Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Sarah Kazira
From 18-22 July, I was out of my site attending Age Africa’s 6th annual girls’ retreat. The theme of this retreat was S.H.E Empowered (Safety, Health, and Education) and it gathered 88 girls from 22 different schools plus 7 mentors, three faculty advisers, and two CorpsAfrica Volunteers (myself and Vanessa Chimutu). I went there with four girls from the Community Day Secondary School I volunteer at and in these five days, I saw these girls get transformed for the better with the knowledge that they gained. I also learned a great deal of things.
Each day had its own set of speakers with a different topic every time. The first speaker was a man, Mr. Bunyonga, who talked to us about how there is a need for behavior change to overcome the poverty crisis in Africa, Malawi specifically. He talked about the different types of poverty and how behavior change can help eliminate them. He then proceeded to talk about how certain behaviors (especially sexual behaviors) contribute in causing some diseases like STI’s and cancer and how these contribute to the poverty crisis. This topic captured the girls’ attention the most as they fired the man with question after question and had many myths they had been taught in the villages debunked.
The sessions would usually progress into the evening and on this particular evening, we had a film director, Mr. Shamu Joya, come and showcase to us his film “The Seasons of Life” which has won a number of awards across Africa. After the film had ended he told us of how as a child he had always wanted to work in the film industry and how he finally got to do it. He encouraged the girls to always work towards their dreams and soon enough they will get there. It is safe to say we all slept inspired this night.
On the next day, we had a speaker, Mpatso Jumbe, talk to the girls about their bodies and how it works. Throughout the session she kept on reminding us “if you don’t know how parts of your body work, or how to use them, somebody else will come in and know how to use them.” She urged the girls to abstain from behaviors that could hinder their future and to say no to things they do not want.
Let me say here that these sessions where not of the sitting down and listening kind of sessions, they were very interactive ones. There were so many activities and games included in the learning. A lot of singing, dancing and role playing were incorporated into the sessions that you barely noticed time passing by. We even had two famous TV and radio comedians come and deliver a session in a very comedic yet informative way that left everybody laughing.
As I sat listening to all these speakers come in and share with the girls on different topics, I couldn’t help but envy how lucky they are. I wished I had the chance to attend such a retreat when I was in secondary school. I wish somebody had taught me all the different things the girls were being taught . But I also felt proud of being a part of it all. The change that happened with the girls in the few days was evident before the week was even over; they became more confident about their passions and it showed in how they spoke .
My favorite day of all was Wednesday, and this was a day specifically reserved for motivational and career talks. I learnt so much on this day but I won’t write about it here. You can read about it and the rest of the retreat on my partner Vanessa’s blog.