Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Vanessa Chimutu
So now that Corps Africa mid-service training and Age Africa scholars retreat is over, I sat down and started reflecting on most of the issues and topics that had been discussed throughout my two weeks away from site, the most recent thought that came to my head was that on the issues of Gender that was facilitated by Katherine during the first two days of Mid Service training, I don’t clearly remember what we were talking about specifically in our talks but I remember the word EMPOWERED being thrown on the table, and to my surprise a couple of my colleagues were not happy with the word that was used…. “empowered,” this really came to a shock for me because I really didn’t see that coming, now of course they had a logical reasoning for not liking the word, because to them, the word EMPOWERED as though women are weak and don’t have the capability of making it on their own in life therefore they need some boost to get them going, my colleagues argued that it makes it sound like they are not capable of making it on their own. I was so curious by the debate that went on and I begged to differ because for me, my understanding of the word EMPOWER, means to make someone stronger and confident especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. To me being Empowered means realizing you’re highest potential that gives you that sheer confidence to forge ahead and achieve your goals and dreams and of course understanding that there may be a number of obstacles along the way but we have to forge through those. But, in the society we live in, especially in the Malawian rural community, realizing your potential is something that not all girls/women get to realize easily. That’s why when Age Africa invited four girls from my Community, Sarah (fellow CorpsAfrica Volunteer) and I to their 2016 Scholars retreat themed SHE EMPOWERED (which stands for Safety, Health and Education), I couldn’t be more excited.
For me this was an opportunity for the girls from my village to be inspired in different ways throughout that week they were going to spend at the training center. One of my favorite activities that happened during the week was on a Wednesday, the day that was specifically reserved for motivational and career talks. I remember when the first young lady went to the front to talk, her name was Sharon, a graduate from Blantyre International University. She came to recite a poem about the importance of abstaining from activities that may disrupt their education. She spoke with such confidence that the whole room was quiet listening to her. I also remember her sharing her life story about how she grew up with no father since she was the fruit of a teenage pregnancy and how her peers from school would laugh at her for having no father. But this did not demotivate her, in fact, it was a motivation for her to exceed in life. Now she is doing what she loves the most as she is an artist and earning a good living out of it. You should have seen the look on the girls faces with awe! It was so priceless as they didn’t expect so much achievement from a 22 year old young lady. Another speaker that caught the girls eye was Dingase Dula, a young research doctor who has also achieved a lot at a very young age. I remember her telling the girls about how hard it was for her to complete school with the financial constraints her family was facing, but this did not push her back. She managed to succeed and now is also able to look after her family. We had speakers such as Mrs. Ngonda who choose to follow her dream of becoming a pharmacist despite her family wanting her to be a accountant. Other motivational speakers that came through were Mrs. Eunice Banda, a Lecturer at African Bible College, Mrs. Lucy Gundo, an Electrician, Martha an Architect, and Carol a Plumber. These women truly transformed the girls, as these women opened their eyes. It surely made the girls more confident to believe in themselves more as the ladies acted as role models. I could already see their curiosity through questions they asked the speakers. The main lesson they learned here was that, it is very possible for them to be whatever they choose to be and there is no profession that is strictly for men or women.
Now, do I think the girls were empowered? Definitely! They were beyond empowered! I believe this is the step we need to take in order to change our society for the better. It starts now with the future generations. I wish when I was in secondary school I could have had the opportunity they are having, it was truly a pleasure being a part of this change. For more about the events that happened during this week Please check out my fellow Volunteers blog at https://sarahkazira.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/s-h-e-empowered/