Saturday, 21 April 2018

Chimfunshi: The World's Largest Chimpanzee Orphanage

Chimpanzees eating guavas at Chimfunshi
By Paul Shalala and Mushota Mpundu in Chingola

They are noisy, cheerful and entertaining.

These are chimpanzees who have made this place their home.

Most of them were rescued from across Africa from poachers and animal traffickers.

Over the years, hundreds of Chimpanzees have found their way to Chimfunshi Wildlife Sanctuary here in Chingola, a major mining town in Zambia's Copperbelt region which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

This place started hosting trafficked primates in the early 1980s.

"This place started as a refuge for the chimps. The road from Solwezi to Chingola was often used by animal traffickers and the animals easily found their way to Chimfunshi after being rescued," said Chimfunshi Wildlife Sanctuary Manager Innocent Mulenga.

Chimfunshi is now the largest refuge for Chimpanzees in the world.

Ironically, Zambia has no indigenous Chimpanzees.

These animals are endangered in most parts of the world.

In the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, they are hunted for their meat which is a delicacy.

With the 'never ending' conflict in the DRC, animals such as Chimpanzees are usually under threat because their habitats are always invaded by combatants.

This is why Chimfunshi is now hosting over 120 Chimpanzees, most of them from the DRC, usually confiscated by Zambian authorities at the borders.

Zambia shares over 10 border posts with the DRC.

Chimfunshi is less than 70 kilometres from Kasumbalesa, the nearest border post to the wildlife sanctuary.

The sanctuary is located on the busy Solwezi-Chingola road, a significant export route where a huge percentage of Zambian copper passes on its way to the international market.

It is this major highway which is said to be a conduit for animal traffickers from the DRC to  the Far East via South Africa.

"We receive these primates from various countries across the continent. In the past two weeks, we rescued chimpanzees from Angola and South Sudan and settled them here. We collect these animals and keep them for safety," said Mr Mulenga.

Apart from hosting the Chimpanzees, Chimfunshi is also a tourist attraction.
Mr Mulenga checking on his Chimpanzees

The sanctuary has a good collection of Zambian curios which are on display at the reception.
Tourists both foreign and local, visit this place every year to buy these crafts.

The curios are mostly out of local wood, made in the shapes of Chimpanzees and other animals.

This place is also ideal for pupils and students who have an interest in nature and conservation.

"We usually receive pupils from Solwezi, Chingola and Kitwe. These are pupils who are in Nature Clubs and they come here to study and spend one to three nights in our shelters," said Chimfunshi Wildlife Sanctuary Assistant Manager Tarisai Makwelele.
Being rich in rare species, Chimfunshi is also a center for research.

Every year, this sanctuary receives researchers who come here to study the primates.

"Most of the researchers who come here are from Germany, the USA and locally. Because of the conducive environment where our Chimpanzees are roaming freely, these researchers are able to study the primates without a problem," said Mr Mulenga who holds a Masters in Primatology.

Among the Chimpanzees here, the oldest is a female called Mila.

She is believed to have been born in 1972 in Cameroon but was later transferred to the Tanzanian town of Arusha.

Mila is believed to have been rescued from a bar where she used to drink beer and smoke cigarettes as part of her job to entertain patrons.

Her handlers say to date, some of her traits show the effects of the abuse.

Chimfunshi Wildlife Sanctuary is also an employer.

18 people are employed here in various capacities, with the oldest employee having been here for 15 years.

The sanctuary, which is run by a trust, has even built a health post and a school where over 100 local children are enrolled.

A worker, feeding the Chimpanzees
Local farmers have also found a ready market for their produce which the Wildlife Trust buys.

The sanctuary sits on an 11,000 hectare plot which is divided into two.

The first 6,000 hectares is inhabited by the Chimpanzees who are separated in groups of 20 to 30 secured by wires to avoid fights among different troops.

The remaining 5,000 hectares is a livestock farm which currently has 700 cattle which are kept by the wildlife trust to support the conservation of the Chimps.

Occasionally, the authorities here sale cattle to raise funds to meet the day-to-day financial needs of running the world's largest Chimpanzee sanctuary.

Because of its remote location, Chimfunshi uses solar panes to power all its facilities.

However, one of the biggest challenges this place faces is the 15 kilometers road which runs from the Chingola-Solwezi road to the wildlife sanctuary.

The road is gravel and because of the many streams which cross it, it is usually in bad state during the rainy season.

But access during the dry season is reasonable.

The journey from Chingola town to Chimfunshi only takes an hour and the distance is 64 kilometers.

Monday, 2 April 2018

School Girls Speak Out Against Forced Marriages In Rural Areas

Katete-based alangizi Dorothy Mwale teaching teenage mothers
in Mnyamadzi area of Katete. - Picture by Paul Shalala
By Paul Shalala

If you live in town, issues of early or forced marriages may not matter much to you.

This is because in urban areas, it is rare to hear a child of 13 or 15 years being forced into marriage by her parents.

But in rural areas, it is very common to see juveniles falling pregnant and being forced into marriage.

As a child, growing up in rural Mumbwa, I saw these things and it was normal at the time.

By the time I was going to Mumbwa High School for Grade 10 in the year 2000, most of my Primary School classmates at Kasalu Basic School were already in marriage.

These are friends who were below the age of 18 and today when I go back to the village, I find them with 3 to 5 children each.

This was normal to me because it was part of the community I grew up in.

Seeing what early marriage and teenage pregnancy does to children in rural areas, i teamed up with friends to help fight this vice

Early last year, we sent a grant proposal to the United States government under its Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund to start a project to help bring back girls to school.

Lucky enough, the proposal was accepted and we embarked on implementing it in November 2017.

Last month, I embarked on a marathon five day tour of Pemba District in Southern Province and Katete District in Eastern Province where my fellow Mandela Washington Fellows and I are running the US-funded Nileleni Project.
Teenage mothers in Pemba show off the reusable sanitary
pads after being trained how to make them

The $22,000 initiative is being implemented by Evans Nsooka (in Katete), Nangamba Chintu (in Pemba) and myself to help bring back 10,000 girls back to school.

In this one year project, we are working with traditional leaders, religious leaders, traditional counselors (alangizi) and schools to bring back girls who have been married off.

For those girls who are currently in school, we are encouraging them to continue with school even if they fall pregnant.

Using the Ministry of General Education’s Re-Entry Policy, we want girls to finish school despite them being pregnant, married off or lacking sponsorship. 

Pemba

Pemba is a newly created district which was initially part of Choma.

The district is predominantly rural with most people involved in agriculture.

Here, early marriages and pregnancies among teenagers are common.

The Nileleni Project set base in the area late last year and started the process of engaging the girls.
Nangamba Chintu interviewing Headwoman
Kalyengu (left) of Muzoka area

2016 Mandela Washington Fellow Nangamba Chintu is the implementer of the project in Pemba.

Ms Chintu, who is also Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) Pemba District Information Officer, has gone an extra mile in bringing various stakeholders together to bring back girls to school.

“We have made a lot of progress here in Pemba. Many people have bought the idea of the girl child going back to school. This is so encouraging. We have so far reached 359 girls and brought back eight girls to school and retrieved one from forced marriage,” said Ms Chintu.

One of the traditional leaders who has been co-opted in the campaign is Mary Kalyengu, the Headwoman for Kalyengu Village in Muzoka area of Pemba District.

Headwoman Kalyengu says as traditional leaders, they have been encouraging parents to take back their children to school in order for them to upgrade their education.

“In my village, we have many girls who are dropping out of school due to pregnancies. But under the Nileleni Project, we are now working with parents to ensure that these girls go back to school,” said Headwoman Kalyengu in an interview.

At Pemba Primary School, a number of girls have go back to school.

One who delivered a baby eleven months ago is back in Grade eight while another who dropped out of school two years ago is also back in Grade nine.

But 17 year old Jane Moono (not real names) has an interesting story of what courage can do to a girl who is determined to make it in life.
The Nileleni Team meeting alangizi in Muzoka
 area of Pemba District



Jane narrates that after passing her Grade nine examinations last year in Namwala District, her parents organized a forced marriage for her after failing to find school fees for her to proceed to Grade 10.

“My parents brought this man to our house. It was my first time to see him. They told me he is my husband and they asked me to pack all my belongings and follow him to his house,” she said while sobbing.

Jane says she walked with the man to his house and he took her to the kitchen.

“He told me that since I was the second wife, I would be sleeping in the kitchen. He then left me and walked to his father’s village where he invited his relatives to come and see me. But before he could come back, I ran away and found my way to Pemba.”

The girl now lives at an orphanage in Pemba and she is one of a dozen girls under the Nileleni Project who are scheduled to return to school in the second term, somewhere in May.

“I’m still young and I love school. I can’t get married at my age,” insisted Jane.

But 22 year old Charity Chimbwali, a mother of two, is a shining example of a married young lady who can defy village norms and go back to school.

Charity is married but when alangizi visited her, she decided to seek permission from her husband to continue with school.
Braison Mweemba escorting his wife
Charity to school

“I dropped out of school a long time ago. But recently, my husband allowed me to go back to school and today am in Grade 10 at Muzoka Secondary School,” she said.

Her husband Braison Mweemba, also of Muzoka area in Pemba, says his friends laugh at him for allowing his wife to go back to school.

Mr Mweemba says people have been teasing him that once she gets educated, his wife will desert him.

“As you can see, am not educated, I stopped school at Primary School level but I want my wife to finish secondary school and get a degree. Maybe she will take care of me and our children,” said Mr Mweemba in an interview.

Apart from just taking these girls back to school, traditional counsellors in Pemba are also equipping them with skills to make reusable sanitary pad.

This is because pads are inaccessible in rural areas.

“We have taught these girls to make reusable sanitary pads. They make enough of these pads for themselves and sale others to raise money for school fees,” said Nyuma Mahachi, the senior alangizi in Muzoka area.

On average, girls miss school for 2 to 4 days a month due to lack of sanitary pads but with the coming of the reusable pads which they are being taught to make, schools are recording a reduction in absenteeism among girls.

Muzoka Primary School has seen a number of its female pupils take part in the making of reusable sanitary pads.
Nyuma Mahachi demonstrating how a
reusable sanitary pad is made

Authorities there say the use of these pads has made a significant change in school girls coming for class.

“We have noticed in the recent past that very few girls stay home because of menstruation. These pads have really reduced absenteeism here,” said Muzoka Primary School Headteacher Sebastian Chifwala.

All this work is done by a group of women whose passion for a brighter future for the girls burns every day in their hearts.

The alangizi walk on foot from one village to another to talk to parents whose children have dropped out of school.

Sometimes they cover as much as 30 kilometers a day to do this voluntary job.

“We owe the success of this project to the alangizi and the traditional leaders here in Pemba. These people are so dedicated, they do not get paid but they have sacrificed a lot to ensure that girls go back to school,” said Ms Chintu.

Katete
Malita Banda at home with her one year old son

18 year old Malita Banda of Keni Village in Katete District has a very disturbing story.

She says her parents withdrew her from school and forced her to get married to a man who paid them a pair of blankets popularly known as Puma.

“I lived in an abusive marriage. My husband used to beat me all the time. When I ask him for money to grind mealie meal, he used to beat me. When I tell him that soap for the baby is finished, he used to beat me. I used to get beaten every day,” said Malita.

Malita says on two occasions, she ran away from the matrimonial home and went back to her parents’ house but they forced her to return.

After more beatings, she left the marriage and returned to her father’s house and early this year, she met Dorothy Mwale, one of the leading alangizi who are working with girls who have dropped out of school.

Malita has a one year old baby boy with her former husband.

Malita Banda in class at Kanjeza
Primary School 
“Aunt Dorothy told me about the Nileleni Project and I got interested. She guided me, took me back to Kanjeza Primary School where I enrolled. And now, am back in Grade 8,” she said while smiling.

This blogger visited Malita in class.

“I want to finish school and become a doctor. I want to help people who are sick.”

Malita is not the only one who has come back to school this year at Kanjeza Primary School.

“Every year we have girls who drop out. Last year, six girls dropped out of school due to marriages and pregnancies. But the good news this year is that so far, 10 girls are back in class and we are happy,” said Bernard Phiri the Headteacher at Kanjeza Primary School.

Across Katete District, more girls have gone back to school with the help of the Nileleni Project.

Chieftainess Kawaza of the Chewa speaking people in Katete is one of the local opinion leaders who have been instrumental in bringing back girls to school.

The traditional leader has been ensuring that girls who are forced into married are sent back home to continue with school.

“So far, we have 306 girls who are now back in class. Further, we have another 54 girls who were married and with the help of World Vision and the Nileleni Project, they are now in school,” said Chieftainess Kawaza when this blogger and the Nileleni Project team visited her palace in Kagoro area of Katete.
Chieftainess Kawaza during the interview at her
palace in Kagoro area of Katete

World Vision is a partner in the implementation of the Nileleni Project in Katete.

2016 Mandela Washington Fellow Evans Nsooka is an employee of World Vision and he is the lead implementer of the project in the area.

“The project is moving on well here. We have the support of many traditional leaders, alangizi and teachers who are helping us identify girls who need to go back to school,” said Mr Nsooka.

He also revealed that from time to time, the Nileleni Project sends teams of alangizi and health workers to far flung areas to teach young mothers and girls how to safeguard their lives as well as knowing the challenges that are associated with teenage pregnancies.

The Nileleni Project is in the process of rolling out the production of reusable sanitary pads in Katete.

Conclusion

The Nileleni Project targets to reach 10,000 girls in both Pemba and Katete Districts before the project comes to an end in September this year.

The Nileleni Team poses with the Mphangwe FM Station
 Manager after securing airtime for radio programmes 
This goal is expected to be met through face to face meetings, home visits, media coverage and church meetings.

In both districts, the Nileleni implementation team has engaged community media to help sensitise both girls and parents on the need for learners to go back to school.

In Pemba, Chikuni Community Radio station will carry live weekly programs on the Nileleni Project for 10 weeks starting this week.

And in Katete, Mphangwe FM will also carry similar programs for nine weeks starting this week.

The two radio stations are the most listened to media in the two communities.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Kitwe Farmer On Protest Walk To Lusaka Over Land Dispute

By Paul Shalala
Mr Soper walking along the Kitwe-Ndola
Dual Carriageway yesterday
A 62 year old white farmer and businessman of Kitwe has embarked on a lone walk from Kitwe to Lusaka to protest against Northern Province Permanent Secretary Elias Kamanga who he accuses of grabbing part of his farmland.
Kevin Soper embarked on his 360 kilometers journey yesterday at 05:00hrs and hopes to reach State House in Lusaka at the end of next month.
Speaking in an interview while walking along the Kitwe-Ndola Dual Carriageway yesterday, Mr Soper said he wants to go and plead with President Edgar Lungu to intervene in the matter.
Mr Soper claims that Mr Kamanga got 600 hectares of his land and obtained title without his consent.

"Am married to a wonderful Namwanga wife, we have 13 children and nine grandchildren at the farm," he said.

Mr Soper's wife was a councillor for Limaposa ward in the MMD era and she served at the same time when Mr Kamanga was also a councillor in Kitwe.
He has complained that his efforts to have the matter resolved at the Kitwe City Council and the former Copperbelt Minister Bowman Lusambo did not yield results.

"Am walking to Lusaka and this is the only way I can get the President's attention. The system at local government and provincial level has failed me, i want him to intervene," said Mr Soper.

Asked whether he was fit enough to manage the over 300 kilometres walk at his age, Mr Soper said God will help him.

"I hope to be walking 25 kilometres a day and making one day offs and i reckon reaching Lusaka at the end of April. I ask Zambians to pray for me on this journey. This is not about me, its about equity and justice for my beloved country that's why am wearing this Zambian scarf"
Mr Soper lives in Kitwe south where he says his family settled in the 1950s but the ownership of his farm has become a controversy.
Pastor Mufunga escorts Mr Soper as they walked
Near Zamtan junction
He is a holder of title deed number L10166 issued on 20th April 2000 but this document was cancelled when the Supreme Court ruled against him and former Wusakile Member of Parliament Barnabas Chella who claimed a huge piece of land in the area.
Later, the Kitwe City Council offered Mr Soper and Mr Chella part of the land and the rest was advertised to the public.
Though the late lawmaker accepted the offer and legalised his land, Mr Soper rejected the offer, insisting the whole land which has been subdivided by the Kitwe City Council belongs to him.

Sadly, Mr Chella was hacked to death in 2013 by squatters who encroached on this same land.

This subdivision of the land has seen about 20 people buy and set up farms in the area.

And Mr Kamanga happens to be among the people who bought land there and this is what has prompted Mr Soper to go on a lone protest to Lusaka.
In the early stages of this walk, Mr Soper was escorted by Pastor Kaputa Mufunga of Amazing Grace Ministries who kept preaching to him as they walked.
"I have been praying for him for a long time so that he can live in peace with his family. Even on this journey, i will keep praying for him," said Pastor Mufunga as they walked side by side.
But when reached for a comment over the phone, Mr Kamanga cleared himself from the allegations saying he genuinely acquired the land.
"That gentleman has been maligning me for a long time. I have not grabbed any land from him. I genuinely got my land from the Council, paid all service charges and got a title deed from Ministry of Lands. The council advertised that land after a Supreme Court judgement and i happened to be among the many who applied and were allocated the land," said Mr Kamanga. 
Meanwhile, the Kitwe City Council says Mr Soper's allegations are not genuine because he does not hold title to the land where he claims people have encroached.
Mr Soper walking towards Kamfinsa
"It is not true that Mr Kamanga grabbed land. He applied for that land from the Council and if my memory serves me right, there were 20 applicants who benefited. And this happened way before the current government.  It was the Council term 2006 to 2011," said Kitwe Town Clerk Bornwell Luanga in an interview.
But Mr Soper's walk to Lusaka was short-lived as he was picked by armed Police officers at Kamfinsa junction.

He was later taken to Kitwe Central Police Station where he was advised to make a notification for a demonstration. 

But according to Zambia's Public Order Act, a person or organization which wants to protest must give a 14 day notice to the Police.

This means that Mr Soper's lone walk to Lusaka may have to wait until the Police gives consent to his notice.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Zambia's Police Chief Speaks Out Against Officers' Indiscipline

Deputy Inspector General of Police Malcolm Mulenga inspects
a Guard of Honor mounted by graduating Police officers
at Kamfinsa in Kitwe. -Picture by Melody Mupeta

By Paul Shalala

Of late, videos of drunk police officers in uniforms have gone viral on social media, with many observers worrying about the levels of indiscipline in the Zambia Police Service.

Last year, an armed Police officers who was captured on video, seemingly drunk, coaked his AK 47 rifle while having an argument with Mazabuka Central Member of Parliament Garry Nkombo at a filling station in Lusaka.

"Nikulasa, ndiwe ndani (I will shoot you, who are you?" said the officer as he moved around the filling station while holding his Russian made rifle in a ready-to-fire position.

The video went viral and that was not the last one.

Several others showing Police officers drunk, lying on the grown or walking unsteadily have become common.
               
Similarly, pictures of female Police officers in tight skirts or trousers while on duty have also become common especially on Facebook.

Officers innocently share these photos on Facebook and Instagram but cyber bullies and some blogs re-post them to make funny of the men and women in uniform.

This has on several occasions left the Police Public Relations Office to issue statements to either protect the officers or guide on the approved dress code.

But no senior Police officer has ever condemned this behavior in public.

Until now, the public has been left to wonder whether the officers are rebuked silently or are left to enjoy their freedoms.

But yesterday, the silence was broken by Malcom Mulenga, Zambia's second highest Police officer.

Mr Mulenga, who boldly took on officers to the shock of many high ranking Police officers, disclosed that discipline is going down among the law enforcers and there is urgent need to ensure that officers start working according to their code of standards.

Speaking when he officiated at the pass out of 99 Police officers at the School of Public Order Maintenance in the mining town of Kitwe yesterday, Mr Mulenga said the indiscipline levels have reached a point where members of the public are now filming drunk Police officers.

"These days, we see pictures of drunk Police officers being shared on social media. They even say bwana amwa (the officer is drunk). You are even smiling. That is bad, we need to protect the Police Service and we can only do so if we maintain total discipline," said Mr Mulenga.

The Deputy Inspector General of Police also showed his displeasure among the graduating Police officers who were wearing old, torn and faded colours of uniforms during the pass out parade.

He said he was disappointed that officers who were graduating were wrongly dressed and warned that if this repeats itself next year, he will postpone graduations until officers look smart and well dressed.

"Some of you are wearing uniforms which are old, like they were bought in 1964. Am disappointed, you look dirty. You look like you have just come from the jungle and were told to come and form up on this parade," said the visibly annoyed Police chief.

Due to some unprofessional conduct of its officers over the years, the Zambia Police Service has started retraining its serving officers.

Last year, a total of 1,700 officers were retrained following the Police High Command's decision to conduct refresher courses for all officers every after five years.

And this year, 3,000 officers from the rank of Constable to Chief Inspector are earmarked for refresher courses.

"Of the 99 grandaunts we have today on this parade, 84 were males while 15 were female. These officers come from all the 10 provinces of Zambia," said Patrick Bili, the Divisional Commander at the School of Public Order Maintenance in Kitwe which is popularly known as Kamfinsa.

Among the many topics the officers learnt were crowd control, gender based violence, criminal law, counter terrorism and child protection.

These refresher courses, which are being held at Sondela in Kafue, Lilayi in Lusaka and Kamfinsa in Kitwe, take one month and are aimed at helping the officers to improve their professionalism.

This is hoped to help reduce the sharing of pictures and videos of Police officers who find themselves in awkward situations.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

PAMOS Media Consultancy Trains 91 Journalists In Six Provinces

Copperbelt journalists pose with certificates after the training
By Paul Shalala

The Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) has commended PAMOS Media Consultancy for training journalists in budget tracking and investigative journalism as a way of promoting transparency and accountability in the utilisation of public funds.

Speaking yesterday when he addressed journalists from across the Copperbelt during a two day workshop organised by PAMOS Media Consultancy in Kitwe, Mr Sakala said the workshop has come at a time when Zambians expect more from the media.

“I wish to commend PAMOS and its funders the American government for organising this workshop. This training comes at a time when the public wants to know how its money is being spent. Is the money being spent wisely? These are the questions the public is asking” asked Mr Sakala.

The veteran journalist urged journalists to do their watchdog role by following up all money which is channeled towards development.

Mr Sakala said the fourth estate’s role of being the watchdog for the society will ensure that they also scrutinise the procurement process and expose any weaknesses or corrupt activities.
Jubiel Zulu poses for a photo after our training in Lusaka   

He also challenged journalists to not only follow up on the national budget but also for the budget for local authority.

“Do we know the budget for the Kitwe City Council? We need to spread our coverage to the local authority too. We need to know what is being spent on the roads, the parks and garbage collection,” he said.

Mr Sakala is a veteran media trainer and journalist whose last editorial position was News Editor at the Times of Zambia.

On Monday, Democratic Governance and Human Rights Advocates (DEGHA) President Gerald Mutelo was the facilitator during the first day of the training.

Mr Mutelo trained the journalists in the budget cycle and made them do practical exercises in budget tracking.

Nine journalists from across the Copperbelt attended the training.

American Corner Coordinator Pamela Mutale officially opened the training on Monday.

Ms Mutale urged the journalists to familiarise themselves with the American Corner which has alot of resource books for journalists who need research on various issues.

The American Corner is located at the Copperbelt University's Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.
Some of the journalists from Western Province who were trained

"I encourage you to be visiting us from time to time. We do publicise fellowships and grants which can be of interest to you. These are opportunities which can change your career path and benefit you," she said.

The Copperbelt becomes the sixth province to host the United States-funded trainings since the project started in November 2017.

Journalists in Lusaka, Southern, Eastern, Western and Central Provinces have already been trained.

Next month, PAMOS Media Consultancy will be in the North Western Province to conduct a similar training before heading north to Luapula, Northern and Muchinga Provinces in the coming months.

The trainings will conclude in September this year.

United States exchange alumni Paul Shalala and Christabel Mwango have been funded by the US government through PAMOS Media Consultancy to train at least 100 journalists in budget tracking and investigative journalism in all the 10 provinces of Zambia.

From the six provinces covered so far, 91 journalists have been trained.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

US Funded Nileleni Project To Inspire 10,000 School Girls

By Paul Shalala
Some girls in Katete learning how to sew washable pads

Three Mandela Washington Fellows have embarked on a one year long project aimed at inspiring about 10,000 school going girls not to drop out of school.

At the time when teenage pregnancies, rape and defilement of the girl child are increasing, the United States funded Nileleni Project is expected to work with over 6,000 girls in Katete District of Eastern Province and about 4,000 girls in Pemba District of Southern Province.

Evans Nsooka, a humanitarian and a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow based in Katete will spearhead the project and his focus area will be Katete while another 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow Nangamba Chintu, a journalist, will lead the project in Pemba District.

Paul Shalala is the third Mandela Washington Fellow on the project and his area of expertise will be awareness, advocacy and publicity for the public in the media.

The $22,000 project has already been launched and a number of clergy, traditional leaders and school authorities have already joined the project.

Pemba

Last week during a meeting to announce the project, traditional counselors who are popularly known as alangizi, resolved to stop conducting  traditional ceremonies for young girls and instead concentrate on encouraging then to stay in schools.

The alangizi also pledged to encourage the out of school girls to go back to school.

Dorothy Mwale, a veteran alangizi trainer from Katete, who travelled to Pemba to train other alangizi, urged the people of Pemba to desist from teaching young girls explicit marital information.
Religious leaders from across Pemba District posing
for a photo after attending a meeting where the Nileleni
Project was officially introduced to them.

She advised the alangizi to only teach girls issues such as menstrual hygiene and how to take care of themelves.

"Some alangizi are being paid money by young girls' mothers to counsel them about good morals but they end up teaching the girls how to handle men of different shapes and sizes, forgetting that they are destroying the young girls," said Ms Mwale.

She further noted that after undergoing initiation ceremonies, some girls start earning a living from selling their bed skills to other interested girls,thus destroying the entire community.

And speaking on behalf of the trainee alangizi from Pemba, Agness Phiri admitted that initiation ceremonies were still happening in Pemba and that explicit marriage information was being given to girls.

She vowed that with the training she has received with her friends, this will never happen again.

Nangamba Chintu stressing a point during the training
Mrs Phiri said she appreciated the training as it was an opener to some of the vices that were being committed by alangizi. 

In total,16 alangizi were trained.

These are expected to start community clubs for out of school girls aged between 13 and 19 years.

The alangizi will also lead out in focus group discussions.

Further, life skills such as  sewing and production of washable  pads will be imparted in the girls as part of the reproductive health education and income generating activities. 

Meanwhile, a separate meeting for religious leaders from across Pemba District has also been held to sensitise them on the Nileleni Project.

The Pastors resolved to work with the alangizi in helping to identify out of school girls through youth structures and christian alangizi from their churches.

The clergymen also resolved that they will help create awareness about the program by making announcements in their local congregations on a weekly basis.

Katete

In Katete, progress has also been made in many areas.

The project has been launched across the district and with the help of World Vision, thousands of school going girls have been engaged.
Some of the girls trained in making pads


Alangizi have also heightened their participation as they lead out in focus group meetings.

School going girls have been trained in making reusable pads which is part of the menstrual hygiene being emphasised under Nileleni Project.

The hope is that when these girls have pads, they will reduce on absenteeism in class and this may impact positively on their performance in school.

"We hope that when these girls learn how to make reusable pads, they can be able to use some and sale a good number of them so that they can raise some money for themselves," said Mr Nsooka.

The materials used to make these pads are readily available in Zambia.

Once these pads are made, the girls can use them for four to six months before they can throw them away.