Using public transport can be a nuisance or a source of pleasure on your personal life. But then, that depends on your attitude really and nothing much. I mean, here we are, paying certain amounts to reach a given destination, it should not matter much who or what position you are.
Well, that’s what I think. I am an avid traveler; and I enjoy it.
I am, however, always amused by the way we people behave on bus rides, more so, the stories we share.
Recently, whilst seated on a minibus as I knocked off from work, my attention was tickled by a conversation by some two men seated close to me. One was spotting a very dirty and oily overall. It was clear from their interaction these men were friends of some sorts.
You couldn’t ignore them either. They were chatting on top of their voice. Usually, tired after a long day at work, I normally turn to the solace of my headsets and often don’t pay much attention to the chatter around me. Not this day.
Something caught my attention.
These guys, apparently, were coming from some sort of “ganyu” (piecework) and parts of the conversation suggested they had permanent jobs as well.
Somehow they had cooked a lie to their boss so that they could go and make some quick bucks; they proudly volunteered this information, before further lamenting how the money they are making is not enough to cater for their families’ needs.
One by one, they listed the litany of things desperately demanding their financial prowess: breakfast for the kids before they go to school, other school needs, lunch, supper, clothes, rentals etc….
The look on other commuters’ faces could hardly conceal agreement. Some nodded while others said as much. Everyone in the minibus seemed to agree how the economic conditions are tough on every one.
What however, rattled me and a few other women in the bus, was what was suggested as the coping mechanism by the men.
One of the protagonists, in the overall, pointed out how his 10 and 12 years old girls has been sent to the “village” to help their grandmother in running the house until further notice. Apparently, he had five children, two girls and three boys.
“Why the girls and not their three brothers?” I asked.
“The boys will be ‘men’ soon,” uttered a response from the friend. He continued: “They will have to fend for their families, on the other hand, the girls, can always find a husband to fend for them.”
It was clear that, at that point the men had made up their mind that they had to sacrifice the education of their daughters for that of their sons; these girls will miss out on their mother’s and father’s parental love, care and guidance.
And my heart sank.
As Malawi joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 2016 World Population day on 29th July, the theme for this year brings a lot for discussion on the table. This year’s theme, “Investing in teenage girls” begs us to realize that it’s high time we took stock of what “investments” are we advocating for? From who? And when?.
We should all be concerned that early child bearing in Malawi is more common in the rural (31%) than urban (21%) and that 29% of girls aged 15-19 in Malawi have already begun child bearing. School dropout rates is high among the girls and especially those in the rural area.
As a nation, this should not be just another commemoration, leaders, communities and parents must focus on and stand up for the human rights of the marginalized teenage girls, particularly those who are poor, out of school, exploited, or subjected to harmful traditional practices, including child marriage.
Giving equal opportunities to all our children and young people must be a must for everyone, at all times. The attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda depends on how well we support and invest in our teenage girls, now.