Gule wamkulu disrupting safe-spaces sessions for young women and girls

Gule wamkulu from Traditional Authority Chilikumwendo in Dedza has been accused of disrupting Safe-spaces sessions which are conducted for adolescent girls and young women.

The accusation emerged on Monday during a review meeting conducted at Katewe Teachers Development Centre (TDC) for focal persons and mentors who conduct the sessions under the ‘Action for Adolescent Girls and Young Women’ Project being implemented in the area.

Speaking at the meeting, one of the mentors, Prisca Kagulo from Katewe Zone, said whilst delivering their sessions, gule wamkulu comes to the venues of the sessions, which causes the mentees to lose focus and run away.

Gologolo at Kulamba ceremony

“Sometimes we have seen that gule wamkulu even harass girls who they accuse of being rude by going to search them in their homes for unknown reasons. This instils fear in us, making some girls to stop coming to attend the sessions,” said Kagulo.

Responding to the complaint, Malawi Girl Guides Association (MAGGA) Country Director, Mphatso Jim, said Safe spaces sessions are conducted for adolescent girls and young women aged 10-24.

He said the aim was to provide them with a safe, free and trusted space to express themselves, share experiences, debate and establish new informed healthy choices while living empowered lives.

“Therefore, it is very unfortunate that the sessions are being disrupted. But since the chairman of this area development committee (ADC) was present at this meeting, he has assured us that he will take up this issue with relevant authorities within the community to make sure it is resolved,” Jim said.

In her remarks, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Program Analyst (Adolescents and Youth), Rose Khonje, said in most societies, girls and women have limited space to meet because most spaces are inhabited by men.

She, therefore, said Safe spaces sessions provide an opportunity for young women and girls to meet a mentor in weekly mentorship sessions during weekends.

“There is need to work with chiefs for them to intervene and ensure that girls meet freely and discuss issues on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, human rights, life skills such as communication, decision making, healthy relationships, conflict resolutions as well as financial literacy and basic business management,” she said.

In his remarks, the area’s ADC’s Chairperson, Fanuel Mwanza, admitted that some gule wamkulu members in the area were not following traditions of the much respected culture.

“The issues raised here today are true because I have also noted that these days, people are not respecting the traditions of gule wamkulu as some just come out of their houses and start running around the villages wrecking havoc, sometimes even at churches,” he said.

Mwanza has since promised to take up the issue with Traditional Authority Chilikumwendo so that chiefs in the area should be reminded to warn gule wamkulu dancers to follow proper traditions of the culture and stop harassing girls and young women in the area.

Action for Adolescent Girls and Young Women Project is expected to benefit 647,900 adolescent girls aged between 10 and 24 years in Mchinji and Dedza.

The categories of beneficiaries include teen mothers, expectant young women, married young women, out-of-school young women, those living with HIV and those with specific vulnerabilities which make them at high risk of becoming mothers during adolescence.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government of Malawi signed a US$6 million funding agreement with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to support the joint four-year programme.

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