Olwyn Parkinson | January 10, 2022
Pernia Wahara is a radio broadcaster based in Lilongwe, Malawi, and is the senior producer of recorded programs at PLM FM. Since starting with the station in 2015, she has created and recorded countless radio programs.
As a woman, Mrs. Wahara felt a need to address the importance of education for girls, and especially to encourage young girls to return to school after becoming teen mothers.
Mrs. Wahara was inspired to become a broadcaster as a young girl when watching a young woman on television. She recalls, “Every time this female host would come on, I would say to myself, ‘I want to be just like her.’”
As a child, Mrs. Wahara worked on a radio program for children. A group from her local station visited her school looking for children to hire as voice actors for the broadcast. After a series of auditions, they chose Mrs. Wahara. The radio station staff enjoyed her work so much that they encouraged her to pursue a college education in broadcasting and media.
As a budding broadcaster at PLM FM, Mrs. Wahara felt drawn to inspire other young girls. She especially wanted to encourage young mothers to return to school because of personal experience.
When she was in school, a classmate became pregnant and did not return. Mrs. Wahara tried to encourage her friend to complete her education. But the young mother felt there was too much pressure and too many barriers that prevented her from returning.
Now Mrs. Wahara uses her platform to share information, statistics, and resources with young mothers. She also features young mothers who have returned to school and discuss their lives and experiences on air. She finds that these personal stories are very effective at reaching women on a personal level.
Through her program, Mrs. Wahara’s hopes not only to encourage young mothers to return to school, but also to help young mothers achieve their goals and aspirations.
Reflecting on her career, Mrs. Wahara says that her mission is more important today than ever. Although there have been fewer teen pregnancies in Lilongwe than in previous years, Mrs. Wahara says that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a setback. As elsewhere, the pandemic has interrupted formal education in Lilongwe, leading to more teen marriages and early pregnancies.
Mrs. Wahara says there are many barriers for young mothers who hope to finish their education. The most important are the marginalization and stigma young mothers are subjected to from their peers and teachers, and the lack of child care while mothers are at school.
Also, Mrs. Wahara says that many young mothers feel obligated to stay home with their children. But through her program, she hopes that more parents will support their daughters to return to school as young mothers, and assist with child care.
To help her fellow broadcasters combat this issue in their own communities, Mrs. Wahara recently created an episode for Farm Radio’s “This is How I …” podcast. The episode is called “This is how I encourage teen mothers to return to school.” The podcast highlights Mrs. Wahara’s various methods for leading on-air discussions, and explores the impacts of the pandemic on girls in school.