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In Malawi, a Kenyan NGO trains Girls in Self Defense to counter Sexual Abuse

At a school in the Salima district of central Malawi, girls are practicing punches and jabs, the girls are learning how to defend themselves.

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Schoolgirls in Malawi are learning what to do if someone tries to attack them. A Kenyan NGO started the training in response to a recent study that showed one in five girls under the age of 18 in Malawi has been sexually assaulted.

At a school in the Salima district of central Malawi, girls are practicing punches and jabs. But this is not a martial arts class. These girls are learning how to defend themselves.

Learner listen attentively from Ujamaa instructors about how to defend themselves against attacker. (L. Masina/VOA)
Learner listen attentively from Ujamaa instructors about how to defend themselves against attacker. (L. Masina/VOA)

“The curriculum involves both verbal and physical skills. Physical skill is used when it is the best and last option, meaning that we use mainly verbal skills which is how to use their voices to [prevent] the assaults,” said Loveness Thole, the Ujamaa curriculum coordinator.

A learner at Ngolowindo primary school in Salima district practices how to disable the potential attacker when she is cornered. (L. Masina/VOA)
A learner at Ngolowindo primary school in Salima district practices how to disable the potential attacker when she is cornered. (L. Masina/VOA)

The girls learn to shout for help or pretend they see someone coming to fool their attacker. They also learn techniques to disable the attacker so they can run for safety.

Some girls, such as student Shang Chituzu, said they have already had to use their skills.

“My uncle ordered me to lie on his bed. When I asked why, he started touching my body. I told him to stop and that I will report him to police or my mother if he continues. After hearing this, he ordered me out of his room,” said Chituzu.

The initiative also teaches boys to respect girls and how to intervene when a girl is being sexually assaulted. (L. Masina/VOA)
The initiative also teaches boys to respect girls and how to intervene when a girl is being sexually assaulted. (L. Masina/VOA)

The Ujamaa project is also teaching boys about respecting girls and teaching them how to intervene if they see a girl being assaulted.

Funds permitting, project organizers say they want to extend the self-defense program to students nationwide. (VOA)

Next Story

Malawi Becomes First Country to Initiate Immunizing Children against Malaria

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015

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malaria vaccines
FILE - Malaria drugs are seen on display in a privately owned pharmacy in Blantyre, Malawi. (L. Masina/VOA).

The World Health Organization says Malawi has become the first country to begin immunizing children against malaria, using the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease.

Although the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, the majority of them children under 5 in Africa.

“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who was not linked to WHO or to the vaccine. Craig said immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare many thousands of children from falling ill with malaria or even dying.

malawi, malaria
“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. VOA

The World Health Organization says Malawi has become the first country to begin immunizing children against malaria, using the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease.

Although the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, the majority of them children under 5 in Africa.

“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who was not linked to WHO or to the vaccine. Craig said immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare many thousands of children from falling ill with malaria or even dying.

malawi, malaria
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015. Pixabay

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Craig noted one of health officials’ biggest challenges could be convincing parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine that only protects about a third of children for a limited amount of time. More commonly used vaccines, like those for polio and measles, work more than 90 percent of the time.

“This malaria vaccine is going to save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like,” Craig said. “But I hope this will kick-start other research efforts so that the story doesn’t end here.” (VOA)