‘We are in this together’

When Mavuto Changwa was born, her mother dumped her in a toilet to die—but people rescued her.

At 19, her mother died on her lap just after apologising for attempting to kill her.

A reason to smile: Triumph over adversity has taught Changwa to serve others selflessly

“She said I should live to serve others,” Changwa, 42, said during a visit to her home in Lunzu, Blantyre.

This has shaped her life.

“I am living to tell this story because some people came to my rescue. This is the most important story of my life,” she explained, battling tears.

The arrival of N’zatonse Project in her area has unleashed and nurtured her selfless spirit, said the woman.

Government is implementing the initiative in partnership with German Development Bank (KfW) through a consortium comprising Population Services International (PSI), ACT Alliance (Danish Church Aid and Norwegian Church Aid), Pact Malawi and Family Planning Association of Malawi (Fpam).

The project—being implemented by the Blantyre Synod Health and Development Commission in Changwa’s area—promotes sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR).

She reckoned it has awakened communities to appreciate the problems related to family planning and SRHR and take part in solving them.

Among others, people of all ages and different religious backgrounds are working together with traditional leaders and local organisations to end risky sexual and reproductive health (SRH) practices.

N’zatonse focuses on youth, who are disproportionately affected by risky SRH problems.

Ecclesiastes Mapira, a Zambezi Evangelical Church pastor at Kunenekude in Mwanza, is among numerous religious leaders working to eradicate risky sexual practices.

“N’zatonse means ‘it’s for everyone’. This is not only for the youth or one denomination. Teaching children good behaviour is a task for everyone. We are in this together,” he said.

Back in Lunzu, Changwa is a heroine. Members of youth clubs confess how her story touched their lives.

She encouraged them to join in, urges adults not to abuse children and rescues minors from child marriages and links them to same-minded organisations and social welfare offices.

Every day, the mother-of-four handles a case. She travels around the area, on a hired bicycle or on foot, in pursuit of justice for the victims.

She sells firewood and her husband works as a security guard. They struggle to pay school fees for their children and cannot afford tertiary education for one who passed Malawi School Certificate of Education Examination last year.

Yet, Changwa, with encouragement by her husband, still goes out to help others.

This is one of the selfless change agents N’zatonse is nurturing and tapping for behavioural change.

There are many ordinary people touching hearts in extraordinary ways in far-flung places like Chatuluka in Neno, Phoka in Rumphi, Chikho in Ntchisi and Likoma Island,

The collective spirit offers hope that the activities will continue when funding expires.

According to Dan Church Aid SRHR programme officer Beatrice Gumbo, the project partners were selected because they had structures in target communities.

“The project’s emphasis was on training community members and strengthening existing structures so that activities do not end when funding ends,” she said.

Apart from inspiring a sense of collective responsibility, the locals said they have been equipped with necessary skills to keep going when the project phases out.

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