For the last three years, Theatre for a Change has trained more than 300 outstanding female teachers (Agents of Change – AoC) that are deployed to 225 rural schools, to support more than 9,000 girls come to school, stay in school and learn.
Zacchaeus is the only male AoC, posted in Dedza, Malawi. It might seem a bit odd at first glance, however once you’ve seen Zacchaeus work, it is clear he fits in just fine with his female colleagues. This is his story.
“Before I became a full time AoC in January 2016, I used to help the AoC that was posted at the school I teach. I took special interest in the work she was doing when I saw her bring in out-of-school girls. I thought to myself, if that can be done, then this is an initiative I’d rather support”.
Zacchaeus’ decision to assist Beatrice in running her Girls’ Club came in handy when Beatrice was posted to another school. The head teacher of the school approached him and encouraged him to talk to the Theatre for a Change officials to ask to take over the club, so the project could continue.
“I got in touch with Theatre for a Change and they asked me if I would be comfortable taking over the Girls’ Club, seeing as most of the sexual and reproductive health content might make for an awkward space with the girls. And truly at first the girls were shy and not open with me, being a man tackling sensitive issues otherwise considered as a taboo in our society. But over time, they opened up and that is no longer a challenge.”
Upon taking up the new role, his fellow male teachers at the school began calling him “madam” because he chose to take up a female teacher’s responsibility at the club to mentor these girls. In spite of this mockery, Zacchaeus stuck to his guns and sooner than later, they began to admire his work, some going as far as offering help when need be.
“My vision is for these girls to be decision makers, it is all possible if the girls are educated. The lack of knowledge is what is leading a lot of these young girls astray. I do this to help them make the right decisions.”
After many years of a lot of effort to empower girls and women, it has become clear that men need to be included. Our efforts will be rendered irrelevant if we do not include the male population, who are by tradition the decision makers and bread winners. Now more than ever men must be included in this important conversation of protecting and educating the girl child.