She was explicit in her statement. She would rather be a prostitute than somebody’s wife.
At only 17, Mercy Chande, from Ngasale Village in the area of Traditional Authority Nsamala in Balaka is already a “tried and tested” prostitute at the boma.
Some of Mercy’s clients are twice the age of her father, but none has been disappointed with her service, she told me.
“My friend, Mwatitha, introduced me into this trade when I was about 15. It’s risky, but I’ve to do it for money,” said Chande in an exclusive interview just outside Uncle Time Pub at Balaka.
“Sometimes I feel pity for myself. It’s not true that at my age I should be running around with men of my father’s age. But what can I do?” she asked.
Mercy does not harbour any ambition now; she has lost hope in life. Although she would like to do a business of some sort, but doesn’t know where to get money for capital.
“I know there’s Youth Enterprise Development Fund (Yedf), but I don’t qualify for it. I don’t have money for membership fee,” she explained.
Balaka is known to be the home of music, but is fast becoming the home of adolescent prostitutes. Just take a night walk at the boma and you will appreciate how far Malawi is in ridding our streets of night queens.
What is more worrying is the fact that the majority of these commercial sex workers are children of school-going age, but don’t attend school.
It is everybody’s ambition to get a decent employment soon after finishing education.
But school no longer pays dividends, Mercy contended, that she would rather continue with her nocturnal trade. In her confession, lack of employment was one of the driving forces behind her going into prostitution.
With funding from Unicef, Nkhadze Alive Youth Organization (Nayorg) is implementing a number of programmes in Balaka, Ntcheu, Machinga, Mangochi and Zomba whose aim is to help the youths to nurture their inborn talents into a source of employment.
Nayorg executive director Charles Sinetre said Sunday that the problem of unemployment has become so critical in Malawi and is forcing many young people to lose hope for the future.
Sinetre, however, advised the youths to develop a new approach to the problem by nurturing their inborn talents and turn them (talents) into self-employments.
He observed that using their own human resources, young people can manage to create self-employments in their localities.
“We’ve discovered that most of the visions and ambitions that young people harbour in their adolescence do not necessarily end into reality.
“So we’re saying instead of the youths playing football as a sport, why can’t they take it as their career at the same time?” said Sinetre.
“I’m a living witness to this fact; 90 percent of the country’s musicians have not gone for music school, but are able to impress their audience. So we’re saying; these inborn talents that young people have can be the best source of employment if well nurtured,” he added.
Mercy has heard about Nkhadze Alive Youth Organization (Nayorg) and the youth programmes it is implementing in Balaka. But she confessed that she has never thought of approaching the organization for assistance.
She feared that even if she may have a talent, Nayorg would not be interested to help her because she is illiterate. But Sinetre stated that Mercy was one of the reasons for Nayorg’s existence.
“We exist to help such as her. Prostitution is not the best option; she should feel free to come and receive our assistance in whatever form. That’s why we came up with role modelling and beauty contests for such youths so that they can use their beauty to spread messages on the dangers of HIV and Aids,” he said.