at gun point, my uncle said I am just human, son.

Now, being human should not be an excuse to inflict pain we inflict on our fellow human beings no matter what. I asked my uncle if he noticed that the boy seemed to be in pain to which he afformed by nodding. I added that according to the direction which the boy came from, he might have been at the hospital but a certain self-proclaimed righteous health worker also refused to treat the innocent boy hence he thought of buying the pain killer from the shop. Should the boy live in the pain he is in because he is gay? The boy was not trying to force you to be like him why are you trying to force him to be like you?” These were more rhetoric devises than questions and did not expect answers from the cornered lion whose appearance suddenly started to resemble a mere cat.

Meanwhile, my uncle’s wife was just waiting for us to finish our discussion to remind us that she has brought some food. As my uncle was reflecting or pretended to be, silence ensued and the aunt notified us about the food and she complained how she spent all her energy and creativity to create something so short lived. This was in reference to the fact that I and my uncle eat like locusts in a corn field.

“I was listening to all what you were discussing” My uncle’s wife said. Neither I nor my uncle responded and our silence gave her courage to continue. In her narrative, she unearthed my uncle. I could sense that the issues she brought up were bottled up somewhere in her in her mind and were just waiting for the right time to erupt like a volcano.

One of the heartrending things she said was on how my uncle treats people he feels are HIV positive. She said that when such a person approaches his shop, he quickly slips his hand into a plastic paper and receives the money from them (those he says are HIV positive). The quotable quote came from my ‘auntie. She said that “the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS that was in the 1980s was propelled by the fact that very little was known about how HIV is transmitted hence it is strange that in this era there are still exists others who are stuck in old-fashioned way of thinking”. I added to say that worse still among those who have this mentality is your husband and my uncle.  

We have young people who are losing their lives simply because they were unable to access health care services because of the same stigma and discrimination. These vices; stigma and Discrimination have forced us to abandon our kith and kin and more often than not, when they need our support most.

We lose a lot and benefit nothing with our stigma and discrimination. People have been cured from fatal ailments with prescriptions or surgery made by a gay or lesbian physician. I have seen the elderly offering wise counsel and women saving lives. The problems we face as people are far much greater than the issues that divide us. We are all challenged by climate change, hunger, floods and what have you. Now, instead of joining hands to fight our common enemies we are busy finding grounds for hate and animosity.  Try to force yourself not to discriminate anyone on any ground and see if you will lose anything.

One thing I would like to emphasize in this entry is that young people who are living with HIV are being persecuted in our midst. Young people who are LGBTI do not have peace either. These groups of people cannot easily access health care services and this results into what most people do not want to accept - increased cases of STIs including HIV which are not fatal but lead to death and other incapacitation due to failure to access medical care in good time. 

With support from the through Simavi, YONECO and its partners in Malawi SRHR Alliance is implementing a project called Get up Speak (GUSO) in Chikwawa and Mangochi districts. Among other activities in this programme, YONECO has strengthened youth clubs, facilitated the establishment of Youth Radio Listening Clubs, training health care workers in the provision of Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS)  trained adults in Meaningful Youth Participation and other areas. The aim is to ensure that all young people, especially girls and young women, are empowered to realise their SRHR in societies that are positive towards young people’s sexuality. No young person should be left behind because of age, sexual orientation, gender …

Do not just watch innocent young lives being ill-treated. Together, let us Get Up and Speak Out for youth rights!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Mental Health is key to Increased Productivity

By Mabhuchi Nyasulu

A Solidarity March during the Commemoration of the
2017 World Mental Health Day in Zomba, Malawi 
I really love to see the increased levels of people that are mentally healthy, both the employed staff and non-employed persons in the warm heart of Africa. I have also fallen in love with the modern vernacular interpretation of mental health in Chichewa is “Maganizo angwiro”. This is a suitable description unlike a derogatory term that was used some decades ago.

 We are aware of different obstacles which people face in life and those that negatively affect productivity in a working environment. The beauty of commemorating world mental health day is to bring together people from all walks of life in order to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. The primary purpose that gains interest as this event gains momentum is the reflection aspect of it. It takes a sober mind to appreciate that united we stand divided we fall. Everyone plays a role in bringing producing such a desirable fruit.

Extending this narrative further to the theme of this year’s commemoration; rules and regulations could be facilitated to safeguard the well-being of employers from stress and anxiety. Sometimes, simple things like having lunch or braai, speak out their mind on ethical work progress helps to boost the mental health of workers. New strategies at work, even to, or delegating strategies of management burn out workshops, a trip to the lake with a group of staff would emulate relief of work pressure and getting the mind refreshed with new and constructive ideas. 

Some people, find peace and tranquility and enjoy life when they eat a well-cooked delicious food. I for one prefer boiled hot potatoes and roasted beef in brown stew. The aroma is medicinal to my nostrils and quickly impacts positively to my psyche. A smile automatically addresses people’s cheeks and they can’t help it but giggle. We tend to ignore things that are good for our mental stamina. For instance, there is something magical that happens to me when I take an early morning walk from Zomba 4 Miles to 3 Miles passing by My Place Lodge. After this good walk my mind says ‘I am healed …I’m healed!’ …my appetite gets back and it comes as if I have never eaten before and every dish I take seems so marvelous. As I chew my food I hold no grudge with anyone and forgiving becomes the song I swallow.

My plea to all employers is that there is a need to set institutional guidelines that should foster a safe environment for employees’ mental well-being. How often do employers allow staff to recuperate and socialize? Of course I am not advocating for turning work places into kindergarten but employees also need some sporting activities like social football/netball etc so as to relieve stress and anxiety. Mental Health is one of the factors that negatively impact on staff returns and this automatically makes it key to increased productivity. Let us all think about this as we commemorate the 2017 World Mental Health Day under the theme: Mental Health in the Work Place.  

Viva mental health in work places! 
#WMHD #2017WMHD 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Investing in Adolescent Girls Today Means Empowered Women of Tomorrow

Since I joined Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) in 2015 to this point, my life and passions have completely changed. It is like I underwent a vale clarification exercise that has transformed my entire self.

Initially, I was so passionate about politics but now the romance has shifted from that angle to an interest in the rights and welfare of the youth, women, and children as well as sexual reproductive health rights of all people. 
During my two-year stay at YONECO, as a Bureau Chief for YONECO FM Radio Station, I have realized the changes I have made at subconscious level. After a thorough stock taking, I have realized that the stories that I have been contributing for YFM News Bulletins have always been aimed at contributing towards ending poverty as well as tackling its various root causes.

As Malawi joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of Girl Child, I would like to highlight issues pertaining to gender disparity and challenges facing young girls. I would also like to propose viable ways which countries can use to work together in order to address these challenges. Just a reminder; the theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child is “the Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.” But wait a minute, how can countries, including Malawi, achieve this vision when child marriage is still prevalent and the girl child is facing a lot of restrictions and violation of her sexual reproductive health rights?

This is what compelled me to write something about how SRHR of the girl child is worth all the necessary attention.  Child marriage and other violations of girls’ SRHR have increased the vulnerability of adolescent girls in every society especially those who live in the developing countries. The girl child is heavily affected by various sexual reproductive health challenges as compared to her male counterpart.  

As an illustration to what I am saying, allow me to share a sad story of a 15 year-old girl from Mchinji district which is located in the central region of Malawi. For the sake of this entry, allow me to call her Mwayiwawo. The young girl was rescued from the jaws of an arranged child marriage by volunteers and staff of YONECO through Marriage No Child Play Project.  The Marriage No Child’s Play Project is being implemented in Malawi by YONECO and other partners in what is called the More Than Brides Project.  The project is being funded by the Dutch government through SIMAVI.

 Mwayiwawo was in standard seven when she was taken to Mozambique by her boyfriend who was 11 years older than her.  Upon reaching Mozambique, she was exposed to all sorts of harsh treatment from her husband and in-laws who seemed like good people before they took her from her parents’ house.  Mwayiwawo’s parents willfully ‘sold’ their daughter as what lingered in their minds at that time was a good life in a foreign country and possibly a new era for them as well.  Alas! What Mwayiwawo went through was catastrophic – a kind of modern slavery. Sometimes Mwayiwawo would go to bed with empty stomach and travels long distance to fetch water.

News about Mwayiwawo’s misery spread like wild fire and kept on lingering in the air like a strong perfume. Her parents were shocked after learning that their daughter is being abused in Mozambique. Without much ado, the parents reported the matter to Male Champions who were trained by YONECO in the area who were trained by YONECO male champions in the fight against child marriages in the area.  The champions contacted YONECO officers and resolved to follow the girl and managed to annul her marriage and successfully withdrew her. 

 Mwayiwawo was lucky to be rescued as many girls are secretly married off before their eighteenth birthday.  
Most Southern African countries have this challenge. As the world commemorated this year’s International Day for the Girl Child, let us remember that child marriage is an enemy to the envisaged developed society. Millions of girls worldwide are living in abject poverty and poor health due to child marriage. Child brides are exposed to a number of psychological and health hazards mostly emanating from the burden of child bearing as well as Gender Based Violence (GBV). Child marriage is also one of the contributing factors to so many socioeconomic challenges that developing countries are experiencing.

This year’s theme is focusing on supporting the welfare of a girl child so that by 2030 every girl should not be looked down but being appreciated as an important member of the society who can significantly contribute to the development of the society. This ambitious dream can only be realized by investing into the rights and welfare of young people.

Countries need to focus on empowerment of girls. There is a need to raise community awareness on SRHR. There is also a need to enact and strengthen laws   that promote the rights and welfare of the girl child.
Let me finish this entry by saying this phrase; “Investing in adolescent girls today means empowered women of tomorrow”. This is the only way countries can achieve the 2030 vision.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Parenting Skills for Parents and Guardians of children who Abuse Drugs and Substances

Marijuana: a commonly used drug in Malawi
By Mabhuchi Nyasulu*

Out of ten children and young adults who abuse drugs and alcohol, more than half are victims of malnutrition.  

My own experience recalls a lethargic feeling of craving for marijuana the first thing when I woke up in the morning. I hardly ate, sleep, work or do anything without smoking. An awesome feeling of wanting to be alone and loneliness engulfing my sorrows was the order of the day. I shunned my parents and lived in isolation from February 2004 – May 2013. A feeling of self-independence obsessed me as I consumed cannabis fire but alas! Life was not easy as I thought.

It is my desire for parents who live with children who abuse drugs to handle the challenges that surround them. The following are useful tips, which could assist parents handle children with addiction.

  • It is essential for children who abuse drugs and alcohol to eat food that has taken time to be prepared. Children of middle class can afford to eat four meals per day. Nevertheless, children of bottom class hierarchy there is need to diversify their diet. Common drugs in Malawi like Cannabis sativa (Marijuana) increases a user’s appetite and makes addicts to eat hungrily. Parents or guardians ought to be mobilized to prepare time consuming food like beans, pigeon peas and various legumes. It is hard to handle those who abuse drugs and substances and it is even harder when such people are hungry and starving.
  •    When parents do household chores and eat together, it encourages children who abuse drugs and alcohol to find the meaning and value to surrender to sober habits. Parents can invite a family friend to join a get together on a variety of well-cooked assorted food stuffs with optimum salt and little or no spices.
  • Parents/guardians should let their children contribute in the shopping of items in their homes. Children who are addicted to drugs and substances are usually suspicious to rejection if they do not contribute their ideas. No matter how much insensible a request that an addicted child makes, they ought to be guided by a counsellor to respond positively to the child.
  • Parents/guardians are reminded not to forget their children’s birthday, especially if they abuse drugs and substances. Let perfumes, sprays, deodorants and refreshing cleaning utensils like toothbrush be part of celebrated gifts. I recommend if parents could serve to communicate and elaborate to their child who is struggling with craving the favourite menu they enjoy as a couple.

I would like to see every parent/guardian taking part in Parental forums, community discussion groups and adhering to the National Alcohol Policy in Malawi. It is possible for children who abuse drugs and substances to surrender to sober habits. What is important is to know what to do and being sensitive is also key. 

For more information, listen to ‘Total Turn Around’ Radio Programme on YFM every Saturday from 07:10 pm to 08-00 pm. You can also call YONECO’s Drug and Substance Toll Free Helpline on 6600. 

*Mabhuchi Nyasulu is a counsellor in Drug and Substance Helpline section and a presenter of Total Turn Around Radio Programme 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017


By Richard Chilango 

The sweltering heat had every lad in the crowd perspiring profusely. The grouping comprised of people from all walks of life. Everyone was determined to showcase a martyr’s spirit. As we all know, nothing surpasses the joy of a child whose freedom and rights are being fully exercised. The same was the case with primary school learners from Nkhata Bay on this particular day. They paraded in front of the audience that graced commemoration day of the African child which was held under the theme; “accelerating, protecting, empowerment and equal opportunities to children in Malawi”.

Like graphical scenes in Sarafina movie, the students were waving placards and banners. At short intervals you would see them shouting all we want is a conducive learning atmosphere. The girls were ululating with purpose all just to energize the boys whose morale had already passed with undoubted distinction.

With a close up look, one would be rest assured that the young scholars were parading in good faith and not malice. They carried banners that could catalyze positive change. One of the banners read; “I have the right to education”, the other banner said “I have the right to education just like boys do”, then another banner read “education; a tool for building a better tomorrow”.

But what aroused my interest was the banner which found solace in the hands of a girl, those who knew children would have judged her to be thirteen or so. The banner read “RIP male chauvinism as I await your tombstone unveiling”.

Looking at the audience, I could sense the wagging tongues. It was hard to comprehend for some of the antagonist who were angered by the banner were women and some yet to be civic educated male fraternity. Then I caught the sight of a man picking up a stone with purpose, as he started walking towards the direction of the girl carrying the amazing banner. I couldn’t help but follow him in case he wanted to hit the girl.

I reached him in no time, I asked the man what he meant to do with the stone. He responded with the look of mind your business my friend and proceeded.
I don’t wish to be rude, but I will allow you peace only if you make known the use of that stone in your hand. I addressed my arrogant antagonist.

“I will do that if I am your brother or son,” he responded in anger.

The parade went well until the master of ceremony allowed room of other activities that had been planned to add color to the event. I was deeply immersed in a conversation with the man carrying a stone, I decided to do so the moment I realized arguing wouldn’t help matters but fuel anger in my protagonist.

The man told me that he wanted to hit the girl because she carried a banner that depicted contempt to men. I did not waste time but reason with the man that everyone has the freedom of thought and expression provided it’s not infringing the rights of others, and in this scenario the girls hasn’t violated anyone’s rights. I continued to say that the girl only carried such banner simply to communicate that girls are also key to the development of a country and the world at large.

He nodded in agreement to what I was saying and thanked me in appreciation of a schooling session well delivered.

Finally, I was accorded an audience with the young girl at the end of the commemoration activities. The young girl testified that there was a time when things were not moving for her, up until a mentor from YONECO tipped her to get up and fight Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Friday, 25 August 2017


By: Richard Chilango & evelece Chinga’mbe

It was an era of advocacy, it was a period of activism, it was a moment of sponsorship, it was a minute of support, it was an epoch of youth interventions, it was an age of sponsorship, it was a full-stop to child marriages, it was the death of male chauvinism, it was a tombstone unveiling ceremony for gender based violence, it was the Revelation of women’s inferiority complex and happy birthday to their self-belief. In summary, it was a time when women, children and youth rights campaign was at its orgasm.

Be it that you haven’t heard about this human rights watchdog in mention, then you need to be updated, that one true organization is Youth Net and counselling (YONECO), Its Tithandizane helpline center has a free toll line with which helpline councilors respond to all the calls from clients and victims of abuse. You can pop into YONECO premises on a familiarization tour, but you won’t see the councilors vagabonding the premises like a lost sheep in wilderness deprived of wolfs, standing at the edges of the cafeteria for a viewpoint won’t do favors. Telepathy will only betray for the councilors routinely work indoors for the sake of a tête-à-tête mediated environment, and that’s always best for guidance and counselling in the long run.

If you were to see the councilors, you would find a presentable, decent person with a helpful look, pondering hard on how best to respond to questions rendered by clients. Often times, the councilors will hold the phone receiver on one hand and a pen on the other hand. The men clad in long decent shots and shirts that have a bowtie, the women also slay it executively unless it’s on a Fry day. 

The watchdog (YONECO) is present wherever human rights are being infringed or deprived, it’s always omnipresent in its catchment areas and thus speaking of districts like Nkhatabay, Rumphi, Salima, Mchinji, Mangochi, Zomba, Chikhwawa, Ntchisi, Ntcheu, Machinga, Mulanje, Likoma,  Nkhotakota and Phalombe at times.

People who have a liking for the radio developed an interest to keep a keen eye on the name YONECO FM (YFM) and doors are left wide open to receive anybody who is dying to place their feet on the majestic vicinities of YFM. A visit by an audience full of praises causes a YONECO journalist to smile in appreciation and that elevates their work energy going forward. A woman who has spent two years and six months admiring the Golden voiced Olivier Gondwe , dreaming of setting her eyes on the award winning ,titus Linzie, causes the journalists in mention to keep up the good work in progress.

It’s no cause for pity that journalists have one day to rest out of the seven days believed of making a week, for their work is a calling. Although their work terms and conditions indicate room for leave days, their never on a hundred percent holiday, they do not worry that they are in the wrong profession as long as they are informing, civic education and entertaining the general public, but most of all they have excellent working conditions and privileges.

Rumor is it that journalist are luxurious people, but journalist belonging to this watchdog are different. All that lingers in their freedom fighting mindsets is rights advocacy. On Monday the journalist attend to staff briefing meeting where issues are looked at from an institutional point of view, Tuesdays to Sundays are for advocacy, news reporting, and radio presentation, outside broadcast and field work.

After paternity and maternal holidays the journalist works day in and day out to backlog time lost and wasted away over the leave holidays. No wonder the aftermath of maternity holiday makes one feel like a newly employee. The journalists have for so long been used as a weapon in fighting for the rights of special groups of people though modern times has created a breed of social media loving journalist who would spend a moment of forever twitting about their luxurious shoes instead of utilizing such platforms to convey messages of sexual reproductive health and rights. But thanks heavens the watchdog has a different breed of reporter’s and presenters, they kind that uses ICT tools in communicating SRHR issues.

Were you to ask a journalist what makes them feel sorry, they would tell you one laughable thing, that they always feel sorry for seedless watermelons, if you ask them why?, they would respond to you that what if they wanted to have babies.

Working tirelessly in a boardroom full of files, accountant officers will patiently sit on the desk waiting for officers who went out on field to liquidate and submit their field reports so that they file such information and keep it in their safe keeping whilst awaiting audit. The finance manager will pass by the desks of each and every accounts officer all just to make sure work is being done at the desired expectation and right pace. The manager will pass by the next desk, where a man is enjoyably wondering when next will he go out for field work, and that tells a story, a story of a watchdog with a lot of opportunities to offer. He stops by the desk of the young man who is counting every minute, and loathing the hours, the finance managers laughs in shame knowing that YONECO is a service delivery organization.

Sitting on an office chair, is a happy employee of the watchdog with a pen that is scribbling what your eyes are founding merry in. 



By: Richard Chilango jr

Home grown literary sensation, Jack Mapanje, would often times start his literary pieces with the art of imagery to unveil the bad deeds rendered by the then regime towards the silent majority, as a favorite author of mine. I would duplicate his style if I could, but he was a genius born to write without difficulty whilst for me to put down something, I write down with bitter blood, with utmost effort, with sour gall well blended with shame and guilt. But all the same for a poet is before anything else, a person who passionately fell in love with language, and lucky me, I happen to be betrothed to linguistics.

It is with reference that Poetry makes the nation go round, imagine a Malawi without the likes of the evergreen, Okoma Atani Malunga, the vibrant, Aubrey Chinguwo, and the issue based ,Robert Chiwamba, best famed for his breakthrough hit “muzafa imfa yowawa”. Over time literature in the nature of poetry has been used as a fighting mechanism against all sorts of oppression, and also in showcasing ones grief, happiness, sorrow, love, hate you name it. Bestselling anthologies are what they are because of literature best described poetry.

It won’t be translated as mere exaggeration if I go open blank to bear witness that secondary school would have been hell on planet earth if not for Shakespeare’s series of classics, the tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet” left our faces flooding with tears of joy. Like the romantic shivers aroused by romantic lines which read “when Romeo saw Juliet it was love at first sight.” Not to mention of the political classic, “Smouldering Charcoal”, it left many a great number of us with a sense of origin and that in itself is a miracle for rivers that do forget their origin easily dry up.

It is beyond human belief to say that literature is not in other people’s vocabulary, how art thou hard to endure in a world without readings. For the eye’s responsibility goes past fulfilling and appreciating the visual living creatures and statues.

Nevertheless, it is of paramount importance to censor the nature of the content for all that glitters is not gold. Some poetic products tend to be propaganda oriented and not for a good cause, as such one turns into the biblical meaning of a prodigal son.

The genre of poetry that we opt for is derived from our own behavior mirror, if you fancy warfare poetry then time nurtures and embraces you into a war veteran. If you’re in frequent contact with something, you are joined into holy matrimony as it becomes the true definition of a perfect soul mate. For one Becomes part of that something and that something becomes part of him/her. As it is with belief that there is some poetry which is not youth friendly, especially when it reaches a vulnerable audience.

As a nation, its best we acknowledge the implications of negative poetry as it yields brainwash, violence, drug and substance abuse, juvenile maladjustment, mental disorder and the list is endless. Some poetic lyrics tend to advocate sexual intercourse, drinking and debauchery, teen dating, obscene language, and drug abuse.

The lyrics always talk about sex, binge drinking, drugs and violence. According to poetry, all these are said to be good, nice and sweet. However, what our unsuspecting minds quickly switch to whatever the famous poets are scribbling. Thus the youths end up in multi sexual relationships, alcoholism and other harmful behaviors, and such is bad for development in the long run.

It’s on a sad note to learn that poets enjoy the benefit of a life contrary to their work, furthermore there are totally different from what we witness in their literary works.

Yes! It won’t be welcomed as news if we say of the many problems that are being faced by the youths in the country. On the other hand, it won’t be fair to attribute all the blame on poetry. There are also other nice poems that are informative on issues of sexual reproductive health rights and civic education at large. Such poems have positively contributed to the prevention of HIV, teenage pregnancies, drug and substance abuse and other harmful behaviors among young people.

A classic example is that of, Robert Chiwamba’s, advisory poem“Mukapanda Kupewa” it’s a piece that is illuminating some of the dangers of indulging in unprotected sexual intercourse and acts of such. The persona makes a point to the youths on the need to abstain; where not possible then condoms should be an immediate remedy. The narrator opts for a sombre mood just to express thy magnitude of grief upon seeing the many a great number of souls with which the deadly HIV virus is busy claiming day in and day out.

Another classic is “Malapiro Pa malawi”, it’s a verbal poem that Laments the trending salary inclement and also has room to advocate for salary adjustment, for sometimes the youths indulge in wrong acts because they are lacking a financial muscle to carter for their needs. In a country where salaries are not worthwhile low cash flow takes shape, people will do anything in their prowess to make sure they don’t die a financial death, and that spells doom for the vulnerable minds, for some will go as far as indulging in commercial sex to make ends meet.

As such, it would be better to provide better salaries to the youths and the majority at large on whatever job that they have done.  As such there is need for government to take immediate action.

Ooh indeed! Chiwamba has played martyrs having scribbled and recited that one poem “Mukapanda Kupewa” and the newly released “Malipilo Pa malawi”.                                

Monday, 21 August 2017

Those Responsible for Provision of SRHR Information should be Answerable to Increased Teen Pregnancies.

After getting pregnant in her early teens, Farida (not real name) thought that this marked the end of the world. Fari, as her friends used to call her, couldn’t think of anything apart from just staying at home, sleep, watch kids play in the backyard and all sorts of easy things and some slothful activities. The thought of taking her life did not cross her mind only once but numerous times. Her fear and stress were mainly triggered by what people will say and what his father will do to her as he had said several times that he will operate any girl who will fall pregnant under her parents’ roof.

Time came when Farida could no longer hide her pregnancy.  The question her parents had was how their daughter could fall pregnant with all the pieces of advice they bombarded her with day-in-day-out. What went wrong?

Farida grew up in environment where she could interact with her parents and was able to ask several questions. The parents were able to explain every phenomena but they were unable to open up when on issues to do with Sexual Reproductive Health.

While at school the little girl fell in love with a boy whom at one point in the relationship, the two had sex. Two months down the line, she did not realise that missing her periods twice could be a sign of pregnancy. In fact, she was happy that she had stopped menstruating. Of ourse she was later told by an older friend that is when she thought it wise to hide the pregnancy until she finds a way out - and so she thought

Upon noticing the changes on their daughter, Farida’s parents called her for questioning. The little girl didn’t know what to say and remained quiet like a book on a library shelf. Words escaped her and she just kept on looking at her mother’s bewildered face.  They took her to the hospital for pregnancy test where the parents’ fear was confirmed.

Here is the saddest part; Farida’s male counterpart who was responsible for the pregnancy decided to apply a permanent solution to what he thought was spark that will set the whole world on fire and terminate its existence.

The nurse who did the examination on her had to counsel the girl. It was in this counselling session where it was known that the girl did not know that when a girl starts experiencing monthly periods she can get pregnant once she indulges in unprotect sex. Little did she also know what safe sex means and the thought that she could get STIs including HIV through unsafe sex seemed to have never crossed her mind.

Things turned out very well for Farida. Her father was properly counselled as well and he understood the role he had to ensure that Farida’s dreams are rekindled and achieved. Today, as I am writing this article, Farida is no longer the sad one you have been seeing in the eye of your mind. She went back to school and her hard work and dedication paid off and she is able to support her child.

Parents, health care workers, faith leaders, aunties and uncles, youth workers e.t.c are responsible for ensuring that young people are given access to age appropriate sexual reproductive health information. Young people really need that kind of information for them to make informed decisions. Such people are the first to blame young girls and boys whenever the boy or girl has faced a sexual reproductive health challenge. Who should be blamed here? The one who is  supposed to provide guidance or the one who falls into a pit because he or she was not told that there is a pit along the path?

Saturday, 12 August 2017

2017 International Youth Day; A Reflection on Demographic Dividend and SRHR of Young people

On first August this year, I checked the United Nations calendar for International Days and the chart reminded me that Saturday, 12 August, 2017 is the International Youth Day (IYD). This day is one of the days I find myself very busy organizing community events, sharing each and every moment with colleagues, and acquaintances on social media and other platforms.
This is an important day especially when we look at various issues as well as the fact that the youth form the majority of the population. The youth have a stake in all decisions that are made today as they are directly affected by whatever outcome the decisions will being. Further to this, the youth will also remain to shoulder the burden that may be caused by the decisions.
Thus, looking at this year’s theme; “Youth Building Peace: The Role of Youth in Population, Health, Environment, Skills Development and Entrepreneurship”, I find it befitting. The current population growth rate is very shocking and has a negative bearing on the already depleted resources.

Looking at the situation of the youth in Malawi, I ask myself questions and cannot easily find answers. The lives of young people in Malawi and most developing countries is marred  by; unintended teen pregnancies, forced child marriages, increased Sexually Transmitted infections (STI’s) including HIV, harmful traditional practices. With all these SRHR challenges, access to Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) is a nightmare.  Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is becoming a threat to young people in the country and at the same time inflicts holes into the country’s  social and economic fabric.
This year’s international Youth Day has reminded me of the OAU’s Africa Day which is celebrated on every May 25 each year. This year’s theme focused much on the demographic dividend and how African countries should leverage its advantage in developing its young, talented and hopeful populations. However, the quest can only be achieved if our government is ready to invest in SRH of young people. Provision of comprehensive SRH package to the youth is very critical to youth development, health, well-being, and other necessary elements that are necessary to propel   sustainable economic growth in Malawi.
For those who are not familiar with the demographic dividend, a simple explanation according to UNDP refers to accelerated economic growth that begins with changes in the age structure of a country’s population. A shift to fewer dependent people relative to working-age individuals, accompanied by investments in employment, entrepreneurship, education, skills development, health, rights, governance, and youth empowerment.
My immediate observation is that the issue of proper attention to the health of young people is paramount if the country would want the youth to be at peace and even harnessing the demographic dividend as a way of promoting young people in the country. A fight against poverty cannot end when girls as younger as 14 are forced to enter into marriages, when there is a lot of unprotected sex among youths which leads to a lot of teen pregnancies and transmission of STI’s and HIV. In this situation government will continue to spend more and more money to provide treatment for STI’s and HIV drugs, not only that but large chunk of budget will be allocated to subsidies so that people are able to access services. This is not peace.
Let me finish by highlighting that, UN did not make any mistake to include the international youth day on its calendar, this serves as a reminder to all countries across the globe to reflect on how they can advance the welfare and rights of youth, this year’s theme talks more building peace as countries have recognizes that the current generation of youth are the largest in history and young people often comprise the majority in countries marked by armed conflict or unrest, therefore considering the needs and aspirations of youth in matters of peace and security is a demographic imperative.
But my point is that the youth cannot be agents of change, the youth cannot be actors in conflict prevention and sustaining peace unless we properly set our priorities and place our emphasis on developing the lives of young people. Malawi cannot develop if no investments are made towards the health of the youth in the country. Happy International Youth Day.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Polygonal SRH Puzzle

The youth form a larger part of the total population of the world. It is very heartrending to note that this large sect of the world’s population is facing a lot of challenges and among them are issues pertaining to drug and substance abuse that lead to mental illness, death and many other problems. Of paramount importance and worth the world’s attention and collective action is the issue of Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) of young people.

The problem mainly comes in due to the fact that the youth across the globe do not have access to SRH services. Adolescence has its own accompanying elements and among them is the need to seek knowledge about one’s sexuality. As such, the youth lack knowledge and they rely on information from their peers. Usually, this information is based on myths and half-truths and they act based on the misconceptions and they eventually face the dire consequences.

Firstly, the youth, more especially girls are greatly affected by Sexual Reproductive Health problems like maternal death and fistula. These two ‘beasts’ have claimed thousands of young lives across the world. The root of the problem emanates from the fact that young girls start engaging in sexual activities with either boys of their age group or older men. Due to lack of knowledge on the issues of sex and sexuality, they end up being impregnated. Because of their immaturity, many die during delivery and some end up with obstetric fistula.

Secondly, SRH problems have led to an increase in school drop out rate more especially in low income countries. The lack of knowledge on issues of sex and sexuality combined with the lack of SRH services like contraceptives has led to an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies. In Malawi and most traditional societies, when a boy impregnates a girl, culture and society dictates that they should marry. Thus, bringing food on the table becomes the order of the day to such couples and the responsibility leaves them with no room to go back to school. 

Thirdly, HIV and AIDS has and is still claiming lives of young people throughout the world. HIV prevalence rate is dangerously high among the youth in spite of several attempts by governments, funding agencies and NGOs to put the situation under control. The problem has, in the long run, affected youth representation in various critical and key positions in the society. As such, implementation and formulation of some human development initiatives do not consider the youth.

The issues of SRH are very crosscutting hence the need for a systematic approach to deal with the problem. Culture and societal norms need to be tackled as well as the two are also among the main perpetrators of among the SRH problems among the youth. It is like a puzzle that has to be solved in order to save the next generation.