By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi
It’s a bright summer morning at Chatuwa Primary school. Children are running about and playing games during break time. Their excitement reaches a new level when a UNICEF vehicle drives into the school compound. Out of the vehicle comes a young lady called Sangie, one of Malawi’s top female reggae and dancehall artists.
It’s a big day for Sangie (born Angel Mbekeani) as she is about to become UNICEF Malawi’s first female Champion for Children. It’s an equally big day for students at Chatuwa Primary School who welcome Sangie to the school. The student council members are excited to give Sangie a tour of the Safe Schools programme activities that their school is implementing with support from UNICEF. This aims to make the learning environment safe for children, especially to protect girls from violence.
The tour began with a session on gender based-violence, led by a police officer trained in child protection. They answered questions on the different types of abuse that children experience and the action that should be taken. Next, student council members showed Sangie a complaints box, where children who have experienced abuse can report this in a confidential way. Sangie and the other visitors listened to the children with interest.
As the Safe Schools tour came to an end, the children led Sangie to the school hall, where she signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UNICEF. “As a Champion for Children my duty is to get the messages to the right people on making sure that sure that young people are protected, and that schools are safe for everybody, including boys and girls,” Sangie said.
The 24-year-old is very passionate about children’s issues. When she stood up in front of Chatuwa students in the school hall, the connection was already visible. “Children, you should love school and work hard,” she told them with enthusiasm. “You should also remember that you have rights. Do not be afraid to open up and report violence if you experience it.”
UNICEF Malawi Representative Johannes Wedenig, was also delighted to sign Sangie as a Champion for Children. “We are excited to welcome Sangie into the UNICEF family, where she will advocate on behalf of Malawi’s most vulnerable children,” he said. “Her passion and energy are inspiring. We look forward to an exciting partnership and to see her continue to raise the voices of the young people she reaches with her music and her story.”
Sangie was selected after polls of young people on Facebook and U-Report named her the most inspiring female celebrity for teenage girls. Respondents said she was a successful, inspiring celebrity with a positive personal life story. She joins fellow musician Fredokiss, who was appointed a Champion for Children in February.