Thursday, August 22, 2013

STI cases drop at Ekwaiweni HC in Mzimba

By Susan Chitaya and Elias Banda

Cases of sexually transmitted infections have dropped at Ekwaiweni Health Center in Mzimba after a mass behavior change campaign courtesy of Tafika Youth Organization.

Records at the health center reveal that STI cases have dropped from 9  to 1 per month. An official at the clinic who declined to be named said the drop is attributed to heightened awareness levels as people were now easily accessing information on STI and HIV/AIDS.
traditional Ingoma dance mobilized people
Youth used banners to convey messages

In November 2012, Tafika Youth Group launched a behavioral change  campaign with funds from ADRA Malawi  through the Action for Social Change program. According to the organization’s Executive Director Shupo Kumwenda the goal of the campaign was to educate and create community awareness on matters of stigma and discrimination with regard to HIV/AIDS. He also said the other objective was to advocate for safer sex and other acceptable behaviors among the youths in the area.

Apart from the drop in STI cases, other notable changes include the low school drop out at Ekwaiweni Primary School. 'Girls with a vision’ clubs have been formed to encourage peers to go back to school and refrain from delinquencies such as beer drinking and prostitution. According to Shupo Kumwenda the clubs are engaging women role models in their activities to encourage the girls to put education as a priority.  
the campaign attracted huge crowds

A youth network has been established to link the community and the youths and recently, the network constructed 2 teachers houses at Chipapa and Malivenji primary schools and toilet blocks at Ekwaiweni Primary School.

The network is also collaborating with Malawi Police Service to curb crime in the area. By-laws have been formulated restricting beer drinking and bars have been ordered to close at 10 o’clock pm. A community consensus has been reached that anyone found drinking beyond the closing time would be arrested. The situation has brought sanity in the area, reviving hopes for a better community and future for the young people.
Tafika Youth Organization plans to build a Youth Center where the youth would acquire life skills and other friendly services.  

The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Mzimba, Lilongwe, Mulanje and Machinga distritcs.

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