Monday, 22 January 2018

The Fruition of Meaningful Youth Empowerment Interventions in Mangochi.

By Esnart Priminta

Whoever thinks that the youth are incapable of bringing about positive change in their communities should properly examine this claim.  This entry is based on positive outcomes of youth empowerment initiatives that really technically refute the misguided view of young people as individuals who are wayward, irresponsible, na├»ve and defiant.  

YONECO strongly believes in the youth. The institution looks at young people as capable human beings who are dynamic and able to contribute positively to the development of their society. For quite some time, the youth have been sidelined in different decision making processes and even denied access to critical information. This has led to a lot of young people making uninformed decisions which have led to negative outcomes in their lives and to an extreme extent, this has costed their lives. The environment has not been friendly for youth development.

 In countries like Malawi, a lot of young people have suffered the cruelty of the world in the hands of socio-cultural norms and beliefs.  All these things have in one way or the other contributed to the overall stagnation of development in the country. HIV prevalence rate among the youth is shockingly high, with an increased rate of child marriages which is currently at 47%, increased teen pregnancies and school dropout rates among other things.

In 2016, YONECO with funding from Simavi embarked on a programme called Get Up Speak Out (GUSO). The five-year programme is aimed at contributing towards ensuring that all young people, especially girls and young women, are empowered to realize their SRHR in societies that are positive towards young people’s sexuality.

Justin Yusuf who hails from Nankumba, which is YONECO’s GUSO project impact areas, said young people are now able to take active part in different developmental activities as well as voicing out their rights
“YONECO organized a training for community leaders and young people in Meaningful Youth Participation and I was one of the young people who attended the training.

“After the training I went back to my village and held some discussions with chiefs and other community leaders to start considering young people in various community development processes. As I’m talking to you now, I am an influential member of the Village Developmental Committee.” 
Yusuf further stated that currently there are 4 young people in the VDC a thing that has greatly contributed towards ensuring that young people’s needs and aspirations are considered in the formulation of community and district development plans and activities.

“Older community members are now appreciating the role which young people are playing in the society,” said Youth Network Chairperson at Nankumba – William Phiri.  

Among other things, the youth have managed to lobby for the establishment of two under five clinics so that children can be accessing medical services easily as was not the case in the past. Young mothers were unable to travel long distance to access postnatal care services but now, this issue is water under the bridge.

According the Youth Network Chairperson, youth involvement in developmental work has also increased their access to sexual reproductive health service. The change has come about dude to the fact that they are now able to take up issues and engage the right authorities to address the issues.  This has further nurtured young people’s commitment in taking care of their reproductive health and there is hope that by 2020 the issues of child marriages and teen pregnancies will be history in his area.

Yusuf said “As young people, we know that we have a greater responsibility of developing this nation. GUSO project has helped to stimulate our action towards improved SRHR and other essential services.

He continued to say that increased uptake of sexual reproductive health services will ensure that young people are protected from unplanned pregnancies and contracting sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

“At first parents would not allow their children to access SRH services and use contraceptives but after the training we reasoned with them and are now able to appreciate the need for  us to access SRH services. Even chiefs are now taking an active role in fighting harmful cultural practices and socio norms that bars young people from accessing SRH services,” said Yusuf.

As if that is not enough, Yusuf added that they have now planted tree seedlings as one way of dealing with issues of climate change. He said they are now able to coordinate and collaborate with different organizations and networks and currently a construction of a bridge is under way which will help ease the challenges people were facing particularly during the rainy season.

Yusuf thanked YONECO for still believing in young people and equipping them with the necessary information and the needed skills. He said as the youth, they are planning to do more to improve their communities as time goes.

“Let me also take this opportunity to ask my fellow youths that we should utilize these kind of opportunities and not wasting them. We are leaders of today and tomorrow hence the need for us to be proactive in whatever we do,” concluded Yusuf.

GUSO Project is being implemented by a consortium of 6 organizations that formed what is called the Malawi SRHR Alliance. Apart from YONECO, other implementing partners are; Centre for Alternatives for Victimized Women and Children (CAVWOC; Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR); Centre for Youth and Civic Education (CYECE); Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM); and Coalition of Women Living with HIV (COWLHA. The project is being implemented in Chikwawa and Mangochi district where YONECO is targeting T/A Mponda and Chimwala. 

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