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Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Lucy Chihana

I think 2015 is probably the year I read the most, analyzed a lot of research papers, and spent a lot of sleepless nights doing this as I was writing my research paper. It was during this time that I came across research that was done in Malawi by UNICEF: it revealed that over 85% of girls in Malawi get pregnant and have a kid before the age of 18. I read the whole document because it was interesting, I learned with great shock just how bad our situation is. This document highlighted several things and factors contributing to such tendencies. Of course, poverty was alluded to as one major factor contributing to this condition. However, even after reading this document I just didn’t take my time reflecting on the funding of this study as I quickly moved on to writing my research paper. I might have had no time to seriously reflect on this maybe because it just didn’t seem to affect me in any way. Well, all this changed for me this year particularly 2 weeks ago after I had an interesting encounter while braiding my hair.

Two weeks ago I decided to braid my hair, but I didn’t know anyone who could do it around where I live since I haven’t done it this side before. Then I got a call from a young girl who identified herself as “Chiso.”  She said she heard I want to braid and she can do it. I quickly said yes and she gave me the directions to her salon which “we” followed the next day and  got there by 9am. To my surprise Chiso and a friend who accompanied me there are old time friends who went to primary school together. She quickly got started  braiding my hair, as they were busy catching up on various issues as I listened.  These two are 17, dropped out of school and not planning on going back, they each have a kid (2-3years) and the fathers are not in the picture because they denied responsibility. Their stories were so touching, emotional and sad and their experience makes them really bitter and mad because its hard for them to get by on a daily basis.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, another girl  “X”  a friend to Chiso joined us in the tiny salon.  She looked really down and Chiso mockingly said “whose dead?”  Immediately X answered, “my mother says she can’t take care of my daughter anymore because it slows her down in being productive and active in her daily endeavors.” Chiso told her yes she’s your responsibility and I wonder why your mother was that kind to let that happen. X left the salon, soon after that I asked how old is she?? Because she looked really young, Chiso was like she should be 16 this month and has a 21 months old daughter and yes the dad isn’t anywhere to be seen. Fifteen minutes later X was back  accompanied by 3 others young girls. After Chiso saw them she laughed, loudly and said ooooh don’t bring bad luck into my salon. Yes all these girls (6) have kids, dropped out of school and not planning on going back there and the baby dads are not in the picture except for one although not together.

This day was an eye opener for me. Imagine I was surrounded by girls younger than me who have had kids at a really young age and I heard their stories: Brokenness, pain, sadness, and the everyday struggle to make ends meet then I realized just how blessed I must be to be who I am, to have attained what I dreamed of although it wasn’t easy for me.

The next day, the first thing I did was ask another young married girl who usually comes over to my house how old she was…to my surprise she told me she was born in 2000 I almost broke into tears. I asked her “How could you be 16 and be married twice with 2 kids already??” All she did was laugh and told me “inutu mukuchedwa kubeleka” (You are the one who’s old to be without children).

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