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So that you know - more from Malawi

At the 11th AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development (November 14, 2008, in Cape Town), Geeta Misra painted the landscape for ‘The Power of Movements’ by suggesting five common elements amongst movements: a feeling of injustice; an understanding of oppression as a political condition; the desire to change political conditions or to shift power; the belief in the power of many; and the presence of the powerless.

In all the regions visited, the five elements are present and the rage they have ignited is being used to create small spaces and cracks for building a grassroots women’s movement. There are signs that anger is being combined with a growing willingness to fight back. There are many things women are demanding. These demands are beginning to mobilise them in the struggle; to unite them into a potentially powerful force for social change.

The women we met belong to either the Women’s Forum or the Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS. The Women’s Forum is a loose network of women’s organisations and individuals spread across the northern region. Other than  dancing, singing, and showing off their work, the women pointed out the following:

They are still denied land and yet they are the ones who labour, develop and preserve the knowledge of agri­culture, of plants, domestic livestock, fishing etc. Although these skills are vital to the survival and comfort of the middle class, there is no recognition of this fact - in­deed, their vital skills and knowledge are denigrated as inferior.

Women are developing abnormal bodily structures due to the kind of ARV that they are taking (Sindi knows more about this condition and will be sharing her knowledge later).

The young people who are organising are doing so with hardly any resources (financial, visual aids etc). They don’t engage in creative activities such as:

  • writing
  • singing
  • music
  • photography
  • painting/drawing
  • organising gigs or parties
  • story-telling
  • dancing
  • woodwork or metalwork

They are sharing whatever knowledge they have but will soon run out of steam. Young people get tired quickly if there is no creativity.

In one district, Karonga, home to two JASS-trained political activists, Margaret and Caroline, there have been frequent earthquakes, as many as 60 since the year began. There is no word about it in the media. The people living in the area don’t know what is happening; all that they have been told is that they should stop sleeping in their houses and sleep in tents instead. The tents are not adequate and the few available are allocated in the most ‘opaque’ manner. The area is facing a dangerous, unequal, and increased environmental catastrophe. Mining of uranium has started in the area and could be the cause of these earthquakes. Women are organising a protest march in two weeks time. 

Girls are being trafficked to South Africa for the World Cup.

None of the women we visited, nor their organisations, has a computer. To have access to email is expensive and far from where the women stay.

They don’t know how to raise money and from whom.