March 26, 2016 marked my one month stay in Chiradzulu. Though far from perfect, my stay in rural Chiradzulu has been remarkable to say the least. The past 30+ days have exposed me to diverse social nuances that continue to challenge - and in the process, deepen my comprehension of the dynamics of life in Likoswe village.
In relation to my service as a CorpsAfrica volunteer, a few salient reflections are in order. So far, I have attended 4 community gatherings (I organized 2 of the 4 meetings) and generally speaking, all 4 meetings were fruitful in a sense that I noticed raw desire for progress in most of the attendants. The zeal to initiate change has been visible during all 4 meetings. For example, during one of the meetings that I organized, a lady named Mrs. Ellen Chikuse gave an assurance that the residents of Likoswe village have the ability to work as a unit when solving collective problems. "Achimwene, anthu a mwa Likoswe sititengela pamgong'o ntchito za chitukuko," she declared. To me, her courage to utter such a bold remark invoked a sense of belief and inspired me give out the best I can.
Other similarly significant communal assets that I have observed include: my site's proximity to Blantyre, which provides a major market for people's farm products, extensive road networks, including a tarmac road (easy transportation), and the presence of Tiwasunge Community Based Organization, which has been working relentlessly to promote transparency and accountability in development projects, specifically projects that are funded by the government through the Local Development Fund (LDF).
On a slightly negative note, I am concerned with men's apathy towards development initiatives. In terms of numbers, women's attendance has outstripped by far men's in all the 4 meetings that I have been to. For instance, my maiden meeting had 8 male attendants to 18 women. My second meeting, which was a low profile gathering where 11 people were expected, 4 women against 1 man showed up. Through interviews, I have established that this worrying trend is a norm here - most men simply disregard community meetings.
At the moment, I have no clue why most men in Likoswe village prefer to skip development gatherings, but one thing that I know is that this scenario is not necessary unique to Likoswe village. During PST, Mr Joseph Kandiyesa of Kindle Orphan Outreach, which is based in Salima district, lamented that his organization was encountering this same problem in their effort to engage communities in Salima. This could be a countrywide problem. I don't know if my fellow CorpsAfrica volunteers in Malawi are facing the same problem in their respective sites. Regardless, I plan to uncover the core reason why most men in my community shun development meetings.
Before I close, allow me to give you some good news. I deliberately saved this one for last. So congratulations for reading this post up to this point. Here is the news: with assistance from fellow Volunteers, I now know how to cook rice in a pot. Before joining CorpsAfrica, I could even screw up cooking rice in a rice cooker. Yes, I was that type of a person. For this reason, I am really proud of this achievement. Thank you CorpsAfrica family for enriching my kitchen skills!