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Plan Malawi mentors youth empowerment initiatives against poverty and HIV and AIDS

Caught up in the circle of poverty and the deadly HIV and AIDS pandemic that affects millions of people in Malawi and especially women in peri urban and rural areas, communities are finding new ways of sustaining support for the affected while enabling the youth to run efficient businesses that guarantee sustainability.

Through the assistance of Mchezi Community Based Organization (MCBO), residents of Mwadenje Community, 25 kilometers out of Malawi’s capital Lilongwe, are exemplifying what an empowered community can do.

HIV and AIDS, poverty, food insecurity...

MCBO is a result of the coming together in 2001 of volunteers consisting; retired teachers and government officials etc., with the aim of sensitising people about HIV testing and access to treatment as well as support for orphans by enrolling children in school and providing vocational skills to the youth.

The initiative was justified by the need to tackle the HIV and AIDS crisis which is one of the multitude problems faced by Malawi, alongside poverty, food insecurity and other diseases. HIV prevalence is estimated at 12 percent amongst adults aged 15-49 years out of a population of 13.1 million persons.

Malawi’s substantial progress in HIV prevention approach and scaling–up access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) has booked remarkable successes to date. As much as the government has been putting all the effort to make this happen, the work being done at the grass-root level by the communities, including the MCBO, to raise and improve knowledge is incredible and quite successful.

In 2005, MCBO established partnership with Plan Malawi and established a small vocational training initiative to train youth in tailoring and the use of appropriate technology in small scale businesses.

The objective was to ensure that boys and girls acquire relevant skills that might lead to gainful employment so that the orphans and vulnerable children living with single parent or child-headed families could get assisted to realise their right to survival and education.

Substantial progress

In the past 7 years, 15 youth have been fully trained as tailors and they support more than 3,000 orphaned children with school uniforms, notebooks and other learning materials. As a result of this, the demand for similar training has increased and the idea of training young tailors is ongoing.

Positioned in the middle of industrial area, among the industries being tobacco processing factory, the members of MCBO negotiated with the management so that they could use the industrial waste as manure.

The continued use of the manure to improve arable lands has resulted in increased yields with members now focused on production of Irish potatoes for sale.

Sustainable future

Plan Malawi also helped the community to construct more classrooms as well as training the teachers and other volunteers on child protection. The school has a feeding programme for the little children to encourage early enrolment.

“Giving support is more crucial than giving money,” says Christopher Goma, Director of MCBO about the partnership.

Plan Malawi also trained the members on resource mobilisation so that they can learn innovative ways of remaining self sustained. Already Mchenzi CBO has become self-reliant from its projects since 2009.

Today, the MCBO continues to expand their programmes, from chicken, pigs rearing to more sustainable ways of ensuring food security in the future. They hope to expand their knowledge and effectiveness to other communities and they are also looking into working towards growing into a local non-governmental organization.