Friday 30 August 2019

Save the Children in partnership with a local organisation - Association of Progressive Women (APW) - has been implementing a project on Quality Learning and Accountability (QLA) in the remotest districts of Mwanza and Neno in Malawi.

The project mainly aims at strengthening capacity of civil society to support the most vulnerable and marginalised children for the fulfilment of their rights while holding service providers accountable of their actions or lack of action. As part of the interventions, the project introduced child led clubs in schools that promote child participation in decision-making processes, empowerment as well as peer support to fellow learners. The project provides various trainings to these child-led clubs and takes them through participatory empowerment processes to strengthen their capacity. 

With the skills and knowledge gained from this project, one of these child led clubs rescued their friend from abduction.

Girls like these continue to face various forms of abuse in Malawi

Chifundo (not a real name), is a second born child in a family of four. Chifundo lost her father when she was 3. Since then, her mother has been struggling to provide for the family. As such, Chifundo and her siblings started doing causal labour in order to raise funds for school materials. Unfortunately, they never raised enough money to meet all their needs.

Back in her village, Chifundo befriended one of her old friends who dropped out of school earlier and convinced her to try an alternative means of sourcing money. Chifundo’s newly found friend coaxed her to start cohabiting with a 30-year-old man in exchange for money.

First he gave me MK200 ($0.3) and said I should use it to buy snacks at school, he also told me that he will be giving me more [money] if I accept to be in a relationship with him. At first I refused to collect the money but my friend coaxed me even more and I agreed to the plan,” says Chifundo.

Four days later, Chifundo had a total of MK500 (US$0.7) from the 30-year-old man who later took her to his house where she spent the night. Chifundo’s family feared for the worst and started looking for her.

“My friend took me to the man’s house where I stayed overnight. He locked me up and did all he wanted with me in the night. But when he got news that my family was looking for me, he took me to a cave in the nearby hill. We used to stay in the cave the whole day and return to his house late at night every day. This lasted for a week,” narrated Chifundo. 

The search for Chifundo continued in the neighboring villages to no avail. In school, members of the child led club from Chifundo’s school, noted that Chifundo was absent from school for a week. Upon inquiry from her parents, youth club members were informed that she had been missing from home for about a week and her whereabouts were not known.

The child led club members joined the search and discovered that Chifundo was cohabitating with a 30-year-old man and nobody among her relatives or from her village had reported the matter to the relevant authorities.

The children sought support from a mother group and together confronted the man who denied the allegation. Sensing danger, the club members together with the Mother Support Group reported the matter to Mwanza Police Station.

When the man learned that the case was now a police matter, he fled from the village. After a thorough search, the police found Chifundo in the cave, which served as her hiding place during the period. They took her to the Victim Support Unit and Social Welfare for Psychosocial Support.

I have learnt a bitter lesson. My future was in jeopardy. I will never do it again. Although my parents are poor, I will work hard in school because I want to become a nurse after completing my studies,” said Chifundo with a smile on her face.

Chifundo enrolled back in school and has since sat for her Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations. The School Headteacher said her colleagues welcomed her back in school warmly. She worked hard in school and her class teacher organized extra classes for her to catch up with her studies ahead of the exams.

In 2018, The Quality Learning and Accountability (QLA) project in Mwanza and Neno reached a total of 86, 198 learners, 43,246 being boys and 42,952 girls.