Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Tusayiwe Kumanga
Last month we had In-Service Training and I also attended a US college fair. But before leaving for the two events, I had planned to have a meeting with girls who attend Chisugulu Community Day Secondary School. I am very passionate about girls and their future and they are the ones I want to help the most during my service as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer. However, I had been putting it off because of the Village X project. When I came back, my host told me a story which I will share with you in this post. Now, with this story I’m about to share, I know that these things happen in Secondary Schools, colleges, and universities but I just didn’t think that something similar would happen at such a small Community school.
There is a girl in Form 3 (let’s name her Leah) who had been pestering the Headmistress for a transfer letter. When the Headmistress asked her why she wanted to be transferred to another school, she didn’t have a valid reason. Leah was then told that she needed to bring her parents in order for her to get a transfer letter. The parents came and told the Headmistress that they too , didn’t understand why their daughter wanted to be transferred. With this, the Headmistress continued to ask Leah what was going on with her. Leah eventually cracked and told her story.
After she had written her Form 2 end of year exams, Leah had been approached by one of her teachers who asked her to be in sexual relationship with him. Leah refused and thought that was the end of it. Little did she know that she would have to endure psychological abuse from that point on. It is this kind of abuse that results in some girls dropping out of school.
I had a chat with her the following day, upon the Headmistress’ request. I noticed that she was a quiet girl. She was afraid. I had to convince her that she could confide in me. I suggested that we go for a walk. We talked about other things and she opened up to me. Leah, explained to me that the teacher would make rude remarks about her, give bad examples using her name, among other things, when teaching her class. I asked her what she had done about it before telling the Headmistress, she said nothing because she was afraid that the teacher was going to lose his job and that the other teachers were going to despise her. The other reason, I believe, is because there is only one female teacher (that being the Headmistress) and so she was probably scared to approach her. Instead, Leah thought it best to run away from her problem.
During our chat, I realized that she didn’t see her worth. The fact she thought it best not to report him just to save him his job, showed that she feels worthless. Something that is in most girls here in my community.
I was also recently told another story about a very very young girl who was fed lies by one of the leaders within the community into marrying him as his second wife. The girl, a child herself, bore him two children but the leader recently left the girl stating that he has now changed his ways and will no longer practice polygamy. This is a big problem in my community. A lot of women have complained that older men prey on young girls and leave them as soon as they bear them children. Although there is a policy that girls and young women can go back to school after giving birth, almost all the girls and young women that go through this, are too embarrassed to do so and end up marrying other men.
These are just some of the many stories I have heard of early school dropouts, early and forced marriages as well as early pregnancies. At this point, I seriously started thinking of creating a girls club but I didn’t know how. I then got inspired by several girl/women empowerment sites after searching online: http://empowermentforgirls.com/2013/07/29/raise-your-self-esteem-with-these-10-empowering-activities but the one that stood out for me was United Nations http://www.unfoundation.org/what-we-do/campaigns-and-initiatives/girl-up/
So I gathered the courage to ask girls in all the forms to meet me at the school on Saturday, two weekends ago, at 3 pm.
About 50 girls came and registered to create a club which they named “My Future Club”. It was overwhelming and they were very excited as this was a very new thing to them. Rules were made, games were played and they had some Orange Squash, popcorn and sweets to snack on afterwards. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I had lots and lots of company. 🙂
Here’s a list of some issues they said they would like to talk about as the club settles, things that they are affected by in their communities :
~Drug and Substance Abuse
~ Lack of basic needs