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Halfway Down the Lane

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Limbani Kumanga

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“A scared dog barks to pretend to its master but a brave dog bites to protect him”
– An African Proverb

July 2016 marked the midway of my service and now being August, I am looking at 5 more months before I pack my belongings and move on with my life. To add flavor to the halfway landmark of our service, CorpsAfrica Malawi held a Mid-Service Training (MST), which was particularly intended to help volunteers to reflect systematically on their individual experiences this far and prepare each one of us to finish in the strongest way possible. For more information on MST and what it meant to be there, check out Deborah’s and Tusa’s blog entries. Otherwise, in addition to the jolly that came with this precious reunion, our resolve as a group and as individuals was tested in an unforeseen way but I am glad that we continue to march on as a group with unscathed determination. Splendid!

Teenage Pregnancy & Early Marriage: Since arriving in my community, my efforts to get a firsthand appreciation of the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and early marriages had proven futile for technical reasons. I mean, I had heard of the existence of these problems but without seeing girls that are affected by these two vices, what I had been hearing remained mere speculation. I needed to see and, if possible, interact with girls that are caught up in this predicament. But as a young bachelor working in a culturally conservative society, simply going into the community and start asking for young ladies with kids would have raised eyebrows. An alternative was to observe such girls during community meetings but, unfortunately, millennials hardly attend community meetings here. I had to be creative.

Unmoved, I had to devised a smart strategy that would not only allow me to circumvent these restrictions but also provide fun for my subjects. After much contemplation and looking at the minimal resources I had, I organized a netball match for females in my community. Generally, women in my community (and many rural areas in Malawi) lack recreation activities, so I was convinced that a netball match would attract scores of females from their cocoons. Maybe this lack of recreation activities partly explains why most girls are prone to teenage pregnancies in the first place. To incentivize as many females as possible to grace the occasion, I pledged a whooping K2000.00 (approximately, $2.80) as a sponsorship package for this match and, as expected, a large number of female residents came to play and cheer. Goal achieved.

Cutting a long story short, what I observed as the netball match unfolded confirmed what I had been hearing on the severity of teenage pregnancy and early marriages in Likoswe village. Roughly, more than 95% of the women (girls) that participated in the match were aged between 15 and 20, out of which, 75% of them have toddlers. Most of them had gotten pregnant before completing primary school, got married, delivered, and are now divorced. As the match progressed, the toddlers kept running into the playing field while crying and thereby interrupting their mothers in the process. To a candid observer, it was a deploring view.

Aftermath: Upon consulting several senior residents, it turns out that there is a heinous circle that perpetuates this problem in the community. Teenage pregnancies and eventual early marriages are a common occurrence here and people have simply allowed this ugly phenomena to be ingrained on their minds as a normality of life. A girl child and even boys failing to progress with education does not warrant serious contemplation and agency here. But as a man who is chronically allergic to mediocrity, I will not tolerate this mentality. Obviously, this problem cannot be reverted overnight, but I won’t standby and let this aspect lead me to idleness. Because you what? Knowing is not enough, but applying. At the moment, the plan is to organize a team of residents that are interested to join my efforts to fight for this noble cause. I don’t know what we will achieve in the remaining 5 months that I will be here, but one thing I am sure about is that we will do something. Something that will be ongoing even after I leave. Watch this space.

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