Early fruits of COMSIP’s youth initiative
According to Finiasi, her club comprises 12 members who underwent COMSIP’s training in various fields, such as welding, carpentry, tailoring, cosmetology, phone repairing, and bricklaying, etc.
LILONGWE, Malawi-They did not wait until they were fully established, with a sound financial base and wide profit margins, to carry out what in the corporate world is called social responsibility, writes Kondwani Magombo, MANA.
When the youth from Luso Langa Club in Traditional Authority Masula in Lilongwe got start-up packages, in early December, to venture into vocational skills of their individual choice after a four-month training, they turned to their public health facility and offered free maintenance services.
To the youth, it was just the right thing to do after Community Savings and Investment Promotion (COMSIP) Cooperative Union Limited had given them the training, and the start-up tools, all for free, through the Youth Skills Challenge Support (YSCS) initiative.
“We live in the community and we know the challenges our community faces. So when we got the start-up tools after the training, we mobilised little resources to rehabilitate Dickson Health Centre, here in TA Masula,” explained the chairperson of the cooperative, Violet Finiasi, in an interview.
“The condition of the beds, chairs, and curtains had always been an eyesore, and that’s why we were compelled to carry out this noble task; besides, it’s only proper considering that some of our newly acquired vocational skills have hazards and, in cases of occupational injuries, this would be the first place to go to for treatment,” she added.
According to Finiasi, her club comprises 12 members who underwent COMSIP’s training in various fields, such as welding, carpentry, tailoring, cosmetology, phone repairing, and bricklaying, according to their individual preferences.
However, the services that the Luso Langa Youth Club offered in repairing the broken equipment at Dickson Health Centre mainly included welding broken windows, beds and steel chairs; tailoring torn curtains and bedsheets; and mending other broken wooden materials, such as office desks and chairs.
The rest of the youth club members helped with cleaning the surroundings and clearing sewer blockages, among other tasks, according to the chairperson.
“It’s all about commitment to doing service to the community,” explained Finiasi, and she added: “We used MK60,000 only from our club’s purse to do all this.”
The club also repaired a few broken desks at Dickson Primary School and, according to Finiasi, the members are ready to offer more services to public facilities in their community and beyond, whenever the need arises.
Luso Langa Youth Club’s gesture left the management of Dickson Health Centre speechless, as the undertaken social responsibility was least expected.
“We are very impressed with what the youth club has done: most of our furniture – especially beds – were broken and women seeking medical attention used to sleep on the floor, but that is all history now,” explained Lameck Simkoko, a medical assistant at the facility.
According to Simkoko, the repairs and maintenance works of the broken materials are a relief as it’ll reduce the list of items reported to the District Health Office (DHO) for redress.
The charity services that Luso Langa Youth Club offered to their health centre in December appear to have put the skilled members in the path of Lady Luck as more and more contracts have popped up for them to take up, according to a recent follow-up interview with Finiasi.
YSCS is a sub-programme that COMSIP is implementing under the Social Support for Resilient Livelihoods Project (SSRLP), a Malawi government project funded by the World Bank, and Social Protection Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), through the National Local Government Financing Committee (NLGFC).
Under the YSCS, a total of 721 youths from various clusters in 14 districts across the country underwent vocational training from March to June 2023 before they were given start-up packages in early December of the year.
The second cohort starts in February, targeting 1,789 youths drawn from the 14 districts, namely: Chiradzulu, Blantyre, Phalombe, Balaka, Dedza, Lilongwe, Dowa, Ntchisi, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, Nkhatabay, Karonga, Rumphi and Chitipa, where COMSIP is implementing the SSRLP.
According to the Development Communication Officer for COMSIP Cooperative Union Limited, Mercy Kayuni, besides the start-up tools, the youths are also getting loans, averaging K300,000 from COMSIV Limited, a finance subsidiary of COMSIP Cooperative Union Limited, to establish themselves in business.
“The youths that are targeted in the YSCS programme are those who are either on Social Cash Transfer (SCTP) or Climate Smart Enhanced Public Works Programme (CS-EPWP) and they are in COMSIP groups, or those youths whose guardians are in COMSIP groups under the SSRLP,” explained Kayuni in an interview.
“The programme aims to help the youth start businesses, or get employment that will help them get out of extreme poverty,” she added and further clarified that the training is conducted by TEVETA-certified craftsmen from the communities the youths come from.
Elsewhere in TA Kabudula in Lilongwe, youths who underwent the YSCS training are also celebrated within their communities for their distinguished works.
One such youth, Exton Chimbalu, who trained as a carpenter, went straight into the trade immediately after the training, using borrowed tools just to keep the knowledge fresh, and he had a lot of furniture to his credit by the time the start-up package came.
Now, with his tools to work with, Chimbalu, a member of the Mwaiwathu Club under the Kachere Cluster, sees himself becoming the most sought-after carpenter in TA Kabudula, and beyond.
Like most youth club members under the YSCS that this reporter randomly interviewed in Lilongwe, Dowa, Kasungu and Ntchisi, Chimbalu envisages the most touted MW2063 Agenda already in the bag,
“If government and partners continue to pump resources into such youth projects, MW2063 will be a walkover: think of the development that the 721 youths from cohort 1 can bring to the country if put together?” he wondered.
The picture of the youth’s contribution towards the country’s development as we think, talk and walk MW2063 gets broader and more impressive when one takes into account that the YSCS project will have trained 4,300 youths by 2027 when the project expires.
The custodian of the funding purse, NLGFC, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, are both optimistic that with such a good start, the YSCS sub-project is set for a meaningful impact on the country’s economic development.
NLGFC Enterprise Development Specialist, Miriam Saiwa, described the YSCS sub-project as “a great initiative” and that “as more youths get trained in various skills in the communities, the youths will be able to bid for bigger projects within and beyond their communities through skills consolidation, which will allow them to earn more income.”
Director for Youth and Sports, Judie Msusa, concurred with Saiwa, describing YSCS as an ideal model for youth economic empowerment through the skill development approach.
According to Msusa, the training packages for the YSCS sub-project respond to major bottlenecks to youth entrepreneurship, such as lack of technical and entrepreneurial skills, access to working tools and working capital.
On social responsibility as demonstrated by the youth of TA Masula in Lilongwe, Msusa said it is a highly appreciated noble obligation, and in line with a pillar in the national youth service programme.
“I’d like to appeal to all stakeholders working with youth in skills training to adopt the model that is being implemented by COMSIP so that youth are meaningfully being involved [in the development of the country],” she said through a brief questionnaire.
What the youth involved in the YSCS initiative have already demonstrated seems to vindicate the Minister of Youth and Sports, Uchizi Mkandawire’s appeal to councils on 4 December 2023, during the official handover of the starter-up packages in Kasungu.
The minister had said: “To the district councils, let’s promote these young people. They can ably carry out projects that are supported through different funding mechanisms at the council level.
“They (youth) are available in the communities, as such, there is no need to bring contractors from outside their communities.”