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).