Malawi like many countries in Africa continues to push for child protection and is ensuring that children grow up in an environment where they are not discriminated against and decisions are made to their best interest in line with the key principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
One unique programme is the partnership between SOS Vocational Training Centre and Theatre for change (TfaC). In this program, SOS Vocational Training Centre is training vocational skills to girls who were once sexually exploited or were sex workers and they are being trained in Hotel and Catering management.
SOS Vocational Training Centre is an accredited vocational training institution offering different trades to the youth to enable them become self-supporting and contributing members of their society. On the other hand, Theatre for a change (TfaC) is a local organisation with a goal to improve the sexual and reproductive health of vulnerable and marginalized groups by empowering them with knowledge that will transform their lives.
A total of fifteen girls from Lilongwe have been trained, five in textile and designing and ten in Hotel and catering management. A lot more are expected to benefit from this initiative as the partnership continues. On a normal class day at the Vocational Training Centre you will find the girls asking questions, writing laughing and cooking. One of the teen mothers Chisomo (not real name) says through this partnership she has learnt a lot and will be able to start a small scale business in baking cakes, scones or even start a restaurant.
She lifts her child up in the air and comments and says “udzathandiza mami ako eti, poti umaphunizira nawo” meaning you will help mum since you were attending the classes with me. The beauty of this partnership is twofold, empowering girls who were former sex workers with skills that can enable them to be economically independent is liberating. They can venture into legally and socially acceptable form of trade.
This can increase their self-esteem, self-confidence and they will be accepted in the community and not be frowned upon. This partnership is for three years and so far 15 young women have graduated from this training.
SOS Vocational training centre greatly cherishes this partnership, apart from the monetary value from the payments of the tuition fees from the partner organisation, the whole idea of empowering young women, some of whom are mothers resonates well with the strategy 2030 which was recently adopted at its general assembly in Austria. One of the strategic objectives of this strategy is “no child should grow up alone”. There is hope that these young mothers will be available for their children and will offer the required support to them.