Mwila: Sewing My Future, The Way I Want

Young girls in Zambia face many problems: teenage pregnancies due to peer pressure, child prostitution due to widespread poverty and child marriage resulting from harmful traditional practices.

According to UNICEF, the Eastern Province of Zambia, where Nyimba is located, has the highest incidences of child marriages in the country. Statistics show that 29% of Zambian girls are married before their 18th birthday, and 5% are married before 15.

Reverend Chad Thawe of Pentecostal Assemblies of God church in Nyimba, says adolescents are the most neglected as there are no activities to help in their transitions to adulthood.

“We concentrate so much on children under 10 and adults both in the church and in our communities, and forget to prepare the adolescents who will become adults tomorrow,” he says.

However, girls like 19-year-old Mwila from Chipembe stores Village in Nyimba district are making a stand thanks to a dare to discover program, a training workshop developed by World Vision that equips young people with life skills and sets them on a path to find their God-given potential.

Mwila, whose sponsors live in Australia, can now afford to hope for a better future since she acquired new sewing skills, which allows her to earn income while spending time with her mother in their sewing shop near a busy interstate that connects Zambia to neighboring Malawi.

Mwila's mother, 46-year-old Diane, has four other children. She recalls what life was like before World Vision came into their community and her lingering worry for her daughter's future.

"As a mother, I had a lot of worries looking at how vulnerable our family is. My husband does not work, and this is the only source of income we have," she says. "You know, with children, it can be hard to control them, especially where peer pressure is concerned."

But the training eased her worries. "When I saw how interested in going back to school my daughter became after returning from the workshop and the subsequent four months free training she did in tailoring sponsored by World Vision, I was happy," she says. "My daughter was doing something productive, and she was helping me. I doubt this would have happened without the Dare to Discover workshop."

After the training, Mwila began to dream of becoming more.

“I was planning on getting married because I did not see any future for me even if I went back to school to rewrite my exams because I did not know where funds to pay for [college] would come from,” she says, “so I thought marrying would be easier.”

"The Dare to Discover training changed my life. I learned about how to live with people, and to believe God to lead my life and face my problems," Mwila says. "The lessons also gave me the courage to believe I could do more with my life."

Morris Mushibwe, World Vision development facilitator managing the Church, Community Engagement and Sponsorship Project, which rolls out the training says the workshop aims to achieve three things in participating adolescents.

First, participants must reflect on their own identity to gain a greater awareness and appreciation of their dignity and worth. Secondly, they gain a deeper understanding of their realities and influencers so they can make wise choices in their lives, and thirdly, they articulate their hopes and dreams and explore their sense of purpose to take actions that can help make their dreams a reality.

 "In the past, we noticed that a lot of young people gave up on school and gave in to substance abuse and notorious behavior because they had nothing to look forward to,” says Morris. “However, since World Visions started conducting Dare to Discover workshops for adolescents, we have come to see the difference."

 "The youths in this community now realize that they can be more. Others have ventured into businesses. Others are going back to school, and some are picking up livelihood skills following training," he says.

A sentiment echoed by Reverend Chad, who is now part of the team that conducts trainings after being trained by World Vision in the Dare to Discover module.

“The training workshop is now acting as a bridge to help meet the gap among young people,” he says. “Through the workshop, we help unpack lives of the young people to be responsible and find their purpose and to live with Integrity.”

” The approach to work with the church to reach the community is a welcome move,” he says. “The eyes of people are opening, and many young people are realizing they have the tools to improve their lives.”

Through World Vision, youth are educated about the dangers of child marriage. And the Gifts in Kind they receive, such as clothes, books, and shoes, further motivate the youths.

Mwila uses her mother's sewing machine to make clothes for sale when her mother is not around and helps support her family with her income.