Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Twambilire Kalolokesya
I started hearing about gender equality when I was in primary school. I even joined clubs that encouraged girl’s education and gender equality. Since I was in primary school a long time ago, I assumed that nowadays most local communities understood gender equality as well. However, recently, we conducted Grassroot Soccer Camps at my site and Volunteer Caroline’s site. At these camps, I started having individual conversations with people to understand their mindsets on gender.
At the Grassroots Soccer Camps, there was a topic where we had to discuss gender. People express why they love being a male or female, and what they don’t like about their gender. This is where my eyes were opened. I realized that my assumption that gender bias was no longer an issue in Malawi was wrong. Some of the issues that came up during discussions were men are still the bread winners in the communities while women stay at home, households still prioritize boys to get educated over girls, and that women loved the fact that men provide, and they just receive from them.
After the camps, I started talking to girls individually to learn more about what goes on in their communities. The individual conversations were important because I learned about what happens in different communities, since these girls come from different places. I learned that after writing form four exams, most girls are told by their parents to get married since they can no longer provide for them. I also learned that parents in local communities prefer paying school fees for their boys rather than for their girls. Another thing that I picked up was that girls at my site think they cannot get better grades than the boys in their class.
After hearing these issues from the camp and having personal conversations, I started understanding why people had acted a certain way in some past situations. So, in other words, it helped me understand my community even better. The good thing is that the girls and boys I have interacted with are willing to do something about the gender bias that still exists in their communities. We have started discussions about how they can bring that change.