Team CEGI arrived in Mzuzu on 9 July after a week of in-country orientation in Lilongwe. We have met our Malawian volunteers, been introduced to nsima, and learnt a few basic Chitumbuka phrases. We were ready for Malawian life!
Arriving at our host project Centre for Girls and Interaction (CEGI) we were introduced to the team and were then dropped off at our host families. Everyone was slightly nervous having spent four days at Messa’s Lodge in Lilongwe with the rest of the volunteers, we didn’t know what to expect. However, we were all welcomed warmly, although everyone has experienced various styles of Malawian hospitality, with some of the team busy every night cooking nsima and others attending plenty of family and community events; some even met the Mayor of Mzuzu!
We are working in partnership with CEGI, a non profit organisation aiming to mobilise young women and girls to achieve their full potential through the promotion of girl’s participation and interaction for change. They envision a healthy and productive environment in Malawi where men and women have an equal sense of belonging. Their main areas of interest include HIV and AIDS education and HIV testing and counselling (HTC), Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and the prevention of gender-based violence and early marriage.
With approximately 10.6 per cent of people in Malawi living with HIV, it has never been so important to educate young people about these topics. Talking to our in-country volunteers we realised they all had a very good understanding of HIV and the importance of prevention, and so we decided to make our focus on HTC. We received some excellent training from Teresa, a local HIV youth coordinator, about the disease including ways of prevention (ABC – Abstinence, Be faithful and Condoms), stigma, the importance of disclosure, living positively with HIV and HTC. Teresa also provided information on how to conduct the awareness sessions appropriately. Again the national volunteers were extremely knowledgeable about the disease and prevention; however, there is still a lot of stigma associated with the disease which prevents many from getting tested.
Following on from the training, we decided to focus on stigma and HTC as our main topics. With schools closing on Friday 24 July, we only had a few days to plan our presentation for schoolchildren and book the school sessions. Having attended an amazingly informative diabetes awareness community day over the weekend, we saw first-hand the impact of drama and comedy performances, and so we decided to make this a main event of our presentations, as well as games and quizzes.
In one week we have attended three schools in different groups, both primary and secondary. The comedies were especially well received with an outstanding performance from Carlos our team leader! We also managed to encourage many of the secondary school pupils to sign up to our youth club and hope to see them more over the summer at our community events.
We are looking forward to receiving more training on CEGI’s main areas of interest (SRH, early marriage and gender-based violence) over the next few weeks, and using this to raise awareness in our community.
Written by ICS volunteer Rosie Martin