Segments in this Video

Introduction: Relative Values (01:57)


A celebration is held in Malawi for several boys who were circumcised. Young girls also have a right of passage; some will have sex with village elders to prove they are ready for womanhood. Ajamia Jonathan, 16, has a child with her older stepfather.

Controversial Relationship (03:18)

Jonathan begins her day with household chores. She is poor, and she and family mostly subsist on maize porridge. Her sister describes a scandal that caused significant family friction.

Initiation Ceremonies (04:10)

Life is tough for villagers who live along the southern shores of Lake Malaw; young women often become pregnant as teens. Aggrey Mfune visits the chief of Jonathan’s village who explains initiations. Esther Jonathan alludes to girls being exposed to sex at an inappropriate age.

Defending a Complex Relationship (03:13)

Kalino, 59, sees nothing wrong in his relationship with his 16-year-old stepdaughter. He suggests Jonathan and their son live with him. Jonathan’s family disapproves because Kalino had been married to Jonathan’s mother.

Abuse in Initiation Process (05:28)

Villagers celebrate the graduation of local boys from an initiation camp. Elders teach them about the history of the Yao people, morality, good manners, and sex; the boys are circumcised. Mfune describes the initiation of young girls who are taught to be submissive and often “tested” by older men.

Gender Status (01:11)

Yao girls have little social status and even less economic power; they have no right to say no to sex. Jonathan has resolved to never go back to Kalino.

Credits: Relative Values (00:10)

Credits: Relative Values

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Relative Values

Part of the Series : Survivor's Guide
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $99.95
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3-Year Streaming Price: $99.95



Girls have very low social status in many parts of Malawi. In the more traditional communities, such as amongst the Yao people, young girls and boys go through initiation rites as they move into adulthood. In some cases, girls are forced to have sex with older men as part of this, and often girls as young as 11 are married off to escape poverty. As a result, they are especially vulnerable to early pregnancy and HIV. Relative Values follows 16-year-old Ajamia Jonathan who had a child by her stepfather, who is four times her age and sees nothing wrong with their relationship. Against the background of initiation rites that are taking place at the time of filming, Relative Values explores the struggle between cultural traditions and female health and wellbeing.

Length: 20 minutes

Item#: BVL166343

ISBN: 978-1-64481-690-5

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

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