Growing up and living in Blantyre, Malawi, Towera Vinkhumbo is now a national sporting icon and a role model to many aspiring athletes in Malawi and beyond. She plays for both the Malawi National Netball and Football teams. Her performance in the international arena during numerous Commonwealth Games and Netball World Cups brought her to the attention of talent scouts. She now plays for Glasgow’s Strathclyde Sirens in the Superleague. Towera has teamed up with EMMS as an ambassador for our work to create a climate of change for girls in Malawi. Here she shares her experience of visiting Mulanje Mission Hospital.
Speaking up for girls in Malawi
As a sports person, I’ve met a lot of challenges. I worked hard to have this opportunity to play professionally because representing my country makes me very happy. But I hadn’t appreciated the challenges girls face in rural Malawi today.
We visited schools and clinics where girls as young as 14 were having babies. They are missing out on education, they are facing pressure from their families to marry and they are not being supported by the fathers of the babies.
It was really sad to see young girls who are supposed to be at school but who are pregnant at the age of 14 years old. Then the fathers deny responsibility. It is very sad. Instead of this kid finishing school, she’s taking care of the kids at home. If they marry, then often the dads only stay with them for a short period of time and then divorce. Then they have to go back to their parents and just spend their days at home.
I had a sister. she died at the age of 17 years old. She was pregnant at age 16 and went into labour after 7 months. The baby survived, but I lost my sister. I was 13 years old. My dad lost his daughter, and worried what the future would hold for his other young daughters.
At Mulanje Mission Hospital I saw girls being given fresh opportunities. Young women who have babies are receiving vocational training in carpentry, welding and tailoring. Others are returning to school.
Youth clubs are formed to encourage one another on how they can build their future. In their groups, they learn how to avoid teenage pregnancy, how they can succeed in their education. They plant vegetables and do poultry farming and use the money raised to buy school books, pens and pencils and share with one another.
The demand for support among these young women is high. With more funds, many girls can be saved from early marriages and early pregnancies. These girls should be helped so that in the future they can start their own businesses, get jobs and be able to care for themselves and their young families.
Towera is backing the Climate of Change for Girls appeal and we’ll share more of her experience at Mulanje Mission Hospital in the coming months. Thanks, Towera!