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Malawi Campaigners Seek To Give Girls Age-Appropriate Information During Initiation Ceremony

To further discourage teenage pregnancy, traditional leaders like are dividing girls' initiation rituals into two camps.

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Malawi, girls
Madalitso Makosa became a teen mother because of Kusasa Fumbi or "removing the dust" tradition which required young girls lose their virginity, often without protection, to become an adult. VOA

In rural Malawi, families send girls as young as 12 years old for “initiation,” a traditional, cultural practice that marks a child’s entry into adulthood. But child rights campaigners say the ritual entices young girls into early sex, marriage, and teenage pregnancy — forcing many to drop out of school. One local organization is seeking to change this by teaching initiation counselors to give girls age-appropriate information.

Madalitso Makosa was 13 years old when she underwent a traditional, Malawian initiation ritual to become an adult.

She says after the initiation ceremony, the counselors advised her to perform a Kusasa Fumbi or “removing the dust” ritual with a man of my choice. She chose to sleep with her former boyfriend but, unfortunately, became pregnant.

Malawi, girls
Agnes Matemba, an initiation counselor, demonstrates how instructions are given to adolescents at the camps. VOA

 

“Removing the dust” refers to a girl losing her virginity, often without protection, to become an adult. Those who become teenage mothers pay the price for this tradition.

Makosa says when she discovered she was pregnant, she was devastated because she had to drop out of school. She is now struggling to get support to take care of her baby. She wished she had continued with her education.”

 

Malawi, girls
A counselor demonstrates a sexually suggestive dance during an initiation camp. VOA

 

During the initiation, counselors show how they prepare girls for marriage and for sex.

Agnes Matemba, is an initiation counselor.

She says she gives girls these lessons so that they should keep their man and prevent him from going out to look for another woman. Because, if he goes out and finds excitement in other women, he is likely to dump her.

Child rights campaigners say the initiation ritual fuels Malawi’s high rate of child marriage. Half the girls here marry before age 18.

Malawian group Youthnet and Counselling, YONECO, wants to keep girls in school with a more age-appropriate initiation ritual.

MacBain Mkandawire is YONECO’s executive director.

Malawi, girls
Aidah Deleza, also called Senior Chief Chikumbu, says she has banned Kusasa Fumbi or “removing the dust” component from the girls’ initiation ceremonies. VOA

“This is a traditional cultural thing that people believe in, and it will be very difficult to just say let us end initiation ceremonies,” Mkandawire said. “But what we are saying is that can we package the curriculum in such way the young people are accessing the correct curriculum at the correct time?”

YONECO is working with initiation counselors and traditional leaders to tone down Malawi’s initiations. Already, some areas are banning the practice of encouraging sex after the ceremony.

Aidah Deleza is also known as Senior Chief Chikumbu.

“We say no, no, no,” Chikumbu said. “This is why we have a lot of girls drop out from school, that is why the population has just shot so high just because of that, just because a lot of girls now they have got babies, most of them they are not in marriage.”

Also Read: Cheetahs in Malawi: Poaching and Wildlife Trafficking endangers Africa’s most Iconic Species

To further discourage teenage pregnancy, traditional leaders like Chikumbu are dividing girls’ initiation rituals into two camps.

One is a simple ceremony for teenage girls like Makosa, while the other provides some sex education for older girls who are preparing to marry. (VOA)

Next Story

Sport Hijab: A Sportswear Solution for Muslim Woman and Girls

Hijab, a head or body covering that conforms to Islamic standards of modesty.

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Sport Hijab, Sportswear Solution
Many young Muslim girls when they start playing sports, can’t focus completely on the game, because they are also focus on their hijab. Pixabay

When in public, Muslim woman and girls may wear a hijab, a head or body covering that conforms to Islamic standards of modesty. These women may also want to participate in sports without compromising their religion and clothing, and with a sport hijab, they can do just that.

Fatimah Hussein is co-founder of ASIYA (pr. ah-SEE-yah), an activewear company that is changing the lives of Muslim girls and women by producing culturally-appropriate athletic wear. Hussein owns the business with partner Jamie Glover, and the company is named after a woman revered in Islamic history.

“Many young Muslim girls when they start playing sports, can’t focus completely on the game, because they are also focus on their hijab. They either take it off or don’t play,” Hussein says. “They didn’t have any accessibility of a sport hijab that they felt very comfortable with. Many hijabs require pins as fasteners. When playing a sport, hijabs can be hot and unwieldy. If it comes unraveled, another player could trip on it, or the pin could jab the wearer or others, making it dangerous for everyone. So, I was like, there should be some kind of a solution for this,” says Hussein.

A sports hijab was the answer. ASIYA markets hijabs that are for fast paced physical activity. The headwear is made from a sweat-wicking fabric, designed to be comfortable and safe for play.

Sport Hijab, Sportswear Solution
ASIYA Sport. VOA

Hussein, a Muslim woman was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and came to the United States at age six with her parents and sister, fleeing civil war. She says that she played sports in school as a child but was preoccupied with thoughts of her hijab.

“This doesn’t look right, this is falling, I don’t feel comfortable inside,” she says she remembers thinking.

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Hussein is still involved with sports in her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her free time, she is a basketball coach. She is also a licensed social worker.

“A lot of girls in our community want to try new things and play sports, but they aren’t confident, says Hussein. “They’re constantly told they shouldn’t be doing something boys are able to do, they get intimidated,” she says.

Hussein also found an indoor neighborhood gym for girls to play sports on their own.

She also established Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports (G.I.R.L.S), a nonprofit program for Muslim girls.

Sport Hijab, Sportswear Solution
ASIYA Sport. VOA

Hussein talks frequently of identity, community, and taking pride in being a Muslim. She says the hijab is important for Muslim women.

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“It makes a statement about her identity. Anyone who sees her will know that she is a Muslim, she is modest and has a good moral character,” says Hussein.

Sport Hijab, Sportswear Solution
Fatimah Hussein, CEO & Co-Founder of Asiya. VOA

Hussein says ASIYA is helping to break down barriers for Muslim girls who want to participate in sports.

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“We view ASIYA as a social venture looking to increase participation rates, as we believe there is huge value in sports participation for young girls in developing critical skills that set them up for success later in life.” (VOA)