Malawi: Felister Chinthunzi

There is no other time that I feel on the top of the world then when a childless couple conceives after years of trying.

— Felister Chinthunzi

Felister Chinthunzi (50) is a trainer of trainers in natural family planning, reproductive health and HIV/Aids with Famli - a community-based non-governmental organization in Lilongwe. She heads the training service, sensitizing women on sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity to avoid HIV infection. She is currently organising a community orphan care center for over 60 children.

On her vocation, Felister Chinthunzi explains that the liberation of women begins in their sexual life as equal partners with men. “Women must first be respected as mothers, either future or present because they are the bearers of the next generation.” At Famli, she advances this by training and raising awareness on fertility issues - “the meaning of sexuality and its place in our total lives,” she says. "Sex is not a play thing but God's gift for propagation of the human family, which bonds married couples in love." Felister Chinthunzi, a mother of four, is convinced that fertility awareness makes people aware of sexual exploitation, dangers of rape, abuse and forced or early marriages, and educates the youth to abstain until marriage. Through family planning, couples make informed choices on conception and preparing for a family. “There has to be an open discussion.” With the formation of Tikhale Moyo Groups (Let's Live), she initiated discussions on traditional customs and practices, which are likely to spread HIV at the village level. “They discuss how some customs can be practiced without putting people at risk of HIV infection. High risk traditions include polygamy, extramarital sexual relations, marital rape, widow and widower inheritance, scarification, circumcision and forced sex for girls coming of age.” Famli's director, Father Richard Cremins, describes Felister: “She has developed a model for family life and reproductive health which can be replicated in every part of Malawi. Her lessons empower women and are passed on from mother to daughter. She is working not for the present, but for future generations.”

Fasu Consultancy and Maternal Life International (Famli)