The Centre for Young Achievers and Community Opportunity (Ceyaco) has equipped over 120 youths with vocational skills to help them become self reliant.
Ceyaco is a registered youth organisation founded in 2005, whose main objective is to provide opportunities to vulnerable youths in Lilongwe’s Area 23.
Executive director Maxwell Chaziya says the idea behind the organisation is to prevent idleness and bad behaviour.
“We offer free training to school leavers, drop outs and also build the capacity for young people to think big and dream in colour. So far, we have trained girls and boys in carpentry, tailoring, knitting and business management skills.
“We came up with the idea of establishing this organisation after seeing the rising numbers of teenage deaths caused by early pregnancies and unsafe abortions as well as increased cases of HIV and Aids,” says Chaziya.
According to the National Aids Commission (NAC)’s Malawi Aids Response Progress Report for 2015, young people account for 50 percent of new HIV infections, with HIV prevalence higher among 15-17-year-olds.
The report adds that 3.6 percent of young women and 2.5 percent of young men (aged 15-24) are living with HIV.
According to Population Reference Bureau (PRB)’s 2014 Malawi Youth Data Sheet, condom use is low among sexually active 15-19-year-olds, with only 25 percent of married females and 30 percent of sexually active unmarried females from this age group using any form of modern contraception.
NAC observes that young people often face obstacles to accessing contraceptives and health services, which increases their risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Chaziya claims that issues of early marriages and commercial sex work for girls are rampant in Area 23 being a peri-urban area scattered with bars and bottle stores. Apart from that, he notes that the population of that area is high with uneducated women.
Ceyaco, with funding from students of Sussex University in the United Kingdom when they started out, thought of intervening with something that would help keep the youth occupied while at the same time equipping them for future jobs or businesses.
Out of the 120 youths that have been trained, 15 are in employment and 13 have started their own businesses.
“The rest are struggling to find start-up capital for their businesses,” the executive director says.
Innocent Chinkhosa, a resident of Area 23 who comes from Ntcheu is one of the beneficiaries.
He attended training in carpentry and joinery between 2009 and 2010, but is still struggling to start his own enterprise despite acquiring the skills.
“I just do some piece work, but the problem is that such piece jobs are seasonal. There are times when we just can’t find piece work no matter how hard we try and in such times, life becomes unbearable.
“I am married and have two children who look up to me for everything. I really wish I could find enough tools to start my own business because then I would not have to rely on piece jobs,” says the 35-year-old.
Memory Sebastian also went through the Ceyaco vocational skills trainings.
She was equipped with business management skills in 2010/2011 before going again for tailoring and designing in 2011/2012.
“I got a tailoring machine and started a business. Even though I am pursuing studies in industrial laboratory, I am still running that business. I enjoy being a designer. And even after I attain my qualification, I will still have people helping me with the tailoring and designing and I will just be directing them,” she says.
She adds that through the trainings and later her business set up, she generates whatever little she can to supply her basic necessities.
“I cannot always rely on my parents. So, essentially, I am not the only one who has benefited from these trainings, all the others who went through these trainings benefited, too and can afford to do certain things on their own without relying on someone else,” she says. n