This reporting period we look at the work that other SWD alumni have been doing since graduating from the programme. We focus on Stewart, an alumnus who was a co-founder of Youth Re-defined. Youth Re-defined was a project that centered on Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) Rights among young people as well as ensuring male participation on these issues, this included accessing existing knowledge, practices and attitudes and using participatory art forms such as music, drama, posters and discussions to interact with youth.
Since graduating he volunteered for a Malawian non-profit Organisation called Abundance, which led Stewart to work with Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network. While volunteering at SFA, Stewart was part of a symposium in Botswana and Nigeria in 2017 and 2018. During the Nigeria symposium, he was chosen as a Research Admin of the SFA network. Continuing with his passion for youth and their voice being heard in the conversation on SRH, he co-authored a study about Youth Participation in Reproductive Health Policy-making in Malawi conducted in September 2018 to June 2019 the research involved travelling across Malawi, interviewing young people and interested stakeholders that are involved in SRH policy-making
“There is substantial progress in youth involvement in SRH policymaking in Malawi. However, some structural and societal factors are choking young people's involvement and are evident in their lived experiences. For instance, some young men feel that there is an "overemphasis" on the girl child empowerment, which on its own is problematic.” Stewart commented when asked about the main findings of the study. The study also found that overall, female respondents expressed confidence in their ability to step up and conquer the gender divide that exists within SRH (and other areas of) policymaking spaces, when and if they are given the chance and support to do so. It, however, is an uphill battle as SRH is still a topic line where policy in Malawi does not reflect the youth perspective.
“There is a need to address the policy-practice gap that exists with regards to youth and SRH policymaking. If this was not a big problem, then perhaps due to the current COVID-19 pandemic we would not be hearing about thousands of girls in Mangochi and Mwanza (among known districts) getting pregnant every month.”, Stewart pointed out.
Stewart hopes to develop a successful career in youth work, youth policy and advocacy. Researching on a “policy and youth-related” topic for his Master’s degree marks a milestone in pursuit of his career prospects. He is currently a student, volunteer and researcher, studying for a Master’s Degree in Education studies for Adult, Youth and Community contexts at the University of Glasgow. He has a keen interest in the Implications of foreign aid on education policy and practice in Malawi. Stewart always looks back at the experience he got during his time with SWD programme as the time that ignited his passion for youth work and is forever grateful for the opportunities SWD programme gave him.