A happy Sherifa attending her business class
A happy Sherifa attending her business class Nandi Bwanali/One Communit

Transforming Lives of Young Women: Sherifa’s Story

Feb 01 2018

Life for 23-year-old Sherifa Demba (also known as Cecelia Chisema) has taken a hopeful turn and she has a timely community announcement to thank.

A year ago, Sherifa’s thoughts were plagued with “what ifs” as the derailed plan for her life left her depressed and filled with regret.

With sadness in her eyes Mary Kulima, Sherifa’s grandmother, explains, “Sherifa was a very intelligent girl. I believed she took after her mother who is an excellent primary school teacher. Unfortunately, Sherifa chose to ignore everything we taught her when she fell in love with Lasten.”

Lasten and Sherifa begun their relationship when they were both students in Form 2 in TA Mwambo, Zomba. Young and in love, the two teenagers engaged in unprotected sex. A few months later, at 16-years-old Sherifa discovered she was pregnant.

“Ashamed, I dropped out of school and I left my mother’s home. I went to live with my grandmother and wait for Lasten to finish his secondary school education. Two years later, we got married.” Sherifa shares.

Lasten Demba is now 26-years-old and now Sherifa’s husband. Lasten and Sherifa live in a small hut next to Sherifa’s grandmother. Lasten owns a barbershop in the nearby market. They have two children Manuel (7) and Megan (4). Married life was very challenging for Sherifa as she struggled with her husband’s infidelities and her lack of financial independence.

Sherifa recalls, “The nights he went drinking he would not come back for several days. Money to manage the home came in trickles and I was usually worried about how we would sustain ourselves.”

However, in March 2017, fortune knocked on Sherifa’s door. A community announcement was made for all out-of-school girls to join One Community’s Go Girls! Clubs, which promised to help build the confidence of out-of-school girls as positive members of the community while learning how they can prevent HIV. Keen to learn more, Sherifa joined Tiyanjane Go Girls! Club for married girls ages 20-24.

sd web 2From the group, she has been exposed to HIV and family planning education, positive parenting skills, how to protect herself from gender-based violence, and ideas on how she can become the independent woman she aspires to be. She shares all her lessons with her husband who has also been transformed through the messages.

“We went for HIV testing as a couple, we both know our status and have promised to keep each other safe,” an overjoyed Sherifa shares. “We made this promise seven months ago and my husband hasn’t slept outside our home ever since. He encourages me to continue with my club activities and he is always excited to hear about what I have learned on those day.”

Sherifa has hope for the future! She has made the resolution to go back to school this year and finish her studies. She aspires to be like local businessman Mr. Makhokwe, who owns several shops in the district’s town center as well as in her community.

To support her dream, One Community has collaborated with Save the Children and through the DREAMS Innovative Challenge, Sherifa now receives general business training three times a week. Upon completion of the training, Sherifa will receive capital from the DREAMS innovative challenge which she plans to use to start a business selling locally sourced clothes.

“I am very proud of myself. I didn’t think I could be the girl I am today and that I would actually one day own my own business. My family and husband are equally proud and have promised to support me,” a smiling Sherifa concludes.

Sherifa shares her joy with girls around her community. To date, five girls have been inspired by her story and they too have joined the One Community Go Girls! Club.

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