It is the norm in Malawian culture for boys and girls to be separated socially; they are discouraged from being friends by the fear that friendships lead to teen pregnancies.
Resources that have tried to bridge the gender divide have focused largely on girls, resulting in boys feeling excluded.
But according to the brains behind Zathu Pa Wailesi, the younger generations in the country recognise they are divided and that if both girls and boys reach their potential, it will create a stronger, thriving Malawi for the future.
Young people also believe that entertainment produced elsewhere is leagues ahead of anything that could be made in, and by, Malawians. That’s about to change.
Zathu Pa Wailesi is a new youth radio show. The 30-minute programme combines talk show and drama interspersed with music, all hosted by two youthful presenters Lily Banda and DJ Goxy.
By using high quality and entertaining content Zathu Pa Wailesi hopes to bring girls and boys together in Malawi and give them something they can all unite behind.
Then there is the Zathu Pa Wailesi radio drama which follows the stories of six young Malawians: three girls and three boys, who come together to form the Zathu band.
Their stories echo the lives of millions of Malawian teens today, as they strive to overcome challenges and follow their dreams.
There’s Annetti [The Survivor], T-Reel [The Arrogant One], Mphatso [The Strong One], JP [The Sensitive One], Xander [The Good Guy] and Chikondi [The Dreamer].
This is not all as there is also the Moyo Wathu/Our Lives element in Timve Kwa Inu and this is a section of the show that shares inspiring stories from young people across the country, and Zathu’s own ‘Gogo’ answers real questions from young listeners.
Zathu Pa Wailesi also aims to champion the best of Malawian music by featuring known Malawian artists alongside original music by the Zathu Band.
The band’s first single (which also has an accompanying narrative music video that can be found on www.zathu.mw), ‘Zimatere Zimatere’ repurposes a melody from a Tumbuka folk song that certainly tugs at the heart strings.
And so to reach as many people as possible, Zathu uses radio and also creates listening clubs.
There are Zathu Crews in the pilot districts of Mzimba, Lilongwe, Machinga and Zomba helping to get young people excited about the new show.
Throughout the month of April, thousands of young people got a chance to witness Zathu Pa Wailesi live, thanks to a nationwide roadshow that took the new radio show to Zomba, Machinga, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu.
The nationwide road show climaxed with a launch event at Lilongwe community grounds on April 22, where over 6, 000 young people were treated to performances from Faith Mussa, KBG, Sangie, Rina, and Zathu Band.
After performing at the live launch, dancehall artist Sangie said: “Using music and drama to inspire behaviour change is a creative way to talk to youth. This is our language.”
Zathu Pa Wailesi’s spokesperson Zilanie Gondwe shares the vision of the Zathu Pa Wailesi programme:
“Through the power of music and storytelling, we want Zathu to inspire friendships and help forge a more equal Malawi where everyone is free to reach their potential.”
Gondwe said the show’s name Zathu means “Ours” in Chichewa, and that it was chosen because it is a celebration of who we are.
She said the characters are based on real life people, from the teen mum, to the street kid and the orphan which are examples that people can relate to.
Gondwe said the spirit of friendship is rooted in the Umunthu philosophy and that the way the characters dress and the music is all rooted in Malawian culture.
Zathu Pa Wailesi airs twice a week on MBC2, Zodiak, Yoneco FM, Voice of Livingstonia and is available to download on the website www.zathu.mw.
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