Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Caroline Luka
Being the firstborn in a family can put so much pressure on a person. Having your siblings look up to you, being the responsible one, and helping whenever asked can bring about headaches. Brenda is a nineteen-year-old girl in my community, and she is the firstborn in her family.
Raised by a single parent, Brenda has seen all the struggles her mother has gone through to give her and her siblings all the things they need. They didn’t have much growing up, but that did not stop her mother from working extra hours to provide for her family. Brenda has always been the one to take care of her siblings when her mother has gone out to seek work on other peoples’ farms. The nineteen-year-old girl has seen it all, but somehow, she still stands strong and smiles.
All Brenda’s agemates are either pregnant or married. When I asked her if she felt left out or pressured to get married as well, she paused for a second and then laughed. I was puzzled. Then she said firmly, “I do not intend to get married soon or get pregnant. I have a dream to get out of this place and make a life of my own.” I looked at her and she smiled, “I chat with girls that are much younger than me, and that’s okay because I have more in common with them than with my married agemates”. Brenda would rather be surrounded by people who she can learn from, rather than with people who make her feel inferior just because she chose a different path. Brenda enjoys learning that comes in all forms, such as sports, music or tutoring her friends. She keeps herself busy by doing school work at home, going to youth club meetings, and participating in activities that are beneficial to her.
Currently, Brenda is not in school because her mother could not afford to pay school fees for her this term. Considering her mother has two other children to provide for, Brenda decided to skip school this term so that her younger siblings would be able to attend. Brenda’s younger siblings in primary school pay a little more than she would as their needs as children are much more than that of older students. When Brenda goes back to school she will be in form one at Mchinji Mission Community Day Secondary School. Even though she will be older than most of her classmates due to missing a term, she still aspires to complete her secondary school education and one day become a teacher. She would love to teach children the importance of education so that they may be able to fulfil their dreams like she hopes to do someday.
Brenda is not only an inspiration to me, but also is an amazing role-model for other girls her age. I feel honored to know her and plan to continue to encourage her to chase her dreams!