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Grassroots solution to national monster

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By Watipaso Mzungu, Contributor:

HER ORGANISATION ASSISTS THE UNDERPRIVILEGED—
Kumwenda

Takondwa Lino, a 22-year-old girl from Traditional Authority Dambe in Mchinji District, deftly pedals her sewing machine as she carefully runs the needle over the hem of a skirt.

There are 15 more girls and three young men and women sitting in chairs in Kapiri Community Development Organisation (Kacodo) Resource Centre at Nthema Trading Centre in the border district.

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They are all working on machines, making clothes of different shapes and sizes.

Even from far, one can easily see a group of happy and contented young people.

Not so long ago, all the 19 youths were jobless and hopeless. They fought an exhausting battle to get to where they are, pushing against two evils that lurk in their community: sexual and gender-based violence and scarcity of economic activities.

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Finally free from the yoke of twin-slavery, the youths are determined to preserve their hard-won existence, humble though it may be.

Still, they will never forget the wretchedness that once defined their daily lives nor the entrenched cultural and economic disparities that paved the way for their destitution and bondage.

United Nations Population Fund senior technical advisor, Bidia Deperthes, recently said young people in Southern African countries, including Malawi, are faced with numerous challenges including unwanted pregnancies and HIV and Aids.

Through financial and technical support to community-based organisations such as Kacodo, Action Aid Malawi is working towards empowering the underprivileged, through education, so that they find sustainable employment and lead lives filled with dignity.

Kacodo assists youths from low-income families to excel in the area of tailoring and designing.

“Our efforts are aimed at providing the underprivileged who come to the centre with sustainable means of income. Supporting women to achieve their goals is an integral part of our work while our primary aim is to give women, girls and the youth from marginalised communities, and those who have children with disabilities, a chance to embark on a livelihood on their own and to break the vicious cycle of poverty and the stigma of disability,” Kacodo Executive Director, Linda Kabanda, says.

And with a K71 million grant from ActionAid Malawi, Kacodo has constructed a resource centre at Nthema Trading Centre where underprivileged youths are training in various vocational and technical skills.

“The other chunk of the money was used to implement various programmes focusing on early childhood development, youth vocational and technical training and social and economic counselling. Other programmes focus on women’s rights, governance, HIV and Aids, food security and resilience-building,” Kabanda adds.

She notes that, without skills and training, uneducated youths have no chances to get employment and will have few economic opportunities.

Kabanda says since its inception in 2012, her organisation has built school blocks, teachers’ houses and run various youth empowerment interventions.

“Now, we are contemplating expanding the programmes to other vulnerable groups and other occupations to meet the needs of young people and the labour market,” says.

Chief Gender Officer in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Fred Simwaka, says government places a lot of importance on vocational and technical skills development and employment support for disadvantaged young people.

Simwaka says this is a sure means to empower youth to change their own lives and the lives of their families.

He further states that he was particularly impressed that most trainees at Kacodo Resource Centre come from poor families and did not finish their education owing to various reasons including poverty.

“I am even happier that in addition to receiving free vocational training, the graduates are given capital in form of sewing machines. This is very commendable,” he says.

ActionAid Malawi Head of Fundraising and Communications, Tiwonge Kumwenda, says her organisation remains committed to improving livelihoods of the underprivileged and the downtrodden rural masses in the country.

Lino admits that her economic life has been steadily improving since she joined the organisation.

She says from her tailoring work, she is able to make more than K2,000 a day from sewing clothes.

Additionally, she and her colleagues stitch their own clothes and participate in schemes to educate their school-going siblings in their community.

“We want to build small models of economic sustainability. We don’t want to depend on anyone – not a single person, not even the government,” Lino says.

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