Today has been a roller coaster of emotions…something you come to expect in Malawi and yet it still hits you hard.
This morning it was all about girl power…and not of the Spice Girl variety… when we joined more than 300 Girl Guides and girls from Blantyre’s schools to make a stand against girl harassment by walking through the streets with placards and banners.
Before we set off on the protest – we were privileged to witness Josephine from Blantyre Girls Primary present an explicit set of demands from the Malawian Girl Guides Association to stop violence against girls to Evelyn Mjima – the District Education Manager.
Like the #Metoo campaign…the girls are biting back.
Here are just two examples:
- We ask that our teachers should not only teach us the subject of life skills, but help us to apply everything that we learn in this subject – this will help us to report and end gender based violence
- Engage community leaders and police to put a stop to child molestation and ensure that all brothels are closed
They have found their voice and my goodness they are not afraid to use it.
Their placards were straight to the point – ‘my body is special’, ‘every girl counts’, ‘ stop harassing a girl child’, ‘I have my future, don’t touch my body’ and the straightforward ‘no more sexual harassment’.
This is fantastic to witness – especially when we have had many a conversation about the suppression of pupil voice in Malawian schools and how impressed our Malawian teachers are when they come to Glasgow and see our pupils contributing so positively to the life of the school.
Only 120 girls were expected to turn out but when we joined them…word had spread and this had more than doubled.
We walked from Blantyre Clocktower to Blantyre Girls Primary – chanting and dancing with lots of respect and interaction from passersby and those who came out onto the road along the way.
Much cheering and excitement when a large lorry trundled past and tooted support to the cause - to the amusement of the crowd it was being driven by a woman!
The four white ‘mzungu’ tried but failed to blend in to the crowd and were soon caught up in the emotion of the event and chanted and dances along with the girls – much to the entertainment of everyone taking part.
We arrived at the primary school to be met by an excited bunch of Blantyre Girls Primary learners and we enthusiastically joined in with a ‘wazza wazza’ rendition before we said our goodbyes before the speeches and a couple of selfies!
It was then on to a final catch up lunch with Evelyn and her daughter, Mia to discuss the MLOL future prospects…we are bubbling over with ideas.
This afternoon was hard for us all.
Sharon has a very close relationship with ‘Steka’ - a family headed by Godknows and his wife Helene who welcome in street children and vulnerable wee ones.
Godknows and his wife are parents to 73 children at the moment – Noel the youngest is ‘perhaps’ 9 months and the oldest or ‘first-born’ is 23 years.
Noel was welcomed just over 1 month ago – having been left at a police station.
This was the beginning of the end of us…the tears were close.
But these children have been given a chance…they are part of a family that’s showing them how to love and be loved …they squabble, they play and they nurture.
You can’t think of all the Peter’s, Precious, Andrew, Happiness, Julius, Patrick and Benjamin’s who’ve not been thrown this lifeline.
And a lifeline it is.
After playing with the children …we set off in a deathly quiet car journey back to Kabula.
Life is excruciatingly hard in Malawi.
We cry and pray for the children – we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t - but we must use MLOL to help improve the education of as many children as we can and this will be our lifeline to the most in need – in Glasgow and Malawi.
As Mandela said: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’.