One early Monday morning in 201 0, Elija Milanzi who hails from the area of TA Chisovya in Rumphi district got a shock of his life when his parents told him to drop out of school because finances would not be enough to cater for both School fees and household upkeep.

Although it was a bitter pill to swallow, Elija understood his parents’ predicament and he had no option but to let the inevitable happen – He dropped out of school. 8 Years later, the story is different, Elija will enroll with the rest of the students in the next academic year which starts in September this year.

An Idle Brain is the Devil’s Playground

Being a youth and a school dropout, Elija saw a lot coming his way, with situations as dangerous as indulging in sexual activities as well as drugs and substance abuse. He had to be careful. He joined a youth club to keep himself pre-occupied, after doing household chores, he went to join his fellow youth at a nearby youth cl u b to discuss various issues concerning their lives.

The breakthrough

In December, 2017; Members of the group got a tip that YONECO was training members of various youth clubs in operations and management of VSLAs. It was stated that the training was further aimed at drilling the youth club members with basic business management skills. Elija was one of the participants and he later joined the VSLA that was established within their club.

From January to May, 2018; Elija’s shares accumulated to a tune of MK 20,000. He also had an opportunity to access a monthly loan of MK 8,500 from his group.

Currently, he has invested some of the money he got from the VSLA into farming of vegetables which is slowly becoming very lucrative by the day. “I am very happy that my son will be returning to school shortly and I will do my best to support his agribusiness and all his ventures. The VSLA has not only supported him alone but the whole family as well,” said Elija’s father as his wife nodded her head in agreement.

Genesis of the VSLA intervention

Commenting on the issue, YONECO’s District Manager in Rumphi, Dauson Whayo, stated that the VSLA initiative is part of the interventions which YON ECO is implementing under Integrating Youth Friendly Health Services in YONECO Drop in Centres Project. The project which is being funded by the Segal Family Foundation is aimed at addressing various Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) challenges which young people face.

‘Economic empowerment is very key as young people easily get enticed by money to indulge in unsafe sex practices,’ said Whayo. Currently, YONECO is implementing the project in Zomba, Balaka, Ntcheu, Lilongwe and Rumphi. Since its inception in 2015, thousands of young people from the targeted areas have directly benefitted from the project.



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