The plight of needy girls in border districts require innovative interventions as they are in imminent danger of facing various Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) challenges as they are caught in between poverty and survival. Some business persons and truck drivers take advantage of the girls’ economic situation to defile them and buy their silence with money.
The situation is a bit more pathetic to needy adolescent girls who get selected to secondary schools which have no boarding facilities. Such girls are burdened by long distances between their homes and their school so much that a pragmatic way-out for them is to simply rent a dwelling structure which is within the vicinity of their particular school. In spite of their eagerness to learn, their efforts are defeated by hunger, unpaid rentals, lack of other basic necessities and school materials.
One of the areas where such issues are common is Muloza Boarder in Mulanje district which marks the border between Malawi and Mozambique. During the last academic year, a total of five girls from Mloza Community Day Secondary School dropped out of school due to unintended pregnancies. All the five expectant adolescent girls, separately explained that truck drivers were the ones responsible for their teen pregnancies.
Some concerned citizens reported the matter to YONECO office in the district. The gravity of the issue compelled the office to act with speed by engaging various key stakeholders as well as meeting community members and their leaders within the locality. A number of issues were brought up and action points were made. Among the key issues, it was noted that Bicycle Operators are the ones whom the unscrupulous men in transit use to get the girls.
“These truck drivers prefer school girls to sex workers. They believe that the adolescent girls are free from HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” narrated one of the Bicycle Taxi Operators who also doubles as an agent for truck drivers and school girls.
It was further explained during the engagement meeting that the agents (Bicycle Taxi Operators) get MK 3,500 from their clients once they bring a school girl to them. On the other hand, the agents also get MK 2,000 from the girl after sleeping with the client.
In a separate discussion, a girl (name withheld) who dropped out of school about two years ago explained that the truck drivers or business men offer the girls MK 10,000 for unprotected sex. The girl explained that the amount is ‘take it or leave it’ and the financial challenges which the girls face, prevent them to negotiating for safe sex.
Currently, YONECO has intensified awareness raising sessions on child protection issues among Taxi Bicycle Operators. Furthermore, a total of 10 Bicycle Taxi Operators have been trained as Male Champions of Change. YONECO is also imparting the girls within the area with necessary life skills so that they should be able to make proper and informed decisions about their health and bodily autonomy.
The activities which YONECO is conducting in order to curb the challenges which girls are facing in the area are being funded by the Global Fund through Action Aid and Christian Aid under Comprehensive Action for Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) Project.