Most members never have been out of their village and a lot of them barely have gone to school, this causes a lack of knowledge and management skills to effectively run the committee. Here for most of the workshops I have been facilitating the past 9 months were to enlarge their knowledge about forestry and ecosystems and improve their management skills.
To give the committees the opportunity to exchange their knowledge with committees in other areas and to inspire them we brought 12 representatives of the committees and 1 chief to Zomba. Quite a challenge since most of the representatives never been out of their home area, stand alone ever slept in a lodge with showers, doors with locks and all kinds of luxury. And most of my representatives are female and they can’t leave their babies and toddlers behind. We rented a minibus to transport the people, babies and toddlers and while I was sitting in front with my colleague, the forestry officer, I felt like a teacher going on a schooltrip with a bunch of very excited children. Singing, laughing and chatting non-stop during the 7 hour drive up to Zomba. During this drive I again was reminded about the role we, female volunteers, have in Malawi. My colleague translated some of the conservations and a lot of them were about the women telling their toddlers to work hard and go to school so they can grow up to be just like me… Especially the mothers telling their daughters not to give up, to take example out of me, because for them I am the proof a woman can achieve something and be independent. It is something that put’s quite some pressure on us. In Malawi I am not only ecologist, climate adaptation advisor, manager, accountant
and facilitator, I am also a role model and feminist. 24/7. A role you get involuntarily just by working and living in Malawi. But more about that later.
In Zomba they followed a three day workshop facilitated by LEAD. LEAD is working on a climate adaptation project in the catchment area of Lake Chilwa since 2008. A lot of the activities we are doing in our districts are based on the successes of this project. During the workshop we taught the representatives more about reforestation, conservation agriculture, monitoring of wildlife and management. And we included a fieldtrip to a committee in
Machinga that achieved a lot on forestation and conservation agriculture. The committee showed our representatives around, discussed activities and measurements that are successful and danced and sang the whole day long. For us a great day in the field with a lot of Malawian culture and off course the women had to give us some dance lessons, which caused a lot of hilarity among the Malawians.
The workshop was hugely successful and caused quite a revolution in my district. Most of the chiefs in my project area are corrupt and/or lazy. They don’t step up against offender who cut trees or open vegetable gardens in
protected forests. Contrarily, they give away these areas in exchange for money or are cutting down the trees themselves. In Zomba the committees saw what happened and what they could achieve when they have strong leaders, who respect the law and give support. After the Zomba workshop my committees stood up against their chiefs, demanding by-laws and the end of corruption. I almost felt sorry for the chiefs, who were with the 5 of them against almost 50 very angry and frustrated women. But we made a huge victory. The chiefs confessed there
mistakes and together we are now going to work on the formulation and implementation of by-laws on natural resources, sanitation, gender, HIV/AIDS, corruption and education in all my villages (22) and some neighboring villages. For me a huge amount of work since I have to facilitate and manage the whole process, but I am very excited about the achievement and, finally, I have most of the officers in the district active and cooperating. In a next blog I will tell more about these by laws and the importance of them for the development of Nsanje.
Off course I wouldn’t want to deny anyone the opportunity to watch our dancing skills, here for I uploaded a video that gives an impression of the workshop we did with the committees in Zomba and Machinga. You can watch the video on the By Nature You Tube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gbqgrx3sTcc