Doreen Magombo is a 19 year old girl who is at loggerheads with a traditional society that is reluctant to loosen its throttle on how it perceives the future and welfare of young girls who are raised and bound to marry at a very tender age, bear children and take care of their families and remain confined in the home as house wives.
Doreen was among 35 young girls whom YONECO trained as Life Skills Facilitators from the areas of Traditional Authorities Mwambo and Nkumbira in Zomba district. After the training sessions, the girl told YONECO staff that she wants to pursue her studies and fulfill her dream of becoming a police officer in the elite Police Mobile Service (PMS) department. She stated that this will enable her to be economically independent and be in a position to support her parents and her siblings.
However, she was quick to point out that the society she lives in is one major stumbling block that she has to turn into a stepping stone first before realizing her dream. Doreen explained that her ambition is in conflict with the cultural values of her home village where she stays. She further explained that her community does not support education of its young ones let alone the girls’.
‘Girls are expected to marry while they are still young and cook whatever their husbands fend for their families and those are the reasons why girls are raised. In as far as the conservative custodians of our customs are concerned, the idea of girls pursuing their studies is very unthinkable’, explained Doreen.
Doreen made a bold decision and chose a different path. After completing her primary school education she went further to Likangala Secondary School. This move led community members and her relatives to speculate that she aborts pregnancies just to stay in school. Furthermore, she is being heavily castigated by other villagers as she is wrongly accused of directly enticing other young girls to shun young suitors. Due to such issues, the girl is some kind of a stranger in her own home village as people regard her as rebellious and nobody wants to associate with her.
“I have no friends because my image has been completely blemished and the only people whom I talk to are my parents but other villagers ignore and avoid me.
No matter what they do, I am determined to achieve my goal and I will not let the situation to throw me off balance”, said Doreen enthusiastically.
Doreen sat for her Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) in 2013 and managed to pass five subjects, one subject short to obtain the certificate and she intends to sit for the examinations again this year. In spite of the adversity, she has all the chances of succeeding. She also thanked YONECO for the training and explained that she will utilize the facilitation skills she got from the training to reach out to other young girls in her community.
“The training has come in the right time as I could have made a wrong decision more especially after failing to get a Malawi School Certificate of Education,” She said.
The aforementioned training was conducted in Reaching the Hard to Reach Project that is being implemented by Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) with support from National Aids Commission (NAC). The project’s goal is to reduce HIV infections and prevalence rate among the hard to reach groups.
The choice of the hard to reach groups in the society is built on the fact that the groups are difficult to be reached with necessary information mainly because of the nature of their work or due to stigma resulting from age. Such groups include teen mothers, fishermen, bicycle taxi operators, market vendors, married adolescents, sex workers and out of school youth. The project is being implemented in Ntcheu, Balaka, Machinga and Zomba and it also extends to Mangochi and Nkhata Bay districts.