Thursday March 21, 2019
Home Lead Story Malawi Campai...

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.

0
//
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

Girls Find Cinematography A Good Tool To Express, Gives Freedom, Confidence To The Budding Talent

Their feminist minds already racing towards telling stories of change, initiatives like these manage to catch them young while building in them skill-sets that would lend meaning and direction to their future lives.

0
short films
What is remarkable is that this one-minute-short - which questions popular stereotypes and highlights the challenges that working women face - is created by 13-year-old Anuradha who studies in the seventh standard at the local Government Girls Senior Secondary School in Delhi's working-class periphery. Pixabay

In a packed auditorium, a short film begins with the opening scene of a young woman worried about attending a meeting with her injured foot. Her friend cautions her that if she does not wear high heels she wont be able to make a good impression. The woman heeds the advice but even before she can make it to the meeting, she stumbles and her heels fall off.

She picks them up and marches into the meeting anyway. She realises her success does not depend on her heels and the film “Parwaaz” – which translates to flight – ends with the shot of the young actor triumphantly flinging away her heels as the audience applauds.

What is remarkable is that this one-minute-short – which questions popular stereotypes and highlights the challenges that working women face – is created by 13-year-old Anuradha who studies in the seventh standard at the local Government Girls Senior Secondary School in Delhi’s working-class periphery.

“Women might not be explicitly instructed to wear heels, but the notion of looking good and confident, and doing it because everyone is doing it… these are big factors in what choices we make for ourselves, even if the choices are not the most comfortable,” Anuradha, the budding filmmaker, told IANS.

It was not just Anuradha but around 40 girls aged 11-13 years who came together for a rare workshop earlier this month and made some unique films on what freedom meant to them. The brief ‘Little Directors’ workshop included sessions on film language, conceptualising, interpreting, shooting and communicating via visuals.

The workshop sought to promote media literacy among these children, many of whom are born to unskilled and semi-skilled workers and daily-wage earners like plumbers and rickshaw-pullers. Now equipped with film-making skills, these young first-time filmmakers chose to tell remarkable stories translating the theme ‘aazadi’ (freedom) to choice for women in offices, schools and in society at large. Many ideas stemmed from what they see and challenges they face in real life.

films
The brief ‘Little Directors’ workshop included sessions on film language, conceptualising, interpreting, shooting and communicating via visuals. Pixabay

Reshma, an 11-year old participant, chose a non-narrative format for her film which clubbed the voice-over of a poem with visuals of girls studying or working on domestic chores. The first few lines of the poem ask: “Why aren’t women allowed to go out freely? Why aren’t they allowed to study as much as they want?”

“In villages, it is common to marry off girls at a young age and dismiss their study plans for their marriage. In my village near Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh), I have seen girls pleading to study more but their parents decide otherwise,” young filmmaker Kajal Kumari, whose film transports one to a land of her imagination, said.

In the short film, a girl’s parents are seen announcing her marriage while she is a student. Crestfallen, the girl wishes for an alternative reality. Soon, a fairy godmother comes to her rescue and asks her to accompany her to a land of books.

Documentary filmmaker Samina Mishra, who facilitated the workshop along with actor Nina Sabnani, said that in most cases for these girls, freedom interestingly translated to choice. For others, it meant overt questioning of those unsaid societal norms that women are subjected to.

Sabnani and Mishra were involved in the creative exercises and production in the two-day workshop, which was a part of the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival in New Delhi in early March. The intention of the exercise was to familiarize the young participants with the basics of filmmaking so they could tell their stories with confidence, while also giving people an opportunity to hear fresh voices that hitherto resided in young minds, the organisers shared.

film
In the workshop, the girls acted, handled the camera, learned framing, editing and making a coherent film with a message. Pixabay

Kajal, studying in VIII class, said that she always had a penchant for storytelling and that filmmaking was a good tool since “everyone grows up watching television, films and now videos on their mobiles”.

Another group, hoping to send a message about freedom of choosing clothes, brought in costumes like shorts and crop-tops to add nuance to their film.

Yet another group, while experimenting with film formats, chose to shoot an interview around the word ‘freedom’, and ultimately concluded with the idea that freedom is a state of mind.

In the workshop, the girls acted, handled the camera, learned framing, editing and making a coherent film with a message. Many now desire to learn more about acting and cinematography, even as a career choice.

Also Read: Joint Surgery May Spike up Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics
An attempt at gender mainstreaming, ‘Little Directors’ not just equipped these adolescent girls with the necessary skills for storytelling, but encouraged their line of thinking about freedom of women in their own communities and society.

Their feminist minds already racing towards telling stories of change, initiatives like these manage to catch them young while building in them skill-sets that would lend meaning and direction to their future lives. (IANS)