10 Lessons That I Have Learnt

Youth leaders go through various cycles of progression in their lives as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. This progression is not homogeneous but there are questions and lessons that are built through the mutual lived experiences.

In the past 5 years I have  gone  through changes  in my  professional  life  moving  from the edges  to the front  lines  of policy advocacy  for  action, health systems  strengthening and last  mile in service  delivery  for reproductive health  and youth  development  programs.

I wanted  to share  some of  the  lessons  I have  learnt, still  re-learning  everyday with youth leaders and  hope you find this useful with your journey  (all the best):

It is okay to focus on one thing

This  was  very  hard  for  me  to  do  in  the beginning  as  I was  used  to  juggling  and  trying to drive  multiple interventions  at the same time.  At the end  of  each  year  the outcomes were never  as  great as  I had  anticipated, I hadn’t  stimulated  change and  sustainable  linkages  for  youth  development at the level  I desired. When I started  focusing on  one  thing, I was able to  facilitate  key stakeholder collaborations and be part of  the team  to design and implement  the Youth  Friendly Health  Services  Program Evaluation. Being  about  one  thing  especially when my former  colleagues  were  still  doing  the multiple  juggle  made me feel like  I was not doing enough. However if  I  had  not  been able  to  focus  on one  thing  I wouldn’t have  been  able  to do the important things  first.

Learn to say no

Just because you can doesn’t mean you must. Social causes  are  great  and  volunteering in your  free time  to pass on skills  is  something  we  should  all do but  we  must not  take  on more  than  we  can deliver.  This in the end affects the quality of what you are able to deliver and reliability. Learning how to say no has been liberating and has allowed me to do things on my own terms.

Be selfish, self-development should never be compromised

For  young  people who are advocates thinking  of oneself instead of people  you can support  through your  zeal for  change  almost  seems  wrong  and  used  to make me  feel  guilty, it  still does at times. With each year I grow in the belief  that  the  only way I can best  serve others  is when I can better facilitate change this will  only happen  if  I  invest in my personal  development.  No one will invest in your self-development but yourself, guard it jealously. The only way to progress is to continuous move forward on the self-development spectrum.

Allies can be found in the most unlikely places

Don’t be blinded by  past  experiences  and  what  others  say,  at  times  the  people  who you  need  to collaborate  with are  often in places  you  are  not  familiar  with  but  need to be  sought out.  This  is  especially  true  in  public  policy advocacy  and youth agenda implementation the  stakeholders  that  wield  the  most  power  might  not  be  the most  vocal in the  room  and  past  efforts  might  have  secluded  them  contributing  to  a  cycle  of  seeming  in-progress. Always  be  open, practice  being  non-judgmental  and  find  common ground  through  mutual  respect  and  understanding of  each partner’s  roles.

Be knowledgeable, a little knowledge does more harm than good

A  little  knowledge might  provide  you a  step  in the  door  however  to be  able  to influence  others, processes and  structures you need to know  all the players and the context  you  are  operating  in. Never  assume  people  know  what  you know  and  that you   understand  what they do  without  fully  comprehending  the  parameter’s  that govern  their  life  and how other factors  come to play.

Understand existing  evidence,  generate  evidence, explore perceptions of  people and communities  you  work with, this  prevents  wasting limited  resources  while facilitating successful intervention that are adaptable.

Take risks

Jump with both feet, what do you have to lose you are young and the world around you is rapidly changing.  Taking  risks challenges our perceptions and just  because  it  hasn’t  been  done  doesn’t  mean  it  can’t  be done. The risks I  have  taken  in the last 4  years  have  enabled  me to  advance my  professional  life  and  networks.  Was it uncomfortable and at times draining?  yes,  but  I  always had to  remind  myself  why I  took the risks in the first place. If  I never  took any risks  I  would still be  where  I was 4 years  ago and  that would  have made  me  bitter,  highly  unmotivated and unproductive

Make time for you

Make  time  to  appreciate  the little  things  in life and  things  that make  you happy  outside  of  your  causes  and  work. Burnout sneaks in when you need to be efficient and present.  Blocking  time  for  self-care  and  work  responsibilities  is  important  for  morale  and  efficiency. It  is important  to take  care  of  yourself. Self-care  provides  time  for  self-reflection and  self-development enabling us  to ask  ourselves  the  difficult  questions and  also  to  enjoy the moment as  it is.

Networking is the golden pin

You  never  know  who is in the room  with  you and  they might  be  the  person you need  to  recommend  you  a job  or  collaborate  with. Know  where  you want to  end  up but  be flexible  to change this  will assist  you to  use  every  networking  opportunity productivity. Learn how to stay visible in your area of practice.  Learn and  relearn how  to market your  skills, how to give an elevator  speech and  always  be  open to new  opportunities  when they are  presented.

Stay passionate it helps when all seems bleak

You are  going  to want to  quit,  feel  disillusioned,  feel  like  all your  investments  and  input  have  not  contributed  to any tangible  impact. At  times  like  that being passionate  about  what  you  do  will  enable  you  to persevere  and  push  forward. Passion will fuel your creativity to explore realistic attainable alternatives to resolve a short or long-term inherent bottleneck.

Always respect  others and  practice  humility, practice  active  listening you  don’t  know  everything  and you will  always  need   to  work with other  people.




Likoma Island  is  a  well  hidden  and  not  so  well  hidden  secret to Malawi’s  ultimate  Island  experience  and  unspoiled  virgin beaches.

crystal  clear  refreshing inviting  waters

crystal clear refreshing inviting waters

Everyone should visit  Likoma  at least  once which will wet their appetite as it did my friends and me, now we can’t wait to visit the Island  again and  again. Likoma can be  found in the  northern  waters  of  Lake  Malawi; Likoma  and  Chizumulu  Islands  make  up  Likoma District.

The  meeting of  MV Ilala  and  MV Chilembwe  on Lake Malawi

The meeting of MV Ilala and MV Chilembwe on Lake Malawi

Travelling to the  Island is  an adventure  in itself; with the option of  using the  ILALA  ship which has  sailed  to LIKOMA  for  over  60 years since  1951. Stepping  on this ship  is part of  the  LIKOMA experience and it  shouldn’t be  missed, the  top  deck offers  a 360 view  of  lake  Malawi and its  restaurant will surprise you with tasty  food. MV  Chilembwe  is a faster, more  modern ship; ilala’s  modern emancipated smaller baby and it gets  you to the island 1 hour  and  30 mins faster than  Ilala. Traveling  by water  enables  every  visitor to enjoy and appreciate  Lake  Malawi more, the  waters  are  so  blue  and at  some  point a  pretty shade  of  green  with the  sun twinkling  off the waters surface. On a  clear night the view is a feast  for  avid  star gazers and  also  time to soak in  the pretty skies with the moon shinning on lake Malawi. Visitors can also  fly to Likoma and enjoy the beautiful aerial views of the  island. Travelling to Likoma  during  the Likoma Music Festival is  the best decision we made as the Ilala’s top  deck became  the festival  goers  club with  the DJ spinning  his  tracks and the whole  ship our playground.



Arriving  in Likoma can be an emotional experience from land  to  water and  back on land  surrounded  by water with different  types of accommodation on offer depending on the traveler’s choice including the famous award-winning Kaya Mawa resort. In recent  years  the  island has  been named  as one  of  the  top  destinations  to visit, it  doesn’t take one long to figure out  why. Ulisa Bay Lodge  welcomed  my friends and me  with warmth, were  attentive and anticipated our every need, it was our  little happy place.

Ulisa Bay

Ulisa Bay

Ulisa  bay

Ulisa bay

Ulisa  Bay, one with the  waters

Ulisa Bay, one with the waters

Ulisa Bay

Ulisa Bay

It is  a  place  that speaks  to the soul,  the waters  call you to  swim  in them  even when you don’t know how  to, the clear waters  have  hundreds  species  of  little  colorful fish  that  are  visible  right  from the  beach,  providing an excellent snorkeling  treat  for  all.

Soaking  up  the  Likoma sun with cool  waters  at her  feet and  Mozambique in the distance at Chiponde  Beach

Soaking up the Likoma sun with Mozambique in the distance at Chiponde Beach

The island has  the best  beaches, hidden coves,  friendly  people, history and  ultimate  get  away  for  an easy  relaxed  vacation. it is best enjoyed  with  friends and family.

On the Ilala  with the girls

On the Ilala with the girls

Visitors  on the island  can  go  on  boat cruises around  Likoma and  Chizumulu islands, to Mozambique which is only 7 kms  away, walks and  cycling on the nature  trails  around  the island, visit  Fudwe museum, diving, sailing and more  water  sports. The annual  Likoma  Music  festival  hosted  at Chiponde Beach offers  visitors  and festival goers a nonstop  party in the sun and moonlight with  music, performances and traditional dances. 20150403_122348

Malawi  urban music  artist  Bucci

Malawi urban music artist Bucci

catching  the fun at #LiFEST

catching the fun at #LiFEST

Tradition  dance  troupe  at  Chiponde Beach #LiFEST

Tradition dance troupe at Chiponde Beach #LiFEST

The visit is not complete without a tour of the St Peter’s Cathedral, the third largest cathedral in Central Africa. Built in 1903, the architectural style and details are enthralling. I was  told and have always read that  the cathedral is  huge  until  I  visited  I still had  my  doubts  about  the  scale of it. The  cathedral  bell  tower  roof  offers one of  the  best  views  of lake  Malawi, the  island’s  coves  and  beaches.

inside  St Peter's Cathedral

inside St Peter’s Cathedral

Small  chapel  inside  St Peter's Cathedral

Small chapel inside St Peter’s Cathedral

The view  from  the  bell tower  roof  at St  Peter's  Cathedral

The view from the bell tower roof at St Peter’s Cathedral

Stunning  view  of  Likoma from  St Peter's  Cathedral bell tower roof

Stunning view of Likoma from St Peter’s Cathedral bell tower roof

Lovely  Likoma, views from St  Peter's  Bell  tower roof

Lovely Likoma, view from St Peter’s Bell tower roof

St  Peter's cathedral

St Peter’s cathedral

St Peter's cathedral

St Peter’s cathedral

I have had  a taste of Likoma, my friends and I will be back.

IMG-20150406-WA0135 IMG-20150406-WA0129

Do you know the key Youth Reproductive Health Facts for Malawi? #2

Adolescent sexual  reproductive  health  is  a  multi-sectoral priority and must address opportunities, challenges and linkages   beyond  the  health  sector. Recognizing that young people  are  dynamic  and are  constantly  engaging with the  environment around them; successful  programs  addressing adolescent  sexual  reproductive  health  always  seek to transform the  cultural & gender norms from within the communities, leverage  educations  gains especially for  girls  as this  has  proven to delay marriage, promote active participation of young people in community development activities  thus promote  healthy  seeking  behaviors among  adolescents on a greater scale. Minimizing  missed  chances  to provide  adolescents with comprehensive knowledge  about  sex, relationships and pregnancy.

Young people are best  served  when evidence based  programming  is  encouraged; which guarantees  that  programs  designed  and implemented for and with youth  address key  drivers  for  improved health outcomes  among young people. Evidence enables leveraging of resources  and technical expertise  among  stakeholders as  roles  get clearly defined  through the  data presented. Here  is  a  little of  that data  to help along  the way ……

Indicator Status Source
Child Marriage ·         19.5% girls and 1.9% boys 15 – 19 years

·         Half of the women were married before their 19th birthday

MDHS 2010
Abuse ·         One in three children has been physical, mentally, or sexually abused

·         7.8% of girls and boys aged 18 – 24 have been sexually abused with 2.0% of this abuse being perpetrated prior to age 18 with less than a quarter of males and females aged 18 to 24 years knowing of a place to seek help about an experience of sexual violence.

VACS 2014

VACS 2013

Social Services ·         33.0% of girls 18 – 24 years reported getting pregnant as a result of unwanted completed sex, yet they did not report the assault VACS 2013
Drug and Alcohol Use ·         50% of the drug and alcohol related cases that come before the courts involve young people

·         Hospital records at Zomba Mental Hospital shows that of the 1,890 admissions received, 269 cases (14%) were a result of cannabis and alcohol and involved youth

NYP 2013

Source:  draft  National Youth Friendly Health  services  Strategy 2015 -2020 for Malawi

Get Free Sexual Reproductive Health Information and Services

Are  you  Malawian, young  and below  the  age  of  25 years?

Did  you  know  you  can access  free  Sexual and  Reproductive  Health Services  in government  health  facilities and  through social marketing  organizations   and   local  NGOs that implement  sexual and  reproductive health  services? 

  • Government  health facilities  provide  free services to all Malawians including  Sexual and Reproductive  Health  services & contraceptives  to all  people of reproductive age
  • With  increased  government’s  commitment  to  Sexual  and  Reproductive  Health  especially  the  re-positioning  of  family planning  as a key strategy  for  addressing  Malawi’s  rapid  population  growth  characterized  by high adolescent  pregnancies. The  government  of  Malawi  also made  a commitment in July  2012  at the London Family Planning  summit;

With the goal of “no parenthood before adulthood,” Malawi committed to raising the country’s contraceptive prevalence rate to 60% by 2020 with a focused increase in those aged 15 to 24. 

  • Banja  La  Mstongolo has  been  providing sexual and reproductive health services in Malawi since 1987. BLM aims to address maternal mortality while combating HIV/AIDS and unsafe abortion by ensuring that women have access to options in family planning, and the tools and knowledge necessary for preventing HIV infection; with emphasis on the provision of long-acting and permanent methods.

Did  you  know  that through  their  clinics across the country BLM provides FREE Sexual  and  Reproductive  Health  services  including comprehensive sexual reproductive health counseling and contraceptives to young people below the age  of  25.  

  • Family Planning  Association of  Malawi  FPAM is a member Association of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).  FPAM works towards a world where women, men and young people everywhere have control over their own bodies, and therefore their destinies.  10547793_956693741009673_6291110063310434738_o

FPAM  provides  FREE  contraceptive services  to young people  through  their  clinics  and  youth  life  centres  in  Kawale – Lilongwe,  Dowa, Kasungu, Ntcheu, Dedza and  Mangochi. 

PSI  Malawi  in partnership with Ministry  of  Health  – HEU have  a  321 call service  that  provides  information (on health, agriculture & gender through airtel numbers only).  Young  people  can use  this  service  to learn  more about  HIV and  Contraception in  a  timely, private  and  confidential  manner   through  one’s  mobile  phone; making  it  an effective  and  accessible  source  of  information.

Through  interpersonal  communication agents affiliated  to  PSI  Malawi  social franchise network TUNZA  Clinics;  they  provide  vouchers  to their  community  clients  that  they  can use  to access free  contraceptives services from  a TUNZA  clinic in their  community.

These  partnerships  for  SRH and  family planning  are  leveraging  the  reach,  access  and  utilization  of  Sexual Reproductive  Health  services  including  HTC  and  long  acting  reversible contraceptives  by young people. This initiative of providing  free  contraceptive services to  youth  recognizes  the  critical need  of  providing  wide  range  of  contraceptives  to  young  people enabling  young  people  to make voluntary informed  choice  on the contraceptive  methods  they  want to use  according  to  their   stage  in  their  life cycle.

These  three  organization are supporting  government in strengthening Youth  Friendly Health Services including HIV and  AIDS components  to  effectively  delivery information and  services  to young  people.

if  you are  a  young person  looking for  information and  services  regarding your  sexual  reproductive  health  Remember to use the 321 call service,  services  are  provided  for  you  for  free  at  Service  Delivery  Points  in the  highlighted  and  affiliated  facilities.  Choose to learn more  and  prevent  unintended  pregnancy, HIV and AIDS,  STI infections  IT IS IN YOUR  HANDS

Youth groups  can also mobilize  their  members  and youth in the  community to access and utilize  these  services fully.

Why  not  try  the  services  today “available and FRee”

Do you know the key Youth Reproductive Health Facts for Malawi?

In #Malawi  one in every three persons is between 10 – 24 years (5 million youth)

Indicator Status Source
Early Sexual Debut ·22% of boys and 14% of girls have had sex by age 15

·20.3% boys and 5.3% girls have had sex by age 10

·19.8% of females and 34.7% of males between 13 to 17 years old reported having sex.

·87.2% of females and 75.9% of males 18 to 24 year olds have ever had sex, with 55.8% of females and 75.9% of males doing so before age 18

MDHS 2010

YFHS Evaluation Report  2014

VACS 2013

VACS 2013

Teenage Pregnancy ·106,000 annually (26%) MDHS 2010
Low Contraceptive Use ·Sexually active 15-19 year old boys, less than half (40%) are using condoms;

·Unmarried sexually active 15-19 year old girls less than one-third (30%), and

·One-quarter (25%) of married girls use modern contraception.

MDHS 2010
Condom Use ·20% consistent condom use MDHS 2010

Source:  draft  National Youth  Friendly  Health Services Strategy  2015 –  2020 for Malawi


CONDOMIZE Play it safe

CONDOMIZE Play it safe

The  CONDOMIZE  Campaign  kicked off  in Malawi  dubbed “CONDOMIZEMALAWI”  campaign CONDOMIZE CHANCOwith  a bang  in  2013 with the aim of de-stigmatizing  the  big  C aka  Passport the  “CONDOM”  both  female and  male  condoms among  #youth spearheaded by  UNFPA  Malawi, Ministry of  Youth and Sports with support  from the  condom project  and  CONDOMIZE campaign  team.

To promote  its  proper  and  consistent  use  to  prevent pregnancy,  HIV and AIDS  and STI  infections.



The  campaign  has  engaged  diverse  stakeholders  so  far  such as journalists, youth  leaders, youth workers, health workers, government  officials  and  key partners in adolescent health. This  campaign  is  the  first  program  to  systematically target college  students  in Malawi; most  programs  on youth  sexual reproductive health have  sidelined  college  students  under  the  assumption  that they are  knowledgeable  and  know  how  to adhere  to healthy sexual  behaviors.

Styling it up with CONDOMIZE

Styling it up with CONDOMIZE


The  truth  is  that young people  in  our  colleges  are having  SEX but  they lack  information  to make  healthy sexual behaviors decisions.

An informative   male condom  DEMO by a female student

An informative male condom DEMO by a female student

 In Chancellor  College  this  campaign was  able  to  facilitate a platform for  college  students  to start  having  the sex and safe  sex conversation

This  dude  broke  DOWN how  to use  female  condom . he was on point

This dude broke DOWN how to use female condom . he was on point

 through the   comprehensive  information  offered  at the education zone  during  the open days  event  and  training  of  students campus youth peer educators  on  #condoms to  facilitate  dialogue  beyond  the  open day events, the  pin making  table offered fun and how  to style  up  with CONDOMIZEMalawi  campaign.

CONDOM pamphlet in case you miss a step

CONDOM pamphlet in case you miss a step

Diktator doing his  thing

Diktator doing his thing

Urban music  artists headlined  the  concert  that had  college  students  showing  off their  dance styles

Piksy singing  some CONDOMIZE  tunes

Piksy singing some CONDOMIZE tunes

with fun  facts, how to  use  female  and  male  condoms  segments, condom  quizzes on  their locally  coined  #CONDOMIZE slogans, myths and  misconceptions  among  other  side  activities.

CONDOMIZECHANCO was a mix  of  fun, entertainment  and  education

CONDOMIZE  DON'T  COMPROMISE @  the  educational  zone

CONDOMIZE DON’T COMPROMISE @ the educational zone




Youth Family Planning Ambassadors

The concept youth-friendly serviceshave been being used for several years now by SRH programs but it is not always easy to capture what it is in practice. Too often, organizations embark on providing youth-friendly services as an additional activity to simply include on list of their program and don’t carefully explore their readiness to listen to young people’s complex and diverse voices in the matter. Program reports focus on the number of services provided and young people served, paying less attention to how friendly those young people were served. From my experience, interactions with my fellow young people, service providers and SRH experts, and review of existing literature on SRH I am happy to give the following advice for our services to be qualified as youth friendly. 

  • Empowering young people and giving them options for choices: Our services should not exclusively address needs of young people but…

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