Calling a spade by name

Inspired by the #MeToo movement, a campaign against sexual harassment as well as borrowing from Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, Theatre For a Change (TFaC) on Friday held an event dubbed the Chitenje Changa Monologues.

The monologues were real stories of Malawian women told to an audience of both men and women at the Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe.

Director of ceremonies asks TFaC advocacy and communications officer Beatrice Chiphwanya (R) to explain the purpose of the monologue

Some of the performers told their real life stories while actors from TFaC presented and staged on behalf of those not comfortable to do so.

From issues of first sexual encounter, sex and its positions to menstruation and parents’ to open up to their children on sex, the actors unpacked and punched holes in one of the most masked topics in society.

“My first sexual encounter was when I was 4 years old. It was non-consensual, of course, but I could not let anybody know because I was afraid,” said Shamira Elias.

Fast forward to her life today after a failed marriage, Elias cheekily declares: “I enjoyed pleasuring myself.”

The media was not spared in spreading the discourse that polices and objectifies women.

Singling out an opinion article in one of the newspapers, one of the performers, Beatrice Mateyo reasoned: “There is an article I read recently that concluded that women who have sex on the first date do so to tie down a man to marriage.”

With the monologues taking a no holds barred approach, the stories became interesting and captivating.

“I have learnt to be unapologetically sexual, rewriting society’s expectation of me,” said Mateyo.

As the monologues transcended into a bitter pill episode with disheartening stories whose facts must be faced as they reflect the Malawi society, the stories grew too deep and sounded more raw in Chichewa to others.

Three women staged a play on how religion suppresses discussions about reproductive health through a story of Trinity Kadango.

She tries to convince fellow women to talk about their sexual reproductive health experiences but the other two do not budge.

They actually brand her not “religious enough” for wishing to be talking about sex at church.

“They prefer to suffer in silence,” she said.

From that moment, a story of how women struggle to keep their men especially in the bedroom unfolds. 

Kadango, a medical doctor narrates how her once loving husband changed after being promoted at the office.

In an effort to save her marriage, the 35-year-old sought the counsel of the wise apart from taking matters in her own hands but it did not help.

Mkazi wopusa amapasula banja ndi manja ake [a foolish woman breaks down her marriage with her hands] was the advice that I got from most people. Meanwhile, I ate powdered bwemba [tamarind] and other stuff so that my man should enjoy me in bed but my marriage ended,” she narrated.

One of the most common but highly swept under the carpet topics comes out alive when an 18-year-old Ireen Mwase recounted how she was raped and impregnated at 13 by her father.

While Mwase, now in Form Four, was lucky that her mother stood by her after knowing the man behind her pregnancy, some girls in Malawi are left in the cold as their families see them as evil doers.

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