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Community Leaders in Balaka District Commend YONECOs Primary School Sports Trophy

Community leaders in Balaka district have commended Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) for its

commitment towards improving the education of young people in the district.

The community leaders said this at Kankawo Community Ground during the finals of YONECO Trophy that was aimed at raising community awareness on the importance of education and child rights issues.

In his remarks, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chanthunya said that the trophy will help to increase the enrolment of learners in the schools that are in his area. Furthermore, T/A Chanthunya also added that the child rights awareness campaign that was fused into the trophy will accelerate child protection activities in the area.

“I am very thankful to YONECO for organizing this trophy in my area and it has helped to make people aware of child rights. Parents and guardians will stop violating children’s right to education this area,” said T/A Chanthunya.

According to YONECO’s Project Officer for Balaka district, Patrick Makonde, the trophy helped a lot in raising the awareness levels of community members on issues pertaining to child rights and protection as well as the importance of education. Makonde further stated that cases of child abuse are common in the district.

“The awareness campaign will go a long way in reducing child rights violations that also affect children’s education,” Makonde said.

The Primary School Education Advisor (PEA) for Kankawo Education Zone, Andrew Mathews, expressed his appreciation and added that the trophy has helped to create a good relationship among learners, teachers and the communities. In this regard, the PEA stated that the relationship that was established through the trophy saw a number of learners enrolling in various primary schools that are in the education zone.

In the football category, Mseche Primary School walked away with MK 30,000 after beating Namikonde Primary School to emerge as winners while in the netball category, Rivirivi Primary School defeated Mchima Primary School to get the MK 30,000 prize money.

YONECO, with support from Plan Malawi, launched the MK 60, 000 Trophy on 26 May, 2015

YONECO Circumventing the Challenge of Long Distances to Courts in Mangochi

The Judiciary commonly known as courts are the only mandated institutions in Malawi that are entrusted with the provision of justice in Malawians. The courts ensure that the rule of law is being upheld and the constitution of Malawi is the standard guide in the delivery of justice. 

Mangochi district, just like all the other districts in Malawi, is not exempted from getting judicial services whenever there is a need. However, despite having judicial structures in place, many people from the district face a number of challenges that restrain them from accessing justice. This is due to a number of factors that stand in the way of the justice delivery system in the district and such factors include; inadequate legal personnel and structures as well as long distances to the courts.

In some instances, cases have stayed for months without being settled more especially when the cases involve people who live in the remotest parts of the district. It is for this reason that YONECO with funding from UNFPA through Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) Project has embarked on the process of facilitating Mobile Legal Prosecution Sessions that are aimed at bringing justice to the people who live in rural communities.

For instance, it took three months to conclude an arson case between a son (suspect) and his father who was a complainant in the case.

Under the Mobile Legal Prosecution initiative, YONECO with the help of Second Grade Magistrate, Worship Mwanyali, identified the case as one of the many outstanding cases that are being delayed because of distances which people have to cover in order to reach a court.  In this scenario, it was established that the suspect and his witnesses in the arson case were unable to appear before the court because of the 40 km journey that exists between them and Mangochi Second Grade Magistrate’s Court. It was further noted that the total cost of transport to cover this journey is MK 3,000 per person.

Upon seeing that people in the rural communities need justice just like their urban counterparts, YONECO organised the prosecution team from the Malawi Police Service as well as the judiciary to settle the case. As partners, YONECO, the Police and the judicial officials held a court at Mpina village, a place where the crime was committed.

Thus, after two hearing sessions, judgement was passed on 9th June, 2015. In the hearing sessions, the complainant narrated his side of the story claiming that his son had always hated him. He told the court that he was being accused of marrying another wife and ill-treating his first wife (a mother to the suspect). It was established that this state of affairs angered the son to set his father’s house ablaze.

The suspect was sentenced after being found guilty. In passing his judgement, the Second Grade Magistrate, His Worship Mwanyali said that arson attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment but being a first offender, the boy was sentenced to community service. He was ordered to renovate the house which he destroyed.  His Worship Mwanyali further said that the judgement was meant to unite the family and reconcile the two.  

As an organisation that also promote  human rights  and democracy, YONECO has been facilitating the process of ensuring that the issue of distances to and from courts should not stand on the way of the judicial system in the district.

VSLA – A Pathway to Access Housing Finances among the Rural Poor

Eunice Louis’s dream to have a decent house has been fulfilled. Eunice has all the reasons to stand tall for accomplishing this basic need. It is where fundamental functions of life like eating and sleeping take place and women and men carry out their roles which are also recognized by the Government of Malawi for instance;

the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II Sub-Theme 5 of Theme 4 advocates for access to housing by all income groups and improving quality of rural settlements and housing.

Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy popularly known as Cement and Malata subsidy is one critical policy which envisages in the next 10 to 15 years, there will be no more grass thatched houses and that an estimated 16 000 houses will be built each year.  

Despite Malawi government’s recognition of the role of housing, policy does not engage sufficiently with the issue of housing finance markets, it does so in passing. Availability of housing finance is a key barrier to increasing home ownership and improving the quality of shelter. According to Integrated Household Panel Survey (2013), 41 percent of households reside in traditional housing (constructed of unfired clay bricks and grass thatched roofs). Furthermore, 26 percent of households reside in semi-permanent housing (constructed of a mix of traditional and permanent building materials), and the remaining 33 percent reside in permanent structures (constructed of iron sheets, tiles, burnt bricks and cement).

Expenditure on housing is not a priority for many households in rural areas where 80 percent of Malawians are found. The majority of household income is spent on basic living expenses. The 2014 FinScope study reported that 41 percent of Malawians earn less than MK10 000 (US$18) a month. Nationally, only 10 percent of adults earn a wage or salary, while 23 percent earn their income through their own business and 43 percent through farming.

One would ask, “How did Eunice, a Standard 8 primary school drop-out and a subsistence farmer who lives in a remote village of kapwate, Traditional Authority T/A Nyambi in Machinga District managed to afford a decent house under such circumstances?” The answer lies in Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA).

In 2014, she joined Nthiniwa VSLA which YONECO established under Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) Project which is being supported by the European Union (EU) and UNFPA.

Through the association, Eunice managed to construct a decent house. During share-out of December, 2015, her savings accumulated to MK 105,000.00. With the savings, she managed to buy 30 iron sheets (9 feet 24 iron sheets and 6 feet 6 iron sheets to a tune of MK 64, 800.00. Eunice was residing in a mud and grass thatched house which poses a threat more especially during rainy season and was costly to maintain.

“Each year, I had to maintain the roof of my house like buying plastic paper, grass (Tsekela) as well as labour cost. But all that will be a thing of the past” said Eunice with a smile on her face.

 VSLA has turned out to be an innovative way of improving people’s access to housing finances in remote areas where there is low penetration of formal banking and financial services. According to Findex 2015, only 16.1 percent of adults own an account from a financial institution. Furthermore, only 6 percent borrowed from a financial institution in the past year. With the VSLA initiative, this will be history. As of December, 2015 more than 20 individual women in the areas of T/As Nyambi and Ngokwe have managed to construct decent houses. Not only has this improved quality of her life but it will be a symbol of self in her community.

 “Since I started reaping the benefits of VSLA, my husband has been respecting me so much so that I am able to make major household decisions”. said Eunice.