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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

Why Are Indian Teens Less Physically Active?

WHO conducts a survey to find out why Indian Adolescents are less physically active

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Indian Teenagers
Playing cricket keeps Indian boys away from other exercises. Pixabay

Too much focus on cricket might be the reason why Indian boys are not getting sufficient physical activity, while domestic chores are keeping girls away from adequate exercise, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, found that kids aged 11 to 17 years are at the lower levels of insufficient physical activity in Bangladesh and India (where 63 per cent and 72 per cent of boys were insufficiently active in 2016, respectively).

For girls, the lowest levels of insufficient activity were seen in Bangladesh and India, and are potentially explained by societal factors, such as increased domestic chores in the home for girls.

According to the WHO, levels of insufficient physical activity in adolescents continue to be extremely high, compromising their current and future health.

“Urgent policy action to increase physical activity is needed now, particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity,” said study author Dr Regina Guthold, WHO.

The study also found that more than 80 per cent of adolescents worldwide are not physically active, including 85 per cent girls and 78 per cent boys, putting their health at risk by not doing regular exercise and spending too much time on screen.

For the findings, the researchers estimated how many 11 to 17-year-olds do not meet this recommendation by analysing data collected through school-based surveys on physical activity levels.

Indian girl
The household keeps the Indian girls away from enough physical activity. Pixabay

The assessment included all types of physical activity, such as time spent in active play, recreation and sports, active domestic chores, walking and cycling or other types of active transportation, physical education and planned exercise.

Based on data reported by 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-old students – the research found that across all 146 countries studied between 2001-2016, girls were less active than boys in all but four (Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia).

Also Read- Physical Activity and Healthy Diet can cut the Risk of Heart Attack in Children

According to the study, physical activity trends show slight improvement for boys, none for girls. Most countries in the study (73 per cent, 107 of 146) saw this gender gap widen between 2001-2016.

“The trend of girls being less active than boys is concerning,” said study co-author Dr Leanne Riley, WHO.

“More opportunities to meet the needs and interests of girls are needed to attract and sustain their participation in physical activity through adolescence and into adulthood,” Riley added. (IANS)