The Minister of Gender Children Disability and Social Welfare, Honourable Jean Kalirani, Visited YONECO in Zomba on a familiarization tour that was also graced by other government officials and representatives from other Non-Governmental Organizations.
The Minister visited YONECO ICT Centre, Helpline Services Centre which houses the Toll Free Helpline centre.
After appreciating how the institution uses ICT in promoting the rights and welfare of the youth, women and children, Honorable Dr Kalirani proceeded to visit YONECO Safe Place where survivors of various forms of child abuse, Gender Based Violence (GBV) access psychosocial counselling, first aid treatment as well as temporary shelter.
At YONECO’s Drop in Centre which is located at Chinamwali Township, the Minister stated that she was also impressed with the good work which the organization is doing to promote social-economic welfare of young people.
Lastly, before interacting with YONECO members of staff, Honourable Dr. Kalirani had an interview with YONECO FM child presenters who discussed some critical issues pertaining to child protection and development.
Led by the Board Chairperson, Professor Dixie Maluwa Banda, YONECO Board Members have expressed their satisifaction with the technical system which the institution has put in place in order to enhance accountability and ensure credibility of the on-going food distribution exercise in Malawi.
The Board Members expressed their contentment after a monitoring tour of some of the major components of the reporting and feedback mechanism model which the organisation is implementing. The members of the YONECO Board firstly visited YONECO’s ICT Department, the Toll Free Helpline Call Centre and YONECO FM. The three departments are diligently ensuring that beneficiaries are aware of the available anonymous reporting platforms for getting and complaints and feedback and that the system is up and running.
Lastly; from Zomba district, the Board Members went to Phalombe district attend a meeting, which they described as very fruitful, with various community stakeholders including traditional leaders as well as other community members .
The Community Members present commended YONECO for organizing the meeting which they said is very key in ensuing credible food distribution exercise.
The meeting was attended by ADRA Malawi, an organization that is handling the food distribution exercise in the district.
With support from WFP, YONECO embarked on a project that is aimed at contributing towards strengthening accountability to affected populations for an effective beneficiary-driven humanitarian response in Malawi.
In its untiring efforts of promoting the rights and welfare of the youth, women and children in Malawi; YONECO has distributed school uniforms to children who live under residential care at Lilongwe Social Rehabilitation Centre (LSRC).
The children could not manage to hide their jovial moods and gratitude when Prisca Malaenga of YONECO handed the school uniforms to the Centre Manager, Austin Chafuwa who received the uniforms on behalf of the beneficiaries.
Chafuwa applauded YONECO for what he described as a well-timed donation as the children had no school uniforms and a few others had worn out uniforms. Chafuwa further added that education makes children of today responsible and productive adults of tomorrow hence the need to give them full support.
In his address, Chafuwa urged the children to take good care of the uniforms and take YONECO’s gesture as encouragement for them to work hard in class.
In her remarks during the handover ceremony, Prisca Malenga stated that YONECO thought it wise to provide the uniforms as one way of kindling the children’s interest and seriousness in their studies.
“I am very happy to receive this uniform and I am also thankful to YONECO for the support they give us”, said one of the recipients of the uniforms.
Recently, YONECO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare to support government’s efforts in running the rehabilitation centre.
Currently, YONECO is also providing financial support to the day to day operations of the facility as well as conducting life skills and leadership development sessions to the children who live at the centre.
Malawi commemorated the International Day of the Girl Child on 10 November, 2016 in the area of Traditional Authority Zulu in Mchinji district. The day also marked the launch of More than Brides Programme which is being supported by the Dutch government through SIMAVI.
The day was commemorated under the theme “Girls’ Progress Equals Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls”.
During the event, adolescent girls took an active role in advocating for their right to protection from child marriages. The girls performed a number of activities and the take home messages in all their performances was mainly against child marriages and various forms of gender related abuses. During the performances, girls strongly voiced out their concerns and the need for dynamic strategies that should address the challenges they face.
Ingoma traditional dances and songs that were fused with thematic messages against child marriages and all forms of child abuse were so spectacular and commanded the attention of everyone. YONECO Children’s Band also performed and the group of young artists mesmerized the crowd with their musical skills and the song titled “Tipewe” left people calling for more.
The Principle Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare- Dr. Mary Shaba was the Chief Guest to the function.
In her address, she urged girls to remain in school and report all cases of abuse including forced marriages. Dr. Shaba paraded a number of role models who are in various fields like journalism, social development, Education, law, Health and many other sectors. The parade was aimed at encouraging girls to remain in school so as to achieve their goals in life.
The Principle Secretary informed the gathering that following the enactment of the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act (2016), Malawi has annulled over 600,000 child marriages.
Other notable key speakers during the function included; Mchinji District Council chairperson, the Traditional Authority Zulu as well as the Country Coordinator for the Alliance that is implementing the More Than Brides Programme in Malawi.
The district council chair said his council is very committed to ending child marriages. He stated that the council is ready to enact bylaws that will protect girls from child marriages. He further added that Mchinji district Council will also do its level best to enforce the Marriage Act of 2015.
In his remarks, the More Than Brides Malawi Country Alliance Coordinator -Kasuzi Mbaluko, expressed his appreciation to the Malawi Government for its support towards ending child marriages in the country.
He further stated that through the Ministry of Gender’s leadership, he is optimistic that the More Than Brides Programme will positively contribute to increased number of children withdrawn or prevented from falling into the child marriage trap.
Turning to senior local leaders, Kasuzi commended them for taking part in activities that are aimed at ending child marriages. He however urged traditional leaders to further act against silent harmful cultural practices that are still being practiced underground.
Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) is implementing More Than Brides project in T/A Zulu in Mchinji district where the national commemoration for the girl child took place. Other partners in the More than Brides partners who attended and supported the event include; Save the Children Malawi and Girls Empowerment Network (GENET).
Consent has been taught to me, both formally and informally for as long as I can remember, to the extent that it feels like common sense.
“No means No”.
This is something I have known since a young age. Consent should be respected
at all times and everyone has the right to not consent to sexual activity, and that too, should be respected. I have discovered that within popular belief in Malawi, this is not the case. Consent is an ongoing global issue which is still being tackled and addressed through different measures; according to the UN, it is estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives1.
On Thursday, Team Umoza facilitated a Sex and Sexuality session in the rural community of Kaulambwe. I spoke to the parents about the importance of consent: “A wife does not owe her husband sex, and likewise a husband does not owe his wife sex. Sexual activity should be between consenting individuals”.
This community session was aimed at raising awareness on sex and sexuality issues and the ways which we can combat them. Within the discussion section at the end of our presentation, a member of our audience, the head teacher of the community which we were visiting, stood up and said: “It is said in the Bible: a husband has no authority over his body, but his wife’s, and a wife has no authority over her body, but her husband’s”. Murmurs in the crowd showed a clear approval of this. I struggle to understand how one quote in the Bible overrides respect for people, and how this has been interpreted to justify rape.
Despite our clarifications that non-consensual sexual activity is rape, which is against the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, I did not feel that any understanding or progress had been made. I left the Kaulambwe community feeling disheartened and despairing about the sessions that we were running. It seemed that there was no open mindedness where it is needed most.
What was more concerning still, was that on the previous day at Chiole, we also faced a similar response from a crowd of women claiming, “it is in our culture that we cannot say no to our husbands”.
To know that the problem is so inherently built into the culture here made me feel like the sessions were useless. Consent has been an incredibly emotionally straining topic for us throughout our placement so far, as it repeatedly crops up in the issues that we address for example: child marriage, rape, and teen pregnancy.
After taking some time to reflect, I spoke to some of our ICVs (in-country volunteers) to try and understand why these attitudes regarding consent are so common and how we can alter our approach to best invoke a change in perception regarding these issues.
Kellina explained to me that most of the adults in the rural community of Kaulambwe were uneducated. She said that in Malawi education is changing attitudes for the younger generation and it is a process which takes time. Her and her peers know that everyone has the right to not give their consent to sex and that this should, and is respected. However, a good number of people who form the older generation have not had access to formal education hence many find it hard to understand this.
Perhaps then we have to hope that attitude change comes with younger generations becoming more accepting on social issues. Once again, I am reminded that change does not happen in a day, and that development is a long term process. Though this feels incredibly frustrating, it is evident that by empowering the youth, and educating them on issues which Malawi currently faces, together we can establish solutions to these and throughout the years that follow. I hope that such attitudes will spread so that socioeconomic development follows.
Malawi is a beautiful country, with beautiful people, the vast majority of which are keen to see change and progress towards a fairer, more open-minded future and I am excited to be a small part of this whilst on my ICS placement with YONECO.
Traditional and religious leaders in Mangochi expressed their contentment with a lineup of interventions which YONECO will implement in Get Up Speak Out (GUSO) Programme which will be implemented for the next coming five years in the areas of Traditional Authorities Mponda and Nankumba in the district.
The chiefs and religious leaders applauded the interventions during community entry meetings which YONECO held in the areas of T/A Mponda and Nankumba.
Among other activities, YONECO will use radio programmes that are specifically formatted for younger audiences as well as increasing “parent to child” dialogue platforms in the targeted areas. In addition to this, YONECO will also be providing information and counseling services to the targeted group through its Tithandizane Helpline Service which has a Toll Free number, SMS broadcasting system and youth drop in centres.
“I am happy that the programme is targeting the right group of people who are currently facing numerous challenges related to their sexual reproductive health. I strongly feel that there is need to continuously engage so that the programme should achieve its goals”, remarked Group Village Head Sadiki.
Religious leaders and other community members who were present also echoed the sentiments and requested YONECO and its partners to ensure sustainability of the programme.
The programme comes in to address the problem whereby young people do not claim their sexual rights and their right to participation because of restrictions at community, societal, institutional and political levels. This challenge hinders their access to comprehensive SRHR education and services that match their needs, and ability to make their own informed SRHR decisions. This situation results into a number of SRHR challenges that affect the lives of young people.
GUSO is targeting young people p[people the age range of 10 to 24 and the programme is being funded by the government of the Netherlands through Simavi. The implementing partners implemented by the following organisations; 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), Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO, Coalition of Women Living with HIV (COWLHA).