Supporting young people on family planning in Malawi
The vast majority of adolescent girls in Malawi do not want to become mothers early.
Muai, 18, is a confident and happy young woman with big plans for her future.
She comes from a poor family in Chikwawa, a district town in the south of Malawi, and at one time was vulnerable to early marriage and pregnancy. But then a youth-driven organisation, Khalanimaso, reached out to her.
Khalanimaso was funded by British Aid through Interact Worldwide partner organisation MANASO (Malawi Network of AIDS Service Organisations) as part of our Manga Manaso, Manga Malawi project from 2008-2012.
With the support of caring community leaders, Khalanimaso runs youth clubs where young people can gather to discuss and learn about issues they are worried about. It trains young people to deliver information on sexual health issues and family planning, as well as contraceptive supplies, to their peers in their villages. Khalanimaso performs dramas to educate communities about the realities of young people’s lives.
Now, Muai is well-informed about family planning and sexual and reproductive health.
She is nearly finished secondary school, and plans to go on to university to study journalism.
Muai says, “Since I first joined the youth club, the biggest change for me has been in how I think about family planning and HIV counselling and testing. I used to think they were for older people, or sex workers. But now, when I hear a message from the health service I think about how it affects me and what I should do.”
Mercy, a nurse with the Chikwawa District Health Office, says:
“Youth clubs and peer education are very effective ways of getting information [about family planning and sexual health services] to young people. Especially in distant rural areas, where there are no health facilities, youth clubs can reach far more young people than we can.”
For more than three years, Muai has been volunteering with Khalanimaso. She is a leader among her peers, and is dedicated to driving forward her vision: that all girls and young women will make informed choices to shape their own lives.
Gradually, attitudes towards young people are changing. More young women are empowered to prevent unplanned pregnancies, to stay in school and to plan their futures, but there is still a long way to go.
Muai feels that schools should provide more information, even in primary school:
“Girls are maturing faster, and they get attention from older boys and men, sometimes their teachers. Girls are having sex, but they don’t know anything about family planning or how to protect themselves. When there is nothing else to do, kids have sex for recreation.”
Community-based organisations like Khalanimaso have a unique role in delivering family planning to young women in remote locations, to empower young women to stay in school and achieve their goals, and in creating safe spaces for girls and young women to discuss and get help for challenges they face. These functions are essential complements to government health and education programmes.
Khalanimaso was funded by British Aid through Interact Worldwide and MANASO (Malawi Network of AIDS Service Organisations) from 2008-2012.This funding has now ended, but is still urgently needed.
You can help Interact Worldwide to continue supporting organisations like Khalanimaso, please make a donation today.
Modern methods of family planning. Traditional methods are far less effective protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections so they are not included.
[i]National Statistical Office (NSO) and ICF Macro. 2011. Malawi Demographic and Health Survey 2010. Zomba, Malawi, and Calverton, Maryland, USA: NSO and ICF Macro.