In many Malawian communities, family planning, sexually transmitted diseases and other reproductive health topics are shrouded in taboo. They are not taught in school or discussed at home.
And yet, reproductive health is so important for healthy, prosperous communities.
While helping mothers and newborns survive and thrive after childbirth, PWS&D’s maternal, newborn and child health project is also improving knowledge about and access to services for reproductive health.
Increasing knowledge about reproductive health empowers women and girls and contributes to gender equality.
Harmful practices like early marriage and unplanned pregnancy are avoided, and girls can stay in school. Through family planning, women can better access economic opportunities and make choices about when and if they have more children based on their family’s circumstances.
Women and men are also better able to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and improve their well-being.
In Mulanje, a group of teens are bringing these topics out into the open and leading the way for positive change.
Changing Behaviours, Changing Lives
Thokozani, Peter and Mafuno are peer educators. With support from PWS&D, they travel to different villages in Malawi to teach youth about family planning, preventing teenage pregnancy, HIV testing and counselling, accessing contraceptives and healthy living habits.
“I like talking to the young people and sharing information. It encourages them. They are also changing—their behaviour is changing,” Thokozani shares.
But progress was slow to start.
Thokozani, Peter and Mafuno share that many participants were nervous at first to attend a session where these topics would be discussed openly.
Those in attendance are between the ages of 10 and 29. It was challenging to get people in that age group—especially young men—engaged in the material.
But Peter, Mafuno and Thokozani work hard to get the supplies they need to educate their peers in ways that are interesting and exciting. They have orchestrated dramas, musical performances and variety shows. They even incorporate soccer games—a popular sport among many attendees.
It didn’t take long for the educators to see a transformation.
“They want to start engaging in better, healthier behaviour,” Peter reports. “They are now reducing smoking and getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases.”
“The boys and girls know how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases,” adds Mafuno. “They are also able to resist peer pressure.”
The dedicated educators are proud to report that the participants look forward to each session. But it’s more than football motivating the young men and women. “We are role models to these people,” Mafuno shares proudly.
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Knowledge is a powerful tool for creating healthier communities. Support PWS&D’s maternal, newborn and child health project today!
*PWS&D’s maternal and child health program receives generous funding from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.
Banner photo: Thokozani, Mafuno and Peter are part of a group of peer educators, helping youth learn about their sexual and reproductive health rights.