She looks young, of course. However, you cnnot believe she has been married for 38 years. Today, she has a story, a story that dates back to 1972, the year she got married.
Triphonia Kadzuwa from Kalinde Village in Traditional Authority Mlauli, Neno is one of the traditional birth attendants (TBAs) in the area.
Kadzuwa is among the TBAs who have chosen to fight against traditional practices that lead to increased cases of HIV and Aids in the country.
When she just married, her parents told her of kudika. This is a traditional practice where a woman who is more than; or with a baby who is less than six-months-old; is not supposed to sleep with her husband.
The practice also denies a couple their conjugal rights when one of their children travels. Reason. Their being intimate may cause unknown sickness in the home.
People in areas where kudika is practised also do this during funerals. When there is a funeral in their community, a couple is not supposed to share a bed until all the funeral rites including kusesa have been performed.
Traditional leaders in the area have realized that these practices force men to seek sex outside their homes, thereby putting their families at risk of contracting HIV and Aids, as such they are fighting back.
In 1974, Kadzuwa became pregnant with her first child and together with her husband they decided to ignore the practice and enjoy normal sex.
â€œWhen I got pregnant for the first time, together with my husband we chose to test the waters by sleeping together.
â€œWe slept together up to the day I went into labour and to my surprise I delivered a normal child without a disorder,â€ said Kadzuwa.
Ever since she has not looked back and she gives her husband his conjugal rights even in pregnancy.
â€œWhen we found out that the traditional practice is just a myth, we agreed in our family to pretend as if we are following it while behind closed doors we are having normal sex up to the last month of pregnancy,â€ she said.
Just like Kadzuwa, traditional leaders in Ligowe are also fighting against the kudika practice in their area to ensure that men do not seek sex outside their homes in the name of preserving culture.
The leaders have a forum called Traditional Leaders Forum underBridge2 project where they work at the grass roots level to fight against harmful cultural practices.
Â The leaders are group village heads in T/A Mlauliâ€™s area and they meet once a month to update each other on how the fight is going on in their respective areas.
Group village head Makanani, who chairs the forum, says traditional practices that help in the spread of HIV and Aids were dropped since people were threatened with a penalty.
â€œGroup village heads that are found to have failed to carry out their duties in ensuring that members of their villages are not conducting such bad practices are suspended from being heads.
â€œCouples that find themselves in the web of these evil traditional practices are summoned to the chiefâ€™s council where they pay out penalties in form of chickens and goats, each according to the offence they have committedâ€, said group village head Makanani.
The traditional leaders also make sure pregnant women visit antenatal clinics as well as deliver at medical facilities in order to avoid mothers passing on the HIV virus to their children.
â€œPregnant women in our communities are also encouraged to go to clinics together with their husbands to get tested in order to protect their unborn babies from the virus.
â€œAs a community, we have an initiative where pregnant women are advised to stay alert during their last month of pregnancy or go and stay at the district hospital since the geographical setting of our district is not as favourable for pregnant women,â€ said GVH Makanani.
National Aids Commission Board chairperson Mara Kumbweza Banda could not hide her excitement at what the chiefs are doing in the area, saying if the country could have such chiefs of T/A Mlauli HIV behaviour change programmes andÂ community action groups could improve in the country.
The visit to the chiefsâ€™ council is one of the field visits to various local councils in readiness of a Joint Annual Review of the National Response to HIV and Aids in Malawi to take place from 25th to 27th September.
The field visits have been organised by Malawi Partnership Forum for HIV and Aids (MPF) and the Malawi Global Fund Coordinating Committee (MGFCC).
Kumbweza-Banda commended Neno District for its interventions in the fight against the virus saying what the delegation saw is an example of a good partnership existing between the community and the government.
Ever since Bridge2 project started in the area last September, the community is making strides as it is able to come up with laws that help them enforce proper adherence to the set laws.
Apart from banningÂ kudika in the area, they also ensure that no video hall showcases pornographic movies to prevent the youth from falling into uncalled temptations.
Beer halls and bottle stores close by 9 pm to ensure that men go to their respective homes and have time for their wives and children.
While children under the age of 18 are not allowed to patronise these places.
Said the chairperson of the traditional leadersâ€™ forum: â€œOur community has too many beer halls and knowing that places such as these can be hubs where HIV and Aids virus is spread, there is a law that orders beer hall owners to close their places at 9pm and breaking this order results in closure of the place.
â€œPeople aged below 18 are also not allowed at drinking joints in this area as this makes them prone to bad behaviours in their young ages.â€