In a country where young people under the age of 30 form 70% of the population, it would have been expected that innovation and creativity would have been the norm and not the deviation. However, the situation is very antithetical for Malawi .The youth are facing a litany of challenges ranging from unemployment, higher incidences of HIV/AIDS, drug and substance abuse and early marriages among other pressing social issue. Such pressing social issues prevent the youth from realizing their potential to the fullest.Indeed ,the level of contribution of young people to the socio-economic development of the country leaves a lot to be desired .
Against the background above, Art and Global Health Center Africa in partnership with British Council Malawi , implemented the Festival of Ideas – Youth Engagement project . Under this project, 19 students selected from Biwi ,Kawale and SOS Secondary schools were mentored on project management ,gender based violence ,sexual harassment and women’s rights This was done using the Students with Dreams programme model of Art and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo). The students then developed their own mini projects and campaigns aimed at addressing the issues of sexual harassment and gender based violence in their schools and communities.The mini campaigns and projects were implemented using different art performances ranging from poetry, drama, dances and songs .
The 19 students displayed the impact of their campaigns and min –projects undertaken in their communities and secondary schools on containing the issue of sexual harassment and gender based violence at a concluding event of the project held at SOS Secondary School main hall on 17th February ,2017 .
The festival of ideas –youth engagement project has empowered young people in secondary schools by equipping them with different set of skills such as conflict resolution, communication,project management as well as leadership .It has built confidence in the young people and has made them have belief in themselves .The mentored young people have become agents of change in the society and are ready to address different social pressing issues .
“As young people ,we are always told we are leaders of tomorrow .But today is the tomorrow we want to see .If nobody takes deliberate steps to prepare us for such leadership ,we will have a disastrous tomorrow as a nation. The festival of ideas –youth engagement project has invested in us young people. The skills gained from the project will help us address different ills in the society .We are proud to see organizations taking their time to empower us the young people .Thanks to ArtGlo and British Council.” Sarah Karonga , a Form 3 Student at SOS Secondary School.
During the concluding event of the project, the guest of honor was the Executive Secretary for Malawi Human Rights Commission, David Nungu . He expressed satisfaction with the impact of the mini campaigns made by young people who were part of the project.
“It is very impressive to see how young people in secondary schools can be creative in coming up with solutions to address different social pressing issues like sexual harassment and gender based violence using participatory arts .This will surely help them embody the issue of responsible citizenship”. Said Nungu .