Ngale Massa: The phycho-social counselor

Her name Ngale, is a Chewa name that means pearl and she is the first born in a family of three children.

It would make sense, therefore, that her father wanted a beautiful name for her in celebration of his first fatherhood experience.

Full name Ngale ya Chikondi (Pearl of Love) Massa, she currently works as a programmes officer at Facilitators of Community Transformation (Fact), providing psychosocial counselling and assisting in issues of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) to adolescent girls and young women (AGYW).

Although she always dreamed of becoming a journalist or a lawyer, things did not turn out as she wished.

She became a counsellor instead after realising the value of counselling.

This followed a heartbreak after her former fiancé ditched her four months before their wedding.

“We broke up after eight years of dating and everything about me changed. I felt like I had nothing left. But after counselling, I realised I was not the only one who needed (or needs) an ear when things go wrong,” Ngale explains.

She is now married with two daughters.

Ultimately, she became a psychosocial counsellor to be an ear for girls, as many of them find themselves in trouble and lose their dreams.

Fact empowers and engages adolescent girls and young women on issues of sexual and reproductive health rights, an area that needs so much focus since a lot of girls have fallen victim to either consented or un-consented sex— leading to early pregnancies and marriages.

In the end, Ngale says, such things leave girls feeling unworthy, unvalued and hopeless.

“As a counsellor, these are some of the issues I look at. I also deal with issues of personal development and encourage the girls to go for their dreams regardless of circumstances around them. We also assist them to make effective decisions concerning their life,” says the young woman who has reached to over 500 girls in the past eight years.

Four girls clubs have also been established, with girls engaging in active discussions about their future and the decisions they make.

Some of these girls have gone back to school while others have become peer counsellors.

Besides finding herself in a situation which required counselling, Ngale counselled people on different issues before.

“I worked with an international organisation called Chance for Change, counselling young people in conflict with the law. That is where I was first trained as a counsellor. I was also trained by Medecins San Frontieres on mental health. Since then, it has been a journey of self-discovery and working on some psychosocial counselling theories,” says Ngale.

She notes that Malawi still has depression listed among killer diseases, with the country still registering incidents of suicide, drug addiction, crime and mental illness.

The counsellor further observes that a larger percentage of people in conflict with the law would register a depression of some sort at some point in their life.

Ngale also notes that depression is common in Malawi and other parts of the world.

She stresses that it is high time everyone took it as a disease and not a weakness because at times, people fail to express their fears and problems for fear of being labeled as weak; they even end up committing suicide instead of getting help.

“Families and society also need to create a strong support system built on trust. This will not only create a haven for individuals, but encourage the flow of information,” she says.

The youthful counsellor dreams of reaching out to as many girls and young women as possible through chat rooms, netball and role modeling.

“I would like to have a platform where people of all age groups will acquire information to make them believe in themselves and utilise their uniqueness as an asset in society,” she adds.

Challenges are part of every journey and for Ngale, one such challenge is whereby she has to counsel people when she too needs counselling at times.

“We all need someone to talk to and as counselor, I sometimes deny myself time for my family and nurturing. People think a counsellor has answers to all the problems yet they too when things get tough,” she says.

Additionally, she notes that people fail to open up to counsellors.

Ngale urges girls and young women to open up when things happen to them to get the right help.

She says: “If one does not open up, it delays the counselling process and distorts the whole aspect of counselling. But we are in a society where meeting a therapist is considered a weakness or something western.”

Apart from that, Ngale says relapse of behaviour also hinders the impact of counselling.

“People behave in certain ways to satisfy some particular needs and counseling is mostly a suggestive process. It is up to the individual to take it or leave it. So, you find people going back to their behaviour because they are trying to meet some needs. This means that one is not being honest with themselves,” she says.

Ngale who comes from Mbelekete Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chakhaza in Dowa, was born on December 11 1986 to Cecilia Sibande and Grieve-Not Massa.

Even though she could not make it to university upon completing secondary school at Chipoka, she had a chance to pursue a diploma in food nutrition and livelihood security at the Natural Resources College (now under the University of Agriculture and Natural Resources).

In her concluding remarks, she observes that counselling is not only about suggesting remedies to people who have messed up.

She says everyone needs counselling at one point in time, sometimes for encouragement as well as support.

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