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My Experience with IPPFAR’s Youth Internship Programme – Erasmo Mbemba (Malawi)

By Maryanne W. Waweru

By Maryanne W. Waweru

Every year, the IPPF Africa Regional Office (IPPF ARO) welcomes interns through its Youth Internship Programme. The youth internship programme is aimed at promoting adolescents and young people as key agents for social change through leadership and innovative approaches for increased access to sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services.

From August to December 2019, Erasmo Mbemba, 26, joined the internship programme. Today we hear about his experience:

Where did your interest in joining the programme stem from?

From an early age, my passion and energy towards youth programming inspired me to join the *Youth Action Movement (YAM) with the Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), which is IPPF’s Member Association in the country. Having been with YAM for three years, I developed an inclination towards youth programming in SRHR and when I came across the call for application for the youth internship program, I applied, as I was keen on contributing more to the IPPF youth agenda.

Was the selection competitive?

Yes, because it was a *competition among young people from all IPPF Member Associations in Africa (over 35 of them). Many young people responded to the call for application, and I was elated about my success. I believe my passion, experience and activeness in youth activities contributed to my success.

What proposal did you submit?

‘Young - Adult Partnership a Possibility’. The project aimed at addressing the fact that too often young people are only seen as ‘clients or beneficiaries’ and not ‘collaborators or partners’. My proposal focused on closing that gap within FPAM and for young people to be involved at all stages of governance, programming, monitoring and evaluation and finance processes within the organization.

How was your experience during the internship at the IPPF Africa Regional Office in Nairobi?

I had a wonderful experience. I got the opportunity to learn from different experts at the regional and national levels, and this has been important in my professional life. I learned how to manage a regional project under the supervision of the Youth Programmes Advisor, which sharpened my skills in monitoring and evaluation, proposal writing, budgeting and grants management.

Tell us about your project implementation back home.

We started the implementation of my project in early September 2019 in three districts of Malawi: Kasungu, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. The project had five main activities:

  1. Capacity building of staff, volunteers, services providers, young people and board members on youth-centered programming concepts
  2. Developing and rolling out a monitoring and evaluation tool for youth-centered programs
  3. Formulating a youth-centered business plan
  4. Organizing mentorship sessions for the youth-centered advisory body and
  5. Spearheading a youth congress with YAM partners

The project’s success was measured using the monitoring and evaluation framework that was specifically designed for the project during my internship at IPPF ARO. The FPAM management offered technical support during project implementation, while IPPF ARO offered both financial and technical support. IPPF ARO supported the project with $5,000. Through managing the grant, I learnt how to develop budgets for every activity, how to account for the money and how to produce financial reports.

Since the conclusion of the project, some changes have been observed, such as young people being involved in decision-making bodies at district and national level.

What advice would you give to adolescents and young people about participating in volunteer activities with organizations that align with their goals?

They should not hesitate to be part of volunteer programs because they do not know what opportunities may arise due to such programs as it was with me. They should invest their time, skills and energy in whatever they do!

Currently, Erasmo is an Environmental Health Officer and part-time lecturer in Public Health. In parallel, Erasmo is a volunteer with our Member Association in Malawi – the Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM). He is the YAM President, and the Mchinji District YAM Secretary. Erasmo holds an MSc in Sanitation, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health.

*The Youth Action Movement (YAM) is the youth arm of IPPFAR’s volunteer body based within the Member Associations, and which catalyzes youth participation.

*Every year, IPPF Africa Regional Office sends out a Call for Application inviting YAM members across the region to submit project proposals that are focused on providing solutions to gaps young people face with regard to SRHR. The competitive process sees three youth selected to participate in the Youth Internship Programme. The internship involves a one-month learning experience at the Secretariat in Nairobi, with the successful applicant implementing the project (funded by IPPF ARO) back in their home country.

Maryanne W. Waweru is the Communications Officer, IPPF Africa Regional Office

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Related Member Association

Family Planning Association of Malawi