Reproductive Health at Mbando Village: Dispelling Myths

Making informed choices regarding reproductive health is something that is taken for granted in developed countries with good access to health services. This is often not the case in developing countries, and particularly so at Mbando village which is located by the shores of Lake Chilwa, in Machinga District, southern Malawi. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi faces a number of challenges, including poor access to reproductive health services and inadequate awareness. Mbando is a small village with 95 households consisting of mostly subsistence farmers and fishermen. It is vulnerable due to being prone to droughts and having few livelihood options. However, there is a vibrant youth community at the village. They have organized themselves into a club called “Wonderful Youth Club”. Being concerned about the high number of teenage pregnancies and many misconceptions regarding reproductive health, this club requested Abundance to hold a training session to discuss sexual and reproductive health.

Stewart Paul, Secretary of Abundance and a person of multiple talents, offered to undertake the training and was the right choice, being a youth himself (22 years old). On the 22nd of July 2017, Stewart joined Ruth Mumba (Director of Abundance) and others to Mbando village to meet with the youth to discuss this important yet often neglected topic. The youth face many challenges including poor access to contraceptives. They said that the nearest clinic was 3 km away and contraceptives were often unavailable and when it is available they were distributed to more established youth clubs in surrounding villages. Youth could not access any “counselling” or knowledge on sexual and reproductive health. Often girls were uncomfortable approaching older women to request for contraceptives at the clinic because they feared being judged immoral.

Stewart Paul talks to the youth, as Ruth Mumba (left) looks on.

It was surprising for Stewart to hear about the myths and misconceptions regarding this topic from the youth:

“Artificial contraception methods lead such as using pills lead to sterility or infertility.”

“When boys use contraception, over a given period of time they lack sexual prowess and stamina”.

Through the training Stewart dispelled some of the myths and provided much needed information to youth about sexual and reproductive health and how contraceptives work. The need for family planning was emphasized and he explained that good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. The importance of taking care of the reproductive system to avoid injuries and infection was also emphasized.

The session was only for a few hours and the youth requested for more such sessions to be organized for continued awareness raising on these matters. The access to contraceptives remains a challenge to be overcome. Abundance hopes to collaborate with organizations that provide these services and work towards improving access for youth at Mbando village. We envision a Malawi where all youth will be free to take informed decisions regarding reproductive health. This training was a small step towards that vision, but many more needs to be taken.

 

For more information visit: http://www.abundanceworldwide.org

 @abundanceworldwide

 @Abundance_ww


Periods; Let’s talk about it!

Menstruation is the most dreaded time for adolescent girls and women in poor communities such as those in Mbando village, Machinga District, Malawi, where Abundance works. Why is such a natural health cycle, so difficult for them? The girls describe it as a time of anxiety and worry.

“When I get periods, I use pieces of cloth and am worried that it will fall off when I walk. That would be so shameful! So I don’t go to school those days. Also, it is difficult to sit on the floor while having periods, as our school does not have desks and chairs and we sit on the classroom floor.”

-A girl in Chirimba Secondary school, Mbando village.

Our rapid assessment in the village revealed that lack of access to and inability to afford proper sanitary napkins, caused the girls to resort to poor menstrual hygiene practises. Only three out of 53 girls surveyed at Mbando village have ever used proper sanitary pads. Lead by Abundance Director Ruth Mumba and her team, a one day training workshop (22 July 2017) was held at Mbando village on production of reusable sanitary napkins. The training was in response to a request from mothers in the village, who were concerned about young girls’ menstrual hygiene and related impacts.

Abundance Menstrual Hygiene Training

Grace Moyo began the training by first removing the “social stigma” on menstruation. “It is healthy to menstruate and you should not be ashamed of it. If you are a girl, you will menstruate”, she told the girls. She reiterated that being teased by their peers should not let them down, in fact, menstruation should be viewed as a sign that they are fit. Reusable sanitary napkins are made from used cloth and shaped like proper sanitary pads, but have an addition of buttons on the sides to secure them. Thus the worry that the cloth may fall off is no longer there and this gives confidence to the girls. Furthermore, the pads are something the girls can make on their own with a little training. They can be washed and reused, thus being an inexpensive and sustainable solution.

In the large classroom of Mbando village’s Community Based Child Care Centre, girls grouped themselves into groups of 6 and began making the pads with help from Ruth Mumba and Grace Moyo. Used cloth was sourced by Ruth from the local markets and sewing kits were purchased which was distributed to each group. Every girl got a small sewing pack which she could take home with her and continue making pads at her home. Care was taken to include aspects of washing pads with soap and drying them thoroughly before use, in the training.

Present at the workshop was the “Mothers Support Group”, which is a volunteer group of women in Mbando village who support women and children and help bring back children who drop out of school. They welcomed the training as a means to reduce girls’ absenteeism in schools. But there were also a pleasantly surprising cascading effect from the training. The Chairlady of the group said, “Because of this workshop, I believe that not only will the girls help themselves, go to school during periods, but, they can also use the skills to make pads and sell them for an income.” The possibility of income generation movement from this workshop was a positive spill-over that Abundance’s training did not expect, but happily welcomed.

Making reusable sanitary pads is not just a menstrual hygiene project, it has multiple benefits of improving confidence in girls, reducing absenteeism of girls in school and possible income generation venture. This is one small way Abundance is trying to help communities in Malawi. Let us break the silence about menstruation and promote dignity for girls!

Written by Deepa Pullanikkatil (PhD)

Founder & President of Abundance.

Follow Abundance on Facebook

 


Abundance: The “Giving and Training” Event

One the 24th May 2017 Abundance held a 'Giving and Training' event at Mbando Village, Machinga, Malawi. This was an event to showcase the skills acquired through the recent training programmes ran by Abundance. Attending and participating in the event alongside Abundance included the Wonderful Youth Group, Mothers’ Support Group, Home-based care, and Gogo Group, and the following guests: Representing the ward councilor: Mr Erik Kazithe, Senior Group Village Head Mbando and other Development Committee members and village heads. 

The Abundance team received a very warm welcome as songs were sung as women danced around as the materials were being offloaded from the vehicle. An opening prayer was made, followed by a poem by a member of Wonderful Youth Group. The poem highlighted some problems the youth are facing. The poem also hinted at massive deforestation that is happening in the nearby Chikala Mountain.

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Sustainable Futures in Africa Network Botswana Symposium

Building Connections: Sustainable Futures in Africa

Research Symposium

Department of Adult Education, University of Botswana

27th and 28th March

From March 27-29 2017 the University of Glasgow in partnership with the University of Botswana hosted the inaugural symposium of the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network in Gaborone. This document summarizes the inaugural meeting of this newly emerging Network and documents the plans of action and commitments that arose.

The symposium welcomed the founding members of the network from Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, and the UK. We include academics, environmental activists, artists, and administrators. The symposium was designed to develop our relationships with one another, our knowledge and understanding of each other's contexts, and our collective plans of action. This was tackled through a two day event that included panel presentations, workshops, discussions, and social activities.

DOWNLOAD: For further information, download the SFA Post Botswana Publication.


Scoping Trial, Botswana

Scoping Trials

Sustainable Futures in Africa is an interdisciplinary collective aiming to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. In order for relationships to be built, methodologies to be explored, and to achieve the shared understanding that is aspired for, the SFA network is running trial research projects. These are being run with an emphasis on the trial and error aspect, for researchers to explore the unfamiliar, social scientists exploring hard science and vice versa. Furthermore colleagues in Glasgow will take every opportunity to work with the projects in Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi and Botswana as they develop. All research projects will concern the implementation gap in environmental initiatives through community engagement and public pedagogies.

Botswana is represented by four staff members of the University of Botswana, (two from Department of Adult Education; one from Okavango Research Institute and one from Department of Environmental Science. The Botswana research trial is scheduled to take place in July 2017 with a collaborative partnership including:

The Research Question has been defined as: Unearthing the Dynamics of Human and Wildlife Interactions: The Case of Sepako Community in the Nata Region of Botswana

Professor MmaB Modise outlines the problem formulation and proposed research methods and design below:

Research Proposal

The Botswana team proposed to explore the issue of human-wildlife interaction. This is a topical issue that affects local development like grassroots livelihood, the tourism industry, food production, wildlife management. It also has an international dimension as wildlife moves in and out of the country. During the proposed trial study period, Botswana team intends to look into ways of managing the interaction, especially, the elephant-human interaction.

Botswana, in southern Africa is endowed with wilderness and wildlife, with an increasing elephant population estimated at 130,000-200,000. The threat with elephants is the trail of destruction they leave on their way such as destruction of human property (boreholes, fences ) and crops, human death and injuries. The causes of human wildlife conflicts are documented in literature, being expansion of human development (e.g., settlements) into wildlife habitats, and the intrusion of wildlife species in human settlements. The former is caused by constricting wildlife habitats due to the effects of the latter and consequently resulting in competition of resources.

One mitigation measure came through collaborative conservation initiatives between government and local communities, commonly implemented through CBNRM (Community Based Natural Resource Mgmt) programs. CBNRM is premised on the notion that when communities living within the wildlife areas receive benefits of living with the wildlife resources, and those benefits exceed the cost they incur, then they will effectively manage wild animals and co-exists with them. Another mitigation effort includes chilli pepper and beehive fence deterrents used specifically for the most destructive elephants. While the deterrents have the potential of promoting co-existence, concerns are that the chilli pepper is not locally available and thereby imported externally.

While this may be a challenge, it also presents an opportunity for local communities to venture in chilli pepper production for use as elephant crop raiding deterrent and promote food security. Moreover, since the chilli pepper is not locally produced, local communities can market the pepper in elephant prone areas of Botswana as an economic activity, thereby improving their socio-economic livelihoods. The proposed project will thereby explore the potential of production of the chilli pepper within one local community in Botswana as a means of promoting  i) human wildlife interaction and consequently co-existence and ii) improvement of rural livelihoods. It is anticipated that producing the chilli pepper locally will contribute to local economies while deterring elephants from crop destruction will contribute to food security.

Data Collection

In this type of research, researchers come with an understanding that community members “know best what their own needs are, and with genuine participation, they can make great contribution, (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/wired/community.html. Actually, Heron (1996) warns that "to generate knowledge about persons without their full participation in deciding how to generate it, is to misrepresent their personhood and to abuse by neglect their capacity for autonomous intentionally. It is fundamentally unethical" (p. 21).

Research Schedule

The research is being conducted in early July. The research team is heading to the Nata District, Botswana on Sunday 9th July. On the 10th and 11th and 12th July the research team conduct community based qualitative research comprising of focus groups and other ethnographic research focusing on the human wildlife interaction hot spots. The research team will be using a vast array of data collection methods such as photography, video filming and voice recording to gather the data required to support a mixed-method analysis of the context.

Nata District, Botswana: 

In Partnership with


Scoping Trial, Malawi

Scoping Trials

Sustainable Futures in Africa is an interdisciplinary collective aiming to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. In order for relationships to be built, methodologies to be explored, and to achieve the shared understanding that is aspired for, the SFA network is running trial research projects. These are being run with an emphasis on the trial and error aspect, for researchers to explore the unfamiliar, social scientists exploring hard science and vice versa. Furthermore colleagues in Glasgow will take every opportunity to work with the projects in Nigeria, Malawi, Uganda and Botswana as they develop.

Malawi Research Project: Creative Geovisualisation

This research trial took place from 24th - 26th May 2017 through a collaborative partnership including:

Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil departed from South Africa and Dr. Boyson H Z Moyo from Malawi for Glasgow on the 22nd May, arriving 23rd May. The research team was based in the University of Glasgow for the 24th, 25th and 26th May.

At the end of May, Philip Nicholson, Deborah Dixon, Brian Barrett, and Hazel Long were joined at the University of Glasgow by Glasgow PhD alumni Boyson Moyo from Malawi, and Deepa Pullanikkatil from South Africa. From the 24th to the 26th of May they spent time collaborating, sharing research, and discussing methodologies, working on a creative geovisualisation project on the theme of environmental sustainability in Malawi.

For the project they focused on two sites in Malawi, the Tikondwe Freedom Gardens, an organic farm, and the Likengala River. In preparation for the meeting, participants collected and shared various kinds of data sets for those sites relevant to their own expertise. As a result, the first day involved discussions around the nature of the data, i.e. how it was acquired, what methods were used to capture it, why was it captured, who owns it, and so on. The following two days were focused on a collaborative effort to bring these different types of data together into a narrative structure using the storymap format as model.

https://twitter.com/SF_Africa/status/868489776621645826

https://twitter.com/SF_Africa/status/868200955719946240

https://twitter.com/SF_Africa/status/868044176570580992

In Partnership with


Scoping Trial, Nigeria

Scoping Trials

Sustainable Futures in Africa is an interdisciplinary collective aiming to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. In order for relationships to be built, methodologies to be explored, and to achieve the shared understanding that is aspired for, the SFA network is running trial research projects. These are being run with an emphasis on the trial and error aspect, for researchers to explore the unfamiliar, social scientists exploring hard science and vice versa. Furthermore colleagues in Glasgow will take every opportunity to work with the projects in Nigeria, Uganda, and Botswana as they develop.

The Nigerian research trial will take place in Autumn 2017 with a collaborative partnership including:

The Research Question has been defined as: Prioritizing Challenges to the Development Of Mining Communities In Nigeria: The Case of Itagunmodi (Osun State) and Komu-Igbojaye-Babaode (Oyo State).

Research Trial update, Nov 2017

The Nigerian research team is on the move again. After the exciting and memorable visit to Itagunmodi Atakumosa West in Osun state in July. The team is paying another visit this winter to other mining communities situated at Oyo State in the Southwest Nigeria, namely Igbojaye - Komu and Baba-ode, where we will be familiarizing and interacting with the community members and stakeholders.

The aim of this research is to experiment methodologically in trying to uncover the socio-ecological impact of the mining on the local community. You can find a detailed report from our last research trial here for more information: https://sustainablefuturesinafrica.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/itagunmodi.pdf

_____________

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Scoping Trial, Uganda

Scoping Trials

Sustainable Futures in Africa is an interdisciplinary collective aiming to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. In order for relationships to be built, methodologies to be explored, and to achieve the shared understanding that is aspired for, the SFA network is running trial research projects. These are being run with an emphasis on the trial and error aspect, for researchers to explore the unfamiliar, social scientists exploring hard science and vice versa. Furthermore colleagues in Glasgow will take every opportunity to work with the projects in Nigeria, Uganda, and Botswana as they develop.

The Ugandan research trial will take place from the first of June, running until the 22nd June when Daniel Koehn, University of Glasgow, departs from Kampala. The locations will be in the community of Kibanjwa village, Kibanjwa Parish, Kitoba Sub-County, Hoima district (Albertine region) and the Alebtong district.

Dr. Hannington Twine outlines the research methods and design below:

Field Approvals

In both study sites, our contact persons will use their ongoing research approvals and contacts to introduce the rest of the team to the communities.' Dr. Alex Okot who is a board member of Apala Widows and Orphanage Centre will take an advance visit ahead of the Ugandan research team. He will inform the Local Council Officials in writing of the visit to the organisation. Likewise, Ms. Kellen Aganyira has ongoing research engagement in the Albertine region and she will use her current approvals to introduce the team to Local Council officials of Kibanjwa in Hoima district.

Methodology

This field trial visits will approach the communities without a pre-conceived research design. The interest of team Uganda will be to understand the communities’ perception of the environmental issues and ecosystems. We shall enter the communities as learners or listening posts. We shall provide direction of the discussions by a problem posing approach, that is, probing and prompting them to talk about issues related the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems.

Data collection

The data collection will be by the researchers themselves in partnership with the community members in the respective regions. a collaborative process. We will be assisted with local council officials especially on the planed transect walks. Due to language differences, we shall require services of one interpreter in northern Uganda. This is because we shall be divided into two transect walk groups and yet we only have one person among us who communicates properly in the local dialect. In the Albertine region, there will be no need of an interpreter since two members in the group understand the local dialect and we shall only have one group for the transect walk.

Data collection will be by way of observations, transect walks, Community forums and journaling. We intend to capture images of humans and their environment. Areas of special interest in this pilot study will include:

  1. Land tenure system
  2. Water sources and their management
  3. Landscape and geology
  4. Trees/forests and their importance to them
  5. Wetlands (relationship and importance)
  6. Agricultural practices (Animal husbandry and cultivation)
  7. Wild life (relationship and importance)

Team Members

Albertine Region

On the 9th June Daniel Koen will arrive in Kampala, Uganda, to join the rest of the Ugandan scoping trial team. Their interaction with the Kibanjwa Community, Kitoba Sub-County, Hoima district in the Albertine region will begin on the 11th June. The research will draw upon the existing issues surrounding oil and gas and the impact of this on the environmental area. The team will return to Kampala and Daniel will travel to the Rwenzori Mountains on the 14th June to further his personal research in the region.

See map below for the location of the research trial in Uganda.

Alebtong Region

On the 18th June the research team will then travel to the Alebtong Region where they will partner with Apala Widows and Orphanage Center to analyse issues that impact the locality such as the large refugee influx and the subsequent strain on resources alongside the local water sources to form a socioecological analysis. The research will draw to a close on the 22nd June when Daniel returns to Glasgow, Scotland.

See map below for the location of the research trial in Uganda.

In partnership with:


Legal Wallet

Sustainable Futures in Africa is delighted to have our partner Stewart Paul as part of the team. Stewart Paul is the Managing Director of Legal Wallet:

www.legalwallet.org

Legal Wallet

About Legal Wallet

Legal Wallet founded by Alfred Andrew Kankuzi, is a non governmental organisation that connects ICT, Law, Education and Governance. Established in 2015 the organisation uses technology to combat some of the governance pressing challenges and legal Issues that affect Local Malawians. It is motivated and driven by a passion for enhancement and entrenchment of rule of law, citizen participation in the democratic process, respect for human rights and access to justice. It recognises that the ignorance of legal information has led to untold human rights abuses and victimization, observing that the well-being of a society and its subsequent socioeconomic progress cannot be separated from access to legal knowledge, further observing that there are is a knowledge gap between the people of Malawi and the laws that govern them and that access to legal information is essential to the social economic development of any nation.

Vision

Legal Wallet envisions an empowered society full of citizens with necessary tools to fully participate in all democratic processes.

Objectives Of The Organisation

The objects of the Registered Trustees of Legal Wallet shall be to fulfill the following outlined objects:

a) To bring the laws of Malawi closer to the general populace by conducting sensitization campaigns on electronic and print media, tour of rural and peri- urban areas, primary and secondary schools and drop in Legal Wallet Centers that will be established throughout Malawi.

b) To provide the legal aid services to indigent individuals and vulnerable groups such as women, children and prisoners among others and such services shall include but not limited to advisory and litigation services.

c) To protect citizens from unscrupulous individuals purporting act as legal aid service providers.

d) To partner with other local as well as international legal aid service providers in providing legal aid services to indigent and vulnerable individuals.

e) To partner with government and other non- governmental organizations in inculcating democratic governance, rule of law, an enhanced knowledge of the law and participation in development related activities.

f) To provide and promote a synergy between technology and governance issues in Malawi at the grassroots through development of software and mobile applications in the governance sector.

g) To conduct research and conferences on such topics as access to justice, impact of certain laws on different sectors of our society, human rights, rule of law, governance, development and other related issues.

Read more about Legal Wallet here: http://startupcompete.co/startup-idea/social-entrepreneurship-it/legal-wallet/56791

Follow Legal Wallet on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Legalwallet/about/?ref=page_internal  


Telling Stories about Community Development; Why “Abundance” takes an integrated development approach

abundance-ngo-13_1

Written by Deepa Pullanikkatil

Post Doctoral Fellow, Rhodes University

Founder, Abundance

“A world of abundance, where there is plenty for humans and where nature is thriving”, is the vision of our non-profit organization in Malawi called “Abundance”. We have often been critiqued to be an organization that is focusing on too many things. “So, what is your area of focus?”, “Aren’t you doing too many different things, could you not narrow your projects down to one or two?” These are some of the questions people often ask us. To answer them, I tell stories; real life stories about people I have met while working in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in our world. These are the people who inspired Abundance, to take an integrated approach to development.

Supporting community participation is key

We were working on a climate change adaptation project in Lake Chilwa Basin in southern Malawi. It is a lake basin with 1.5 million people, predominantly subsistence rural communities with natural resource dependent livelihoods. We were confident in our thinking that we were providing ideal interventions for climate change adaptation to communities in the Lake Chilwa Basin. Feeling quite satisfied in the knowledge that we knew exactly what the communities needed to adapt, we brought forth interventions such as solar fish dryers, fuel efficient stoves and efficient fish smoking kilns; we promoted conservation agriculture, we provided trainings on climate change and with the communities we planted,  lots and lots of trees.  But when we went to the villages, we realised that women’s participation was not as good as it should be and that men had other challenges they wanted to share with us. Men came to us with their two main concerns, cholera and bilharzia (a debilitating disease caused by parasitic flatworms called schistosomes affecting the urinary tract) and asked us if we could do something about that. Women said that poor access to family planning and reproductive health services were the challenges they faced. The reasons for their reduced participation was now clear. How could men attend meetings when disease burden was so high? How could women participate actively when they had so many children or so many sick people to care for?

Why interconnectedness matters

Faced with the dilemma of how to address the health and family planning needs of communities through a climate change adaptation project with a specific livelihoods and environment focus, we realised that the way forward was to use an integrated approach. We could no longer take a sectoral approach, because communities did not live their lives in compartments. They lived integrated lives with needs that were interconnected. If we wanted to help them adapt, then we had to understand and work with interconnectedness. These often cuts across sectors and does not fall under a narrow themes of livelihoods or environment.  We had to open our eyes to these new perspectives.

In order to address the cholera and bilharzia challenges, we environmentalists were required to learn about disease and parasitology. We learnt that the challenge of bilharzia was partly created by well-intentioned irrigation coverage expansion. This was a method intended to help communities improve agriculture and adapt better. But in areas where bilharzia is endemic, increasing irrigation coverage allow snails which host the bilharzia causing parasite to spread to such waters, thus spreading bilharzia in to areas where previously it was not prevalent. In such a situation, environment, irrigation and health are intertwined. Without integrated planning there is risk of creating negative impacts through well-intentioned projects. We collaborated with health institutions and undertook research. We found prevalence of bilharzia was indeed high – up to 49% in some areas. The publication of the research was shocking to many and since then, a lot of attention shifted to the neglected disease of bilharzia, and help poured in.

It’s nice when people think you’re an expert

While doing research on bilharzia, as environmentalists, the first hurdle we had to overcome was that of our own ignorance, or lack of interest to work on a field that we knew nothing about. Mostly it was the fear of appearing ignorant, after all don’t we all like being the “experts”? We as environmentalists had to learn about health, about parasitology and diseases. Going beyond our comfort zone was a humbling experience and finally, in the end, as thousands of people got treated for Bilharzia, it was satisfying to see community needs met, exactly the way they should be met.

Starvation or prostitution: Families seeking solutions to problems caused by climate change

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