The Malawi Nation annually joins all African countries in commemorating the plight of the African Child. It is a fact that children in Africa meet a lot of social-economical, sociological, and psychological challenges that oppress their general development. The girl child is the most vulnerable due to cultural beliefs that have a greater negative impact on her development.
This function which was organised by all stakeholders in the district that carryout interventions in the uplifting of the life of children, aimed at addressing such issues as a block with one voice. It took place on 20th June, 2013 at Kachulu Primary School which is very close to Lake Chilwa about 24km east of Zomba. Future Vision Ministries - Canada (FVM) is part of such network. This network is part of Zomba District Executive Committee (DEC). The function drew people from all over the district. The District Commissioner of Zomba District Assembly was the guest of honour.
· To bring awareness to the parents and guardians on the need to send children to school
· To persuade the community members to leave or modify some cultural practices that contribute to the failure of the progress of children in their education
· To empower children to be able to refuse some cultural practices whose aim is not very clear to them but they bring miserly on them at the end of the day
· To help reduce cases of early marriages, unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, new HIV infections and school dropouts.
Role FVM Played
FVM was given the task of erecting tents and carrying out some errands during the process. This also involved consultation with the Malawi Police Service who own the tents, and carrying the tents to the venue and back.
Highlights of the Function
There were several activities carried out on the day focusing on addressing the issues of bad cultural practices and some discrimination against other children affected with HIV/AIDS and physical defects. The following are some of the practices which were discouraged in all presentations:
· Kutsatsa Fumbi (cleansing ceremony): This is a practice that takes place during initiation ceremonies. Boys and girls are required to have sex with at least older persons than them in order to cleanse them from any mischief. This usually happens without any sexual protection which later on spread HIV/AIDS. Girl child is the most affected as they get pregnant often by already married men
· Kulowa kufa – this practice encourages the widow or widower to have unprotected sexual encounter with a relation to the departed spouse. The belief is that when this is done the widowed person will be free from the spirit of death
· Fisi – when the family has no child, the arrangement is made with the husband of the woman to have someone else (a man) have unprotected sexual intercourse with the woman so that this family can have a child in order to remove shame on them of being childless
· Business – girls are always given into marriage by family members in order to get some money from men. This makes the girls marry at tender ages
· Arranged Marriages – some parents arrange marriages for their children without seeking the children’s consent. This makes boys and girls marry without preparation and hence make them dropout from school at tender ages.
The activities included the following
· Speeches – many dignified people spoke on the occasion including traditional leaders, the District Commissioner and the children themselves
· Dances – cultural dances such as masewe were done to disseminate information and entertain the people present
· Poems – school going children had their beautiful poems recited
· Drama and comedy – children did wonderful dramas and comedies
· Choirs – children sang beautifully the songs that were rich with information.
Challenges on the way
While we were on our way early in the morning to mount the tents in readiness for the function, a rear tire of our car got loose and moved out of its place. Thank God, we were not cruising and nothing bad happened to our lives. This delayed us for three hours and we had to call the organising committee to send another car to take the tents to the venue. Thanks to Harry Kavalo (our usual mechanic) who followed us up (to a distance of about 18km) and fixed the car. Credit should also go to George (our driver) for the care he always has on the car.
The main lesson learnt on this occasion is that there are a lot of bad cultural practices that hamper academic excellence in Malawi thereby increasing illiteracy rates. If education remains the catalyst of sustainable development, we need to work up and organise more advocacy meetings like these so that the community members themselves can be engaged in revealing and dealing with such bad practices. Some activities such as dances and dramas are quite catchy in disseminating information, and it is, therefore, important for FVM to use such modes of communication to disseminate the same information during the football & netball tournament that is coming shortly in Taulo area.