Monday, August 17, 2009

Human Rights Training - An Eye Opener for Communities


The issue of human rights is very diverse in its nature. There are several issues that communities find difficult to understand up to this time. In the context of Malawi society, the issue of human rights brought in some conflicts with our culture. For instance, misunderstanding on the place and importance of the wife in the home. The husband was the only one responsible for the financial welfare for the home even if it the woman was the earner of the money. Women have no say over their own money yet they have every right to access the money because they worked for it. Women had no say when it comes to sexual behavior in the family, but with the coming of the open discussions on human rights they were able to open up and say something, this according to most communities was an insult to culture – a woman had no place to say how she feels.

In some communities the issue of human rights was seen as a way of diluting culture in the sense that parents were told that children especially the girl child had every right to attend school and marry at a more older age like 19, but for most parents this was seen as elusive and being striped off their power as a parent.

Apart from family, other issues affecting human and more specifically children’s rights were given very little attention. An example of this is well exemplified by a specific story told involving a teacher and a student where the teacher impregnated a girl child and as a result the girl, a minor, was dispelled while the teacher’s job remained secure; this was due to limited information that communities had on what are the rights girl child has in such cases.
As such ADRA Malawis Let’s fights HIV and AIDS in Malawi (LEFAM) project saw the gaps that were as a result of lack of information and knowledge on basic human rights. With funding from DANIDA, ADRA organized training workshops in five districts of Chiradzulu, Lilongwe, Dowa, Mchinji, Mulanje, Phalombe and Machinga between June and July 2009.

A total of 700 people have been trained in all the five districts. In order to make sure that all level of people in the community has been reached participants to the workshops training comprised of the following: the clergy, people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWAs), youth club members, traditional leaders and men and women group representatives
And to make sure that the trainings carried meaningful content that equal with community needs, facilitators for the training were expatriates in human rights from partner NGOs.

The three day training mainly focused on:

- Background, general facts and overview of human rights
- Local & universal declarations on human-rights-&-HIV-Aids issues with reference to UN UDHR, UN CEDAW, UN Convention of the Rights of Children, Malawi Republican Constitution and HIV-Aids as a human rights issue
- Vulnerability as a Human rights issue
- Role of community in mitigating HIV-Aids & Human-rights issues Human rights vs. responsibility

Through these training participants acknowledged that human rights violations happen but lacked the knowledge on the procedures on how to follow and seek redress of issues concerning human rights.

While closing one of the workshops a group village headman (see the picture below) narrated that it was the first time that his subjects had been exposed to human rights training. He said that the training had been an eye opener and the knowledge gained was priceless.
A village head speaking to the trainees

Participants to these workshops pledged to share with others the knowledge that they have gained so that the whole community benefits.
In the meantime the trained groups are working on outreach strategies to ensure that messages on human rights reach the masses for example through community dialogue sessions, youth days, and kids’ days. The youth have pledged to use theatre for development tools to come up with plays, songs and poems that will have a theme on human rights.
The clergy on the other hand, have also promised to include messages on human rights in their sermons.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Towards Food Security

The partnership between ADRA Malawi and WFP dates back to 2001. It was during the 2001/2002 planting season in which Malawi experienced a major drought which forced the government to declare a state of emergency on the national food security. The U N agency WFP together with other NGOs teamed up in order to curb the situation. A total number of twelve NGOs formed a consortium in the name of Joint Emergency Food Aid Program ( JEFAP ) which ADRA Malawi was amongst the membership. Each NGO was assigned its area of operation/ District. WFPs duty was to source the food items and NGOs did the distributions. Since then any national emergency is coordinated by the lead NGO, which is a member of JEFAP consortium in a particular area.

Currently ADRA Malawi as a member of JEFAP consortium is the lead NGO in Phalombe District which is one of the flood prone areas in the southern part of Malawi. ADRA is implementing a WFP funded program in emergency and relief operation. It is a three year program which started in Jan.08 and will finish in Dec.2010.

This program is targeting 5099 beneficiaries.

Under this program there are three components namely, Food For Work, HIV/AIDS and Sustainable Livelihood Interventions.

Food For Work activities targets able bodied households with food insecurity and beneficiaries are asked to create assets for the benefit of the community like fish ponds and irrigation dams, in return they receive a monthly ration of food items. HIV/AIDS activities target households with food insecurity and are keeping chronically ill patients or orphans. On this program beneficiaries receives a monthly ration of food items with no work for it. Unlike in the food for work.

Sustainable Livelihood Intervention (SLI) program targets HIV beneficiaries. They are supplied with small scale livestock like goats and poultry and bakery ovens for IGA as an exit strategy to the HIV program. The out of school orphans are provided with vocational training skills like carpentry, tinsmith and tailoring with start up kits as a capital for their IGAs.

These programs have had a lot of impact on the beneficiaries and community as a whole. It has improved nutrition status in the communities as verified by the nutrition survey recently conducted by MoH in the district. The food distribution has saved 5099 families from hunger and absolute poverty. This means that 25000 people have been provided with daily food rations and saved from hunger. There has been a great reduction on male migration from Phalombe to Mozambique for search of food. Development at community and house hold levels has been enhanced since people’s migration has been reduced and sale of asserts by families has been reduced.

Author: Hastings Lacha - ADRA Malawi Emergency Preparedness and Relief Coordinator

Monday, August 3, 2009

Towards a Better Future

In as much as many organizations and nations have tried to diminish the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, it still remains one of the most serious public health and development challenges. Malawi is one of the countries HIV/AIDS has been affected tremendously. The AIDS epidemic is responsible for eight deaths every hour in Malawi[1]. Out of a population of nearly 14 million, almost one million people were living with HIV at the end of 2007, with numbers infected increasing[2]. Not only does HIV/AIDS worsen poverty but it also renders a women and children vulnerable, as there are nearly one million orphans today in Malawi with women relatives being those most likely to become caregivers and providers, stretching already severely limited resources.

Yankho Konyani, ADRA M&E Assistant with the Tiyambe IGA Group

This is where ADRA Malawi, through Lets Fight AIDS in Malawi (LEFAM) project, decided to provide support. The project aims to empower Malawians both living with HIV/AIDS as well as the caretakers, orphans and the elderly to have access to their human rights such as education, food security and non-discrimination. In view of this the project introduced an initiative of Income generating activities (IGAs) early this year to financially empower communities to care for those impacted by HIV. As of now IGA group committees have been elected and trained in the targeted sites with business beginning this month.

Upon visiting one of the sites, Ntaja, we spent time with one IGA group, called Tiyambe IGA committee, who had chosen to do business selling cooking oil and flour for baking cakes and doughnuts. It is quite a vibrant group and optimistic that the business will thrive tremendously as the chairman Mr. Samuel Banda said “anthu kuno amadya kwambiri zithu zokanzinga mafuta” meaning that a lot of people use cooking oil in preparing their food in the area.

The group is very happy with the initiative because they have already planned that 40% of their profit will go to the orphans, the elderly, the chronically ill and the poor. Their vision is to see vulnerable groups benefit through having enough food, medicine, good education, clothes, soap and shelter. They are convinced their community will no longer be the same and this is all thanks to ADRA for providing not just the capital and tools for the business, but hope and empowerment to provide assistance in their own community. This marks the beginning of a vibrant business and a better life for the community with more updates as progress arises from the business.

By Yankho Konyani and Kerryn Lodo


[1] UNAIDS 2008 Report on the Global AIDS epidemic. Retrieved on the 29/7/2009 from

[2] Ministry of Health and Population, Malawi (2004), ‘Treatment of AIDS, the two year plan to scale up antiretroviral therapy in Malawi’. Retrieved on 28/7/2009 from