Dear Esteemed Readers,

As we dive into the fourth month of 2024, it is crucial to reflect upon an aspect of community development that was neglected some three decades ago – the “Youth Week.” This initiative involved schools and communities uniting for extensive development endeavours without expecting monetary compensation. In Traditional Authority Katuli, Mangochi, Malawi, a sturdy structure stands proudly, bearing the inscription “Youth Week Project 1978,” a testament to the enduring community effort. It is imperative to document and highlight such projects.

Youth Week was a beneficial endeavour that facilitated the transfer of skills from older to younger generations, providing essential labour for infrastructure development, such as school block construction, road clearing, and sanitation management in schools, health centres, and other communal areas. Additionally, it fostered patriotism and a sense of ownership towards the nation.

Regrettably, in some areas, Youth Week has been replaced by food-for-work programs, potentially leading to challenges in fostering a sense of ownership, where communities expect compensation for all efforts. This shift has created obstacles in cultivating patriotism where such initiatives are absent. It is crucial to rethink the National Youth Week and rebrand it as a Community Development Week, as being community development conscious and contributing to national development, where small acts at the community level can lead to significant developmental actions.

We have roads and paths that require rehabilitation, yet they are left unattended. These roads lead to schools, health facilities, and other communal amenities. Imagine a treacherous road leading to a health facility, and a maternity case must be referred to a district or rural hospital. An already complicated maternal health situation becomes exacerbated by a bumpy and difficult road, which instead of a 20-minute journey to the main road, takes over 1 hour and 30 minutes on a rough and bumpy path. Are we truly serious about preventing maternal deaths? Do we relate these maternal health issues to road infrastructure? Is this small path road part of the national road network? In Machinga, around Traditional Authority Nyambi, when villagers were working on the Integrated Functional Literacy project around 2006, they constructed a bridge that connected a health facility to the main road. There was no money for this work, but communities identified this as a need in their area. We are aware of the constituency development fund, but we do not believe this fund is sufficient to clear paths to some village-level engagements.

Reintroducing and rebranding Youth Week as a “Community Development Week” is a stride towards mobilizing and educating communities on the importance of participating in development projects. Engaging businesses to support community initiatives, involving youth, and fostering a sense of ownership and engagement in national development are key objectives.

By depoliticizing development efforts and promoting civic engagement, we can enhance community participation. Village Development Committees, Area Development Committees, and ward Councilors play pivotal roles in driving these development initiatives forward.

Let us embrace the opportunity in April 2024 to revitalize community development efforts and instil a sense of pride and responsibility in our communities.

Have a fruitful month.


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