The Government of Malawi in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are implementing a project called “Action for teen mothers and adolescent girls”, which will benefit 647 900 adolescent girls between 10-24 years in Mchinji and Dedza districts. This joint initiative is funded by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to the tune of USD 6 million from 2020 to 2024.
The project aims to strengthen knowledge, capacities and agency of teen mothers and adolescent girls to make informed decisions regarding their lives; to create a free, safe and enabling environment for the empowerment and reproductive health and rights of teen mothers and adolescent girls; and to increase adolescent girls’ access to integrated adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services.
“Farmer field and life schools (FFLS) will be used to provide a safe space for strengthening the life and entrepreneurial skills of teen mothers and adolescent girls in the targeted traditional authorities to make informed livelihood decisions,” said Deputy FAO Representative James Okoth during the project launch, which was held in Mchinji district on 2 September 2021.
Empowering teen mothers and adolescent girls, as well as increasing their entrepreneurial and life skills have been identified as key elements for achieving a better life for teenage mothers and adolescent girls who are being supported under the project.
FAO’s role in the project will focus on improving the capacity of agriculture extension workers to mainstream tailored activities for empowering teen mothers and adolescent girls. It will also work to increase entrepreneurial and life skills as a means of improving the income levels of adolescent girls and teen mothers.
We will work with all stakeholders including chiefs to ensure that child marriage are not tolerated
In clusters of 30 adolescents and youth between 15-24 years within given extension planning areas (EPA), the FFLS will provide for holistic skills development. The groups will be meeting once a week under the guidance of facilitators and social animators who will have been trained under the project. To meet the unique needs of the adolescents and youth, the facilitators will be supported by a multisectoral team of experts drawn from agriculture, health and education.
Empowering girls for a brighter future
The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Ulemu Nsungama emphasized the importance of the project in supporting youths, especially girls, to achieve a bright future, saying:
“As Government, we believe that the future of this country is in today’s youth and we have to invest in these young people, especially adolescent girls and young women… If they fall pregnant in their teens, the poverty cycle continues, not just for them but also their children and immediate families.”
Malawi has one of the highest rates of early pregnancy in southern Africa. Forty-seven per cent are already married by age 18, and 29 per cent of girls have already started childbearing by ages 15-19. Teenage pregnancies represent 25 per cent of all pregnancies annually.
“Thirty-three per cent of girls in Mchinji give birth before the age of 18. Without education, these girls cannot compete in the job market creating inter-generational poverty. We will work with all stakeholders including chiefs to ensure that child marriage are not tolerated,” Young Hong, Malawi UNFPA Representative said during the launch.
This joint initiative is aligned with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework in Malawi (2019-23), and national strategies that specifically respond to the needs of adolescents and youth’s sexual and reproductive health, including the National Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy (2017-22). The project is also aligned with and will contribute towards the achievement of sustainable development goal (SDG) 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all; SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.