Malawi Leaders Reflect on Women Deliver 2019

Rise Up Leaders, Leadership Council members, and staff at the Women Deliver conference in  2019

In June, Rise Up sent a delegation of leaders from across the globe to Women Deliver 2019 in Vancouver, Canada to share their work on a global platform. Read below for reflections from two of  Rise Up’s Malawi leaders on how the experience impacted them and inspired their work in new ways.

Patricia Chimzinga Nyirenda, Rise Up ENGAGE Project Coordinator, Malawi

Patricia Chimzinga Nyirenda, Rise Up ENGAGE Project Coordinator, Malawi

I work with Rise Up and 14 civil society organizations under the Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equity (ENGAGE) Initiative to reduce the prevalence of child marriages in Thyolo in the southern region of Malawi. I also work with less privileged girls and boys, as well as young married women by providing counseling, guidance, and financial support to enable them to complete their secondary and tertiary education.

I draw my passion from my own life’s experiences. I am where I am because some kind individuals took it upon themselves to support my dad and help him get through school after he was abandoned by his parents. Because of those people, my dad got an education, became financially independent, and was able to send my brothers and me to school. When he died, my mother continued to support us through secondary school and college until she passed on. If help had not been available, my dad might have failed to complete his education. And If my mother had dropped out of school early to get married, she would have likely found it impossible to support us after my dad’s passing.

Patricia with Amy, a member of the Rise Up Leadership Council, at Women Deliver 2019

When I was in college and later working as a secondary school teacher, I inspired a lot of students and some began to ask me how I managed to get where I am at such a young age. This motivated me to work with them to help them achieve their dreams, as some just needed a little push in the right direction, knowledge of opportunities available to them, or financial support.

My favorite experience at Women Deliver was seeing one of the ENGAGE civil society organization (CSO) leaders share the work we are currently doing on a global platform. Sharing our work for the first time at a global level was exciting and the interest that people had in the project, even after the session, was a big motivation to us.

Participating in the Women Deliver Conference has fueled my work and my professional development. Being reminded that I have the power to make a difference has really made me think more deeply about all the work that I am currently doing and empowers me to do more. I would love to see the work that I am doing get even more support and have a larger impact. Now I know of a lot more organizations that are working to advance gender equity using different approaches, and I am aware of and will share the many resources that can be beneficial not only to me, but the CSO leaders that I work in collaboration with.

Zione Matale, Rise Up Leader, Malawi

Zione Matale, Rise Up Leader, Malawi

Through our ENGAGE program, we are trying to reduce cases of child marriages by engaging with local government structures and decision-makers to improve laws and policies at a community level to help protect adolescent girls from entering into marriages and to prevent teen pregnancies. We are advocating for the revision of current district bylaws to make them all-inclusive to provide girls access to sexual and reproductive health services without being judged by the community or health officials; to enforce policies that allow girls who have given birth to return to school; and to implement a standardized curriculum for initiation camps that is age appropriate and approved by the local council. All of this is to be included in the newly revised bylaws, but to make sure that they are being enforced, we are advocating for the establishment of clear processes, roles, and responsibilities for every local structure responsible for implementation and enforcement, especially when related to the rights of adolescent girls in the Thyolo district in the southern region of Malawi.

Zione speaking on a conference panel at Women Deliver 2019

I am part of this work because I am passionate about seeing young people thrive and realize their full potential in life. With support from Rise Up, my dream to help young people has become a reality. I am very appreciative to Rise Up for choosing me to be part of their delegation. During the Women Deliver conference, I learned a lot from all of the side events sessions. I also loved getting together with the other Rise Up Leaders, Staff and the Leadership Council Members. It cannot go without mentioning that the Rise Up Staff gave us all tremendous support, from session preparation to sharing networking skills so we knew how to best interact with other conference participants. My experience at Women Deliver has increased my passion for my work, expanded my networks and also fueled my ideas to establish more innovative interventions in my community.