Malawi: Irene Chaluluka

Funding polices shock me. Donors do not seem interested in our work because we promote abstinence, not condoms, which have proved ineffective here. Prevention is all about behavioral change.

— Irene Chaluluka

Irene Chaluluka is a field coordinator for the Sub-Saharan Africa Family Enrichment program (Safe). For eleven years, Irene has been involved in implementing “Why Wait?”, a life skills and HIV/Aids educational program in Malawi. Through “Why Wait?” Irene has successfully promoted abstinence among the youth. She has trained thousands of trainers on the initiative. Irene has also helped to export “Why Wait?” to Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. Her major challenge in promoting the initiative is inadequate funding. She has personally endured the HIV/Aids affliction.

Irene stood in her hotel room with shedding tears. The images she had seen in an Ugandan video hours before would not escape her mind. She had seen enough of people suffering of Aids. She could not take it anymore. She had to do something. The Ugandan video was just too appalling. It was the story of a village whose entire adult population had died of Aids. Not a single adult remained. One of the oldest surviving children was eleven. She had assumed parental responsibilities from feeding her siblings to providing security. The video had evoked emotions within her to try to make a difference. Two years later, Irene’s ex-husband was diagnosed with HIV. Her marriage had crumbled nine years earlier because of his infidelity. Irene nursed her ex-husband in her house. He died on August 9, 1998. Irene’s oldest daughter fell ill. She was HIV positive. On her deathbed, Irene’s daughter challenged her mother to fight Aids among the youth. Irene has focused on HIV/Aids prevention in schools, through life skills training, character development and abstinence. "Why Wait?" has gained popularity among the youth in Malawi and beyond. Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda show interest in the program. By the end of 2005, "Why Wait?" is expected to be part of the school curriculum in Uganda - a curriculum Irene helped to develop in many ways. A single mother of four boys and two girls, Irene also sits on the board of several youth organizations throughout Malawi. Her greatest dream is to see "Why Wait?" in every African country.

Sub-Saharan Family Enrichment program (Safe) Children Promotion Organisation