TEENS project Amplifies Girl’s Voices


To ensure that adolescent girls and young women have access to gender-responsive SRHR services as well as to reduce the influx of GBV, the Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (FOCESE) is currently implementing a life-thrilling project dubbed “Technology and Empowerment Enhancing Networks in safe spaces” (TEENS).

Through the project, the organization uses a safe space model whereby the AGYWs known as “Mentees” are trained by their mentors on various issues surrounding their sexual reproductive health, GBV as well as empowering them to be socio-economically sound through offering village savings and loans (VSL).

In Malawi, nearly half of girls marry before they reach their 18th birthday, according to the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey of 2015.

Most girls get married at a young age in Malawi.

Only 37% of young women between the ages of 15-19 have completed primary education with many girls forced to drop out of school to help look after relatives, find work to support their families, or because they fall pregnant.

The lack of comprehensive sex education and information about SRHR makes it extremely challenging for young people to access their right to reproductive health services and sometimes perpetuates the act of gender-based violence.

Emelina Gondoloni, 16, from Kanyimbo village, Sub-Traditional Authority Mgomwa in Balaka District is one of the beneficiaries of the project.

She joined the safe space as part of the TEENS project funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

A former school drop-out, Emelina says her involvement in the safe space model has significantly changed her life as she is now back at school.

“I dropped out of school due to poverty at my home. My parents were not able to fetch necessities to support my education. As a result, I was contemplating getting married to cushion the poverty that I was sailing through,” she explained.

She added that she however rescinded her decision to get married and enrolled back at school, thanks to FOCESE.

Another mentee in the project, Ethel Harry says the project has enlightened her to be aware of various forms of GBV and various reporting mechanisms.

“Before the project, we were blank on where to complain when we faced various forms of GBV but now, the situation has changed and we no longer remain silent when we fall victim to GBV,” she said.

She commended the integration of digitalization in the project as a powerful tool in ensuring that the mentees have access to various information on SRHR and GBV at their fingertips.

FOCESE distributed tablets to the mentors which helped them to find various information with much ease.

The training in safe spaces comprises of intensive courses led by mentors and covers a broad range of topics related to contraceptives. This includes counseling, understanding the correct use of contraceptives, formation of VSLs, and tackling GBV.

The organization has on Wednesday graduated the first cohort of mentees who have been thoroughly equipped with knowledge and skills in SRHR, GBV, and entrepreneurship.

The organization’s Advocacy coordinator, Prisca Kunsida says as the organization, they are thrilled with the progress of the project.

“Before the onset of the project, cases of early marriages, teen pregnancies, and GBV were rampant in the areas where we are implementing the project. But currently, we are happy to report that with the acquisition of the right information, the situation is now changing for the better,” said Kunsida.

She was optimistic that the graduates would be able to make informed decisions about their health on their own.

During the graduation ceremony, 114 safe spaces also received a financial boost of K150,000 revolving fund each to enable the safe spaces to venture into various businesses to empower them economically.

Sub-Traditional Authority Mgomwa has since praised the organization for the project, describing it as a milestone in shaping the future of young people in her area.

Long distances from rural villages to health facilities are a major setback facing a great proportion of communities in Malawi. But young people face more than that. Additionally, barriers to accessing sexual reproductive health and rights information and services are also a serious problem.

The organization is implementing the project in six traditional authority areas Msamala, Sawali, Nkaya, Phimbi, Chakanza, and Mgomwa.