Poor people in the countryside in Malawi most often have little opportunity to influence decision-making processes on a local or national level. This is particularly true of women and young people. Their voices are rarely heard. They have little knowledge of ongoing political and economic processes, and little knowledge of their own rights. Their needs are seldom considered when local and national policies and development plans are designed.
Civil society in Malawi is weak and poorly organized. The Development Fund puts particular effort into getting young people organized, particularly girls and young women, so they can take part in shaping social development through their organizations. By starting “Young Women Can” clubs we increase the participants’ consciousness and knowledge of their own rights. From them, this knowledge spreads, particularly to girls and young women, but also to young people in general. The clubs provide young people with improved opportunities to influence local authorities – through activities involving the whole village in campaigns directed against the authorities, or participation in development committees on a local or district level. Since we have by now established many such clubs in various parts of the country, the young people are also in a better position to influence national authorities.
The “Young Women Can” clubs are particularly important for strengthening the position and rights of women in society. They help to extend girls’ education and combat discriminatory practices at school, in the local community and the home. One of the most effective methods to prevent early pregnancies is to ensure that more girls finish their education. The clubs work actively to combat violence and abuse against girls and women. Through the clubs, more girls also get the opportunity to start small companies and make their own income.
Various forms of farmer organizations also play an important role in strengthening the voice of farmers and increasing their opportunities for influencing development processes that affect them. In Malawi, the Development Fund has worked very intensively with seed law. Increasing the consciousness of farmers of their rights to seed is an important part of this work, as is support of the advocacy work of civil society organizations that seek to ensure that the legal system takes care of these rights. We also support our partners’ work to influence agricultural strategies and climate action plans.