Shooting for the stars, with help from Socceraid

A better future for every child

By Rebecca Phwitiko
Rose (shooting ball) enjoys playing netball at a UNICEF supported children's corner in Blantyre, southern Malawi
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Chikondi
15 June 2022

Located some 15km away from the heart of Blantyre city, Machinjiri township has little of the amenities of the city that surrounds it.  On the outskirts of the township are little convenience shops and running water for each household. These disappear as one drives uphill, further inside the township where 15-year-old Rose lives.

Rose is in her final year of secondary school. She walks 1 hour 45 minutes to her school every weekday. Rose wants to understand more about the world about her and her favourite subject is Geography. She goes to a UNICEF supported children’s corner where she enjoys playing netball with her friends and learns to cook.

 “We dance, sing, cook and play netball. Because of the children’s corner I know what to do to achieve my dreams and I know who to talk to if I have a problem,” explains Rose.

A safe space for children to play with friends
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Chikondi
A safe space for children to play with friends

Children's Corners are safe havens where children go after school to play and connect with friends. Beyond play, these children’s corners serve as referral points for child protection services by connecting children to various services that they require. Children are encouraged to open up, even about painful life experiences such as abuse. Children’s corners also address developmental needs, including HIV impact mitigation. UNICEF supports the Government to train children’s corner facilitators and provides recreational materials for the children.

According to a 2015 violence against children survey, Malawian children experience high rates of violence with one in five girls and one in seven boys experiencing sexual violence. Most children who are sexually abused in Malawi experience it on multiple occasions. One in three females define their first sexual experience as non-consensual. Of those children, a very small percentage will ever seek professional help. Sixty per cent of girls and 54 per cent of boys who experienced sexual abuse told someone, and yet only less than 10 per cent received professional help.

Stephano Joseph, District Social Welfare Officer for Blantyre
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Chikondi
Stephano Joseph, District Social Welfare Officer for Blantyre

Stephano Joseph is District Social Welfare Officer for Blantyre. He sees children’s corners as an important platform strategically linked to other child justice delivery platform such as one stop centres and victim support units. Together, these structures help address the challenges that children face in Malawi.

A solar powered water scheme at the children’s corner enables children to get safe water
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Chikondi
A solar powered water scheme at the children’s corner enables children to get safe water

With funding from Soccer aid, UNICEF is helping to strengthen structures that protect children and increase awareness and capacity of the community to report cases of abuse.

“We are engaging communities to identify child protection risks and issues in their area, propose solutions and report child abuse cases. In 2021, 717 cases of child abuse were reported. This was more than the number of cases reported in 2020,” explains Stephano Joseph.

 The soccer aid initiative is also providing safe water and sanitation facilities to children and communities in peri-urban and rural areas of Blantyre and Lilongwe districts.