Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chinomba community formulates laws ahead of initiation camps.

By Elias Banda
Initiation camps for boys and girls begin the first week of August every year in Mulanje but this year, the Chinomba Village Community would like to treat the ceremony differently by formulating laws restricting the entry age and the curriculum.
The decision to restrict initiation operations  commonly known as thezo in local language came into effect after the community discovered that the number of girls dropping out of school for early marriages was on the increase.  The irony of the matter is that girls and boys aged between 7 and 9 are now considered legible for the ceremony and while at the initiation camps, they are taught sex theories and family matters contrally to their age.
Though the camps are separate for boys and girls, they run on the same period of about 14 days and when they graduate they are instructed to practice what they learnt at the camp by sexually cleansing their bodies. If they don’t sexually cleans, they would not get married in future or their bodies would have unexplained fatalities according to Vax Mwaukila, one of the community members at Chinomba. It is on the basis of  this belief that girls are forced to practice sex after graduating from the ceremonies in order to keep the bad spirits at bay. Enelesi Manganisha of Chinomba village said the sex theories and practices have a huge bearing on child education because girls prefer sex to education and they eventually drop from school to go for early marriage.
School going children who did not undergo initiation ceremony procedure are being marginalized and segregated by peers and they react by either abandoning school or going for an early entry into entry at the initiation camp. The impression is that those who went through initiation are considered the best people in the world.
After graduation, there is a special ceremony for girls known as Chitseko (dancing on the flat door). Here, girls dance while being half naked with beads around their waist and neck in full view of the community members. During this ceremony, girls display their sexy dancing skills and they send a message to the world that they are now have all capabilities to be wives. Enelesi Manganisha argues that the practice attracts a wrong sort of attention because it creates an opportunity for men and boys to choose sexual partners. She further argues that making some one dance while being half naked without his consent is a direct attack to her dignity.
It was against this background that a ADRA Malawi facilitated a community dialogue session were people advocated for change of the approach on the initiation ceremony. During the discussions, community members outlined the consequences the culture is bringing in the community including the escalation of HIV/AIDS cases, unwanted pregnancies and birth complications among others.  The agreed age is 13 and above and that sex matters should be removed from the curriculum and those found defying this law would pay a goat and K5000 (about $125).