By Patrick Ndawala – Mana.
Break Free Project Country Coordinator for SRHR Africa Trust (SAT) in Malawi, Judith Pangani has said traditional initiators vernacularly know as Angaliba have a role to ensure that young people are protected from child marriage and teenage pregnancies.
She said this on Monday at Liwonde, Machinga during a two day Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) training for 30 community leaders from Traditional Authority (TA) Chiwalo.
Pangani added that involving community leaders such as traditional initiators, religious leaders and chiefs would bring positive change on child marriages and teenage pregnancy issues.
“We identify them as champions of change, meaning that at community level they are going to advocate for anti-child marriages and teenage pregnancies,” she explained.
The Country Coordinator pointed out that SAT noticed that community leaders were lacking capacity in advocacy hence the training to empower them to report child abuses and teenage pregnancy to law enforcers.
She said the training covered topics such as gender transformative approach, SRHR, gender equality, gender related laws and policies that affects young people in general.
A traditional initiator from Ubwa Village at Chiwalo area, James Kambona admitted that some teachings in initiation camps promote teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
Kambona who is popularly known as ‘Mr. Jando’ said he became a male initiator in 1963 and never thought his role would be acknowledged to support adolescents to live a decent life.
“Once boys graduate from initiation camps, we were encouraging them to do sexual activities but this training has now enlightened me and am now a ‘born again’ Ngaliba,” he admitted.
Kambona said would be an agent of change by encouraging fellow traditional initiators to incorporate relevant teachings to the adolescent other than those that promote risky behaviours at the expense of their life.
Sexual Transmitted Infection Coordinator at Machinga District Hospital, Kenneth Mkandawire said the training was a platform to disseminate SRHR messages to influential community leaders.
“We observed lack of information in sexual reproductive health and we intend to get rid of myth that stops people from accessing the services,” he said, observing a low uptake of SRH services among the youth as only 24.3 percent of young people in the district were accessing the services.
Three organisations, Plan Malawi, SAT and FAWEMA are working towards eliminating child marriages and teenage pregnancies in TA Chawalo through Break Free project.
On June 3, 2021, Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati launched Break Free Project at Nsakalu Junior Primary School in TA Chiwalo.