Loveness comes from Zidunge Village in central Malawi. She is 21 years old and has seven siblings, one sister, and six brothers. When you look at her, she is such a sweet tiny girl. But even with the timid demeanour that African girls are socialized to have as they grow up, you can see she has big dreams. She is the secretary of the Network for Youth Development in Agriculture in her village.
When Jupelo got pregnant in 2013 just after writing her final secondary school examinations, she gave up hope of furthering her education. The pregnancy was unplanned and Jupelo’s expectations of a brighter future crumbled to dust, she said. She was only 18. With the baby on the way and her education disrupted, the young woman never believed the future held anything better for her.
Back home in DR Congo, Shabani was a popular musician. He was respected and well known in the city he came from. However, all that changed when the civil war broke out and he decided to use music to attack the ethnic conflicts that the war bred. Shabani wrote a song that rubbed the wrong people the wrong way and he soon realized that he had made a dangerous blunder. Powerful people who were not amused by his song started sending him death threats and tracking his moves.
When asked about the profession she would love to pursue, she sat upright, looked utterly confident and gave an answer that is least expected from a 15-year-old girl. Even more pleasantly surprising is that it is a profession that will make her the first woman in the country to hold it and perhaps the second person to have that title.
Ishimwe, a refugee from Burundi, arrived in Dzaleka Camp in 2007 after being transferred from Luwani Refugee Camp following its closure. Unlike most refugees in Dzaleka, Ishimwe was self-sufficient and never experienced any financial hurdles. She ran a grocery shop in the Camp, which made her enough income to support her family. Ishimwe has a big family of 11 children but she was able to feed them from the money she realized from the shop. When an unfortunate incident left her first-born daughter with a perforated eardrum and a mild physical disability, Ishimwe’s financial status started crashing down.
“Nursing is a calling…,” Ednas said and smiled briskly. It is a calling, she added, that she heard at a tender age when she was still in primary school. In fact, according to Ednas, nursing is a passion that is embedded in her DNA and when she was young, she always had this strong urge to help the sick and the wounded. That same passion lights up her face when she talks about her vision in nursing and how she wants to help build a better healthy community in her village. Ednas has just completed her nursing course and is awaiting to sit for her examinations to acquire a Medical License. She can now see her dream and aspirations taking shape but four years ago those dreams were in ruins.
In most rural communities of Malawi, the idea of a woman studying a construction-related vocational trade like plumbing, is heavily frowned upon. Parents discourage their daughters from being involved in such courses and many people are offended by the presence of a girl wearing a work suit. It is considered a taboo. The reason is simple; the cultural belief in most villages is that construction courses belong to males and women belong in the kitchen. 19-year-old Ethel is one of the girls who found herself in that scenario when she decided to enrol for a plumbing course in our vocational training programme.
In 2009, Abdullah stepped foot in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. He had escaped his home country DR Congo; forced to leave because of a fierce civil war and partly due to a raging family feud that threatened his life. He had not come alone – he was a responsible father with two children, a wife and two of his nephews to look after. Back there in DRC, Abdullah had a decent job as a secondary school teacher and he earned a good salary but that was now all gone and Abdullah’s status changed to ‘refugee’. Survival was paramount and Abdullah knew this but then surviving without any form of employment and no business to bring in money was a big hassle.
His name is Limbikani, which in English translates to ‘work hard’. The meaning of his name aligns perfectly to his character and zeal. Limbikani is a determined, hard working 23-year-old young man who has aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur. He has encountered several hardships, most of which nearly forced him to give up and drop out of school. But he did not. Despite the hurdles he faced, he kept pushing because he had one goal in mind – to go to college, get a degree and become an entrepreneur.
It was in 2017 when Joyce and her two sisters stepped foot in Dzaleka Refugee Camp from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), marking the start of their lives as refugees. What forced Joyce and her sisters to flee DRC was the murder of their parents by rival tribal factions. Joyce’s parents were from two separate tribes which, apparently had a history of bad blood between them. Although there seemed to be peaceful co-existence between the tribes in the early stages of their marriage, the peace was to be short-lived.