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Latest Issue. Past Issues. The practice is most entrenched in the country's south, where Mwase's Golden Village is located. Mwase was just 10 when she was led, along with about a dozen other girls, to remote huts outside her village during winter vacation from school in August. The girls were accompanied by older women from their village in Chiradzulu district, near the border with Mozambique. According to Mwase, most of the two weeks she spent at the initiation camp were dedicated to learning how to engage in sexual acts.
She had been excited for this time with friends away from home, but that feeling quickly gave way to dread as she learned the true purpose of initiation. The man should be on top of you and you should be dancing for him, making him happy. The anamkungwi told the girls to lie on top of one another and get a feel for the various positions described to them.
This will mark them for life, and they will be ostracized if they don't complete the custom as their mothers and grandmothers did before them. These guardians often force their daughters to go through with the ritual for fear of breaking with tradition. Initiation is a centuries-old practice in the region, according to Harriet Chanza of the World Health Organization.
You are either a child or an adult. The emphasis on having sex may also have a darker purpose in a country where nearly three-fourths of the population lives below the poverty line. Chanza, who is based in Malawi, says that some parents may actually want their daughters to get pregnant at a young age. A girl is often married soon after she is found to be pregnant, deferring the cost of caring for her and her baby from her parents to her husband.
Mwase was told, "'You are a woman enough'" by an anamkungwi in her village, and informed, "'If you come out [of the initiation camp], you should sleep with a man to cleanse you of your childhood thing. You should do it plain. Mwase sits in an uneven plastic lawn chair in an empty hall used for community gatherings as she recounts her experiences.