On the 22nd of July the UK hosted the very first Girls Summit in Partnership with UNICEF. 'A future free from Female Genital Mutilation and Child/Forced Marriage' is what acted as the basis of the summit and proved to be a significant turning point for the international awareness of these two very widely practised customs. In response to UNICEF's own campaigning #YouthForChange, our ICS Progressio team created a short 15 second video at Kambanje Secondary school in Phalombe where we filmed a class of students expressing their own varying definitions of what freedom meant. Freedom to some was choice and expressing one’s self and to many others it simply meant an education. It was exciting being a part of this summit and sharing it through the Kambanje youth.  Kambanje youth expressing views on freedom

Having just carried out an environmental lesson on seedlings and nurseries, it was encouraging to see that almost half the class was made up of girls who were eagerly taking in the things we were teaching. While this was taking place, another part of our Progressio ICS team ventured out to another area of Phalombe where they took part in an awareness campaign focused on empowering women.Phalombe districts high population of 300,129 has resulted in a severe impact on forest resources, for instance over 90% of the population depends on firewood for heating and cooking. This use has created pressure on government forest reserves and plantations. In these government owned forests there is a big fight against illegal collection of forest resources, some of these illegal activities are burning charcoal, cutting down trees and hunting.nu

Tiyamike women’s group is a local group found in Chibwana village, also found in the Phalombe district. This group aims at empowering women in the community by letting them have a voice in local matters and activities. This in turn provides them with work and enables them to sustain their families by paying school fees for their children, buying basic provisions and implementing environmental activities in and around Mount Mulanje. MUREA (Mulanje Renewable Energy Agency) is a project under MMCT (Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust) for Biomass and energy conservation (ProBec) to modernise technology and improve the supply of traditional energy utilisation around Mount Mulanje. Portable clay stoves have been promoted within the community through the Tiyamike women’s group, these stoves reduce the use of firewood, branding it an environmentally friendly project. Martin Ketembo, a training officer for MUREA says the project was welcomed by the community through the Tiyamike women’s group and are expecting to have more deforestation awareness campaigns in order to fully reach the people in and around the surrounding locality. Empowering women is at the epicentre of many of our campaigns and being able to take part in and learn about what these Tiyamike ladies work on in their day to day lives is very encouraging. We look forward to working alongside others who have similar goals in achieving an equal and sustainable future. 

Written by Esther Malcolm and Patience Mzengeza

Photography by Lekhani Chirwa and Liam Cooke

To find out more about Progressio's work with rural women, click here to see our page on the International Day of Rural Women.