Dec 9, 2015

Malawi's Dream Team

Student response on how to achieve gender equity
Student response on how to achieve gender equity

We’ve had a busy and exciting three months!

Not only did we host a graduation for 12 of our students, our Students With Dreams student leaders teamed up with UNWomen to host a HeForShe event with students and recent graduates on the Chancellor University campus. HeForShe is a global solidarity campaign for gender equality and our dreamers did a fantastic job at creating dialogue around gender inequality and how men can play a larger role in creating a more gender equal space in Malawi.

At the HeForShe event, Art and Global Health Center Africa and the dreamers collected responses from the crowd on various questions about creating a more gender equal Malawi. Our first question to the crowd: In what ways are Malawi men and women not equal? Some responses included: 

"Women are domesticated instead of educated" and "Subsistence farming is [considered] for women. Commercial farming is for men."

Our second question of the night: What role do men play in creating a gender equal Malawi?

"Men should own the gender issue and not look at it as a 'woman affair.'"

"Treat siblings equally so they grow up with a gender equal mindset."

"Stop underrating women by giving them a chance to express their views - Women are heroes too!!!"

 

The UN Women HeForShe event hosted by the dreamers was a success, with lively discussion highlighting gender inequality, roles and the spaces that can be created by men to achieve an equitable world.

To recognize all the amazing work our dreamers have done this year, we held a graduation of our Students With Dreams Chancellor College Class of 2014 - 2015. The 12 graduates and our staff celebrated with delicious barbeque and dancing around a campfire. It was a joyous celebration of all that our students have accomplished. Within the span of six months, they designed their own projects, working closely with communities to address local issues, such as nutrition, gender equity, education, and social justice.

Our students have accomplished so many amazing things this year and none of it could have been done without your support. We have watched as our students began with only a dream of a better future for Malawi to developing ideas of how to accomplish that dream and then to making those ideas a reality.

Dreamers, we are so proud of you!

Supporters, thank you for believing in them and joining them on their journey!

Links:

Aug 28, 2015

I Am Because We Are

Filmmaker Mwiza Nyirenda discussing LGBT rights
Filmmaker Mwiza Nyirenda discussing LGBT rights

Many Malawians believe homosexuality does not exist in Malawi. It is not Malawian. It is condemned as sinful and often seen as a Western “concept” rather than an inherent identity. Within this environment, people who identify as LGBTI or their allies face discrimination and violence.

With your help, Art and Global Health Center Africa (AGHCA) is creating a safe platform to discuss LGBTI issues in Malawi. We apply the Bantu philosophy of Umunthu, which celebrates the interconnectedness of humanity and is often defined in the phrase, “I am because we are,” to LGBTI rights in Malawi. This concept is explored in Umunthu: An African Response to Homosexuality, a documentary by a young Malawian filmmaker that unpacks the controversy surrounding homosexuality in Malawi and investigates the interplay of politics and culture in a local context.

In the past three months, AGHCA has hosted six screenings and discussions of the film, including at the 2015 International Short Film Festival in Malawi, where the Umunthu film won the audience award. Attendees of these six screenings and discussions included students, government officials, UN Mission members, media, and the Malawian LGBTI community. The discussions with the audience members after the film are open spaces that allow a genuinely African response to the topic of homosexuality in Malawi.

Some discussion comments reflected the hostile environment towards LGBTI persons in Malawi. These homophobic and discriminatory attitudes were challenged in every discussion by outspoken and brave individuals advocating for tolerance and co-existence. One anonymous attendee at a university screening argued that people’s sexuality “is a private matter between individuals,” a sentiment which was repeated in multiple discussions. As one film attendee expressed during a discussion attended by religious leaders, human rights activists, and Malawian parliament delegates, “No matter how different [homosexuality] may be from my views, I’m trying to practice Umunthu.”

In a country where LGBTI people are denied their existence, much less their right to love whom they choose, AGHA has encouraged discussion and reflection around the issue and enabled people to speak up for LGBTI rights. We are proud of our progress and grateful to you, our invaluable supporters, for making our work on this critical issue possible. Thank you for your ongoing support!

 

Discussion participants at a screening in Lilongwe
Discussion participants at a screening in Lilongwe

Links:

Aug 28, 2015

Today's Dreamers, Tomorrow's Leaders

Students With Dreams graduation at Domasi College
Students With Dreams graduation at Domasi College

We have recently said goodbye to our 2014-2015 dreamers at Domasi College. These goodbyes are filled with some sadness, as all goodbyes are, but also pride, joy, and hope - pride for all that our dreamers have accomplished this past year, joy in watching them grow into confident, capable leaders, and hope for a bright future for our graduates and for the impact they will make on Malawi.

The dreamers at Chancellor College will soon follow the Domasi students in graduating from the Students With Dreams program. In the past year, the dreamers have designed projects to address problems in their community, mobilized a team, and conducted their interventions. These last few weeks, the dreamers and their teams have hosted their final projects. These projects are a culmination of a year’s hard work, overcoming the many challenges young leaders face in a low-resource country like Malawi. But it has also been a year where they have seen great change – in themselves as change makers and in their communities, thanks to their creative approaches to solving social issues.

One team that just had its final village intervention is"Kudya Koma Uku," which translates to “This is how to eat.” The project leaders used an arts-based approach to discuss alternative methods for nutrition. They danced and sang with the villagers and then engaged in role plays around hygiene, family budgeting, and healthy market-shopping. In Malawi, maize is the staple food for many families. Unfortunately, most locals are not privy to knowledge about alternative nutritional habits. This has led to malnutrition, hunger and problems where maize is either expensive or scarce. Kudya Koma Uku handled this disturbing narrative by bringing to light indigenous, cheap and nutritious alternatives.

Another project coming to a close is “Front Seat,” led by Tume and her partner Boscoe. During her initial interview for the Students With Dreams program, Tume said of her life living with albinism, "Sometimes we feel like it is us against the world.” She and Boscoe dreamed of a better society, where all people are accepted. In the six months since that initial interview, they mobilized and educated 400 people in local communities about albinism and the challenge of being marginalized.  

Thank you for your generous support in making these young leaders’ dreams come true. We ask you to join us in celebrating the great work that our dreamers are doing in Malawian communities.

Dreamers, we are proud of you and we can’t wait to see what you do next!

 

Kudya Koma Uku engages villagers through dance
Kudya Koma Uku engages villagers through dance
Kudya Koma Uku proudly displays healthy vegetables
Kudya Koma Uku proudly displays healthy vegetables

Links:

 
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