In Malawi, as in many other countries, the youth makes up a large share of the population. Currently, over 65% of the population in Malawi is less than 24 years old (CIA World Factbook). Increasing opportunities for the generation that will drive the future has become an imperative. This is the issue Alumna Nini Brenda Sulamoyo set out to help address.
Prior to receiving an Australia Awards scholarship to study a Masters in International Development at Flinders University, Nini had been a high school teacher for 12 years. She completed her Masters in 2008.
Currently, Nini contributes to efforts to promote youth development in her position of Principal Youth Officer at the Malawian Ministry of Youth and Sports. She was part of a team that recently updated the Youth Policy and Youth Strategic Plan, a process that involved wide consultation with stakeholders at all levels, in particular the youth. These documents are awaiting publication and are expected to guide youth work in Malawi in the next five years.
But Nini’s contributions go beyond policy formulation to actual youth development work on the ground. “After I returned from the Scholarship, I was eager to implement the skills I gained in Australia to the benefit of my country and so I started to engage with the youth in their work areas. This led to one of the biggest projects I have been involved in, which included forming youth networks in the city of Lilongwe,” explains Nini.
Over 3,000 youth have registered with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the National Youth Council of Malawi to be part of these networks. The aim of these groups is to ensure that the often hard-to-reach youth obtain access to relevant information about youth development programs, with information expected to trickle down from national to district level, all the way down to the village level.
“It is not possible to invite all youth groups in a catchment area to a meeting, so the network leaders are the ones entrusted with the role to pass on information shared through the snowballing method,” explains Nini.
Nini has also used the knowledge gained in Australia to approach international donors such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union (EU) to seek funding for youth development projects.
“Australian educational institutions pursue academic excellence. My studies there have equipped me with skills such as critical thinking, the ability to analyse problematic issues and presentation skills, all of which are extremely helpful to the role I currently play. I am now able to argue for cases and reach conclusions that have helped facilitate development agendas for the benefit of the youth and the country,” adds Nini.