Grace was very excited to learn that go to camp with her friends. However, I did not know that like any girl her community attend her initiation rite
“We were happy because we did not know what was there,” Grace said. When someone came and said “You must sleep with a man and get rid of the ‘dust’ girl. If you do not, your body is sick “stunned.
As part of the activities the camp in the beginning there was a demonstration in which a girl lying down with one of the older women was above it. “You must dance and have a man on top of you, making him happy,” he said. At age 10, Grace realized that you were teaching sex.
“Promoting child marriage”
Like the other girls in the village, the family of Grace sent her to camp. There was trafficked and forced to work in the sex trade, she attended a traditional ritual for girls in their community in southern Malawi.
“They all say that your daughter go to the ceremony of initiation to be accepted into the community,” said Jean Mweba, program specialist education and adolescent reproductive health Population Fund United Nations. Boys and girls attend separate camps where people convey their attitudes and beliefs about sexuality and adulthood.
Not all initiation ceremonies in Malawi encourage girls to have sex. Programs and cultures vary throughout the country that is home to several ethnic groups and languages. In the south, where he teaches children using sexually explicit content, groups such as the Yao and Lomwe resort to practices that encourage premarital sex, according to the Malawi Human Rights Commission, which investigates violations of rights.
The sentencing commission that girls as young as six years are sent to these camps and said that doing “the right to education, right to health and the right to personal freedom and dignity” are violated.
Human rights groups and researchers have reported cases where a man, nicknamed hyena or fission , has sex with newly initiated as part of the initiation girls. “The” hyena “say they want to see if girls really matured in the camp to check and have sex with them,” one woman told a panel discussion at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. His testimony was cited in a study published in the journal AIDS CARE in 2012.
“The ‘Hyena’ do not use protection, and there are girls who get HIV from that cause,” said Joyce Mkandawire, adviser communication Malawi Girls Empowerment Network, an organization of young women rights. In Malawi, more than 10% of the population between 15 and 49 have HIV / AIDS, according to national data.
“There is no benefit in sex education,” said Mkandawire. “This is harmful for girls. This is one of the drivers of child marriage in Malawi. Why teach this when girls have nine or 10 years?. “
Malawi ranks tenth in child marriages in the world, according to WHO, half of their children are married before age 18. At the same time, the country in which 35% of all pregnancies are teenage mothers, has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, according to Unicef.
And although it is known that while girls are smaller, have higher risk of pregnancy-related problems such as fistulas; a condition that results in spilling urine and feces, bleeding and other complications. “None of this was mentioned in the camp,” Grace said.
During most of the time, discussions about what happens in initiation camps are scarce. “Do not talk to anyone; not even your mother, “said Naomi Nkhonjera, project officer with the group, Girls Empowerment Network Malawi.
The girl who said ‘no’
Grace is one of the few girls who talk about their camp experience of initiation. Now aged 15, he spoke to a group of journalists who visited Malawi and told them that their camp initiation took place not far from home and for a week in charge of the camp taught them about respect their elders and perform housework, but also how to have sex.
Women showed sexual positions. Then they encouraged the girls to make a “sexual cleansing”, also called fumbi kuasa , which meant they had to get rid of their inexperience with sex through practice. They told him that if he did, would have a skin disease.
No arguing about the risks of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and how to protect, Grace said. “From the moment I left the camp, they said I should go to get a sexual cleansing,” said Grace who said that when his friends urged him to practice, he stayed home.
Girls often say privately that hated sexually explicit lessons, said Harriet Chanza, a national official population and family health at WHO. “They have no choice,” he said. “They are forced by their parents and guardians to spend for these things. If someone refuses, would definitely be seen as an outcast. There is much pressure from their peers. “
Despite pressure from his colleagues, Grace and it was resisted by the “sexual cleansing”. He learned the risks associated with unprotected sex Girls Empowerment Network, a group of local girls that works to prevent child marriages and pregnancies. “You can get pregnant, can convey HIV, so it is not good for us,” Grace, who says he has little interest in practice what they learned in the initiation, or marriage for now said. “When you finish studying, I will marry,” he added.
“We are aware that not all cultural practices need to stop but need some modification to suit modern practices and important health,” said Henry Chimbali, spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Malawi.
The ministry issued a handbook of cultural practices to eliminate “harmful cultural practices”, has worked with local readers and established outreach programs to keep children in school and to access health services.
In recent years, there were improvements in indicators of early pregnancy, hospital births, lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases, Chimbali said. “We can not be sure to say this is a direct contribution to the efforts to confront harmful cultural practices, but we can say with confidence that there is a significant contribution to this progress.”
In Malawi, traditional authorities and directors have power in local government and are perceived custodians of local culture. Advocates for the rights of girls tried to persuade these local tribal leaders to change the way in which the initiation camps incorporate sexual content. In Chiradzulu, the district where Grace lives, advocates for girls convinced the officials to review and eliminate sexual content initiation camps.
Grace camps will now start to talk to other girls about the risks involved in early sexual activity. It’s progress, said Mkandawire. “But this is just a community to which we have arrived.”
Madison Park was on a tour of the Foundation of the United Nations when he interviewed Grace in Malawi.