Youths from Mangochi and Chikhwawa districts have hailed the just ended Joint United Nations Programme (JPAG) whose objective was to improve adolescent girls’ participation and leadership in youth and community development initiatives in the project area.
According to an evaluation report which was done before and after the project, more girls reported to have participated more in community development activities than before.
In an interview, chairperson of the youth network in Chikhwawa, in T/A Masache, Frighton Bishop said since the project came to an end last year, not only have the girls participated in community development activities but also been helped in sustaining their livelihoods as some of them got training in bakery.
“The project has been an eye opener for so many girls who had dropped out of school and were just idling. They got vocational skills training on various aspects and we have seen how most of these
people’s lives have improved.
“The biggest challenge when girls drop out of school is what to do, you see they drop out due to many reason but the major one is poverty and pregnancy. If its pregnancy it means they just stay idle and make babies so this project helps them do other things which can help their families instead of living in dire poverty,” he said.
District Youth Officer for Mangochi Kumbukani Manda said: “These girls stayed with their parents/guardians doing nothing. The DYO for Chikhwawa said that such idleness exposed out of school adolescent girls to engaging in sex. The DYO, other key informants and participants in FGDs with parents and girls and boys acknowledged that the situation has changed as JPAG has provided vocational skills training to out of school girls and there are girls who have been trained and are able to conduct business and earn an income to take care of themselves and their families.”
Reads the 2015 evaluation report which was conducted in TA Katuli and TA Masache in Mangochi and Chikhwawa Districts: “There were more girls (52.5%) at endline who reported participating in community development activities than at baseline (34.2%). Shyness (30.5%), not attractive/no incentive (26.4%), the perception that community development were for adults (22.7%), lack of time due to chores (11.5%) and lack of confidence (10.5%) constitute some of the factors which prevent girls from taking part in community development activities in both districts.
“Girls’ participation in community development activities is limited mainly because of prevailing culture which does not allow youth to participate in decision making both at household and community level,” reads the report.
The targeted girls are now engaged in businesses such as bakery, tailoring and salon among others and are economically independent.