Dear Esteemed Readers,

Welcome to the May 2024 edition of the YONECO Voice Monthly Newsletter where we get to know the work which YONECO is doing. This month, we are celebrating International Labour Day. I would like to join the president of the Republic of Malawi, as well as the community and various institutional leaders as we celebrate the Day on 1 May 2024 under the theme ‘Exploring the impact of Climate Change on Occupational Safety and Health’. We take note that climate change has affected a number of areas including the health and safety of workers in buildings and offices among others. We need to spend time honouring those who died in the line of duty due to climate change-induced accidents. However, more important is how we will rebuild our resilience.

On 3 May 2024, we will be commemorating World Press Freedom Day under the theme “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of Environmental Crisis”. YONECO wishes all journalists the best on this day as they reflect on the challenges of the press in the emerging environmental crisis.

Malawi and the spirit of poverty that we move with and pass on to the next generation; Is it a generational curse? How do we deal with this poverty? Malawi will be 60 years old this year on July 6. We seem to have known Malawi as a developing nation and remain developing. Currently, we are among the leading nations in the category of the least developed countries. We have had several strategies in the country in responding to poverty. We had a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and mind you we were only meant to reduce poverty meaning we accepted that we need poverty. If we were serious about dealing with the vice called poverty, we could not have been focusing on reducing it but rather eradicating it. Our goal setting was too modest, and it is not surprising that instead of reducing poverty it has increased and we seem to be comfortable living with it. We then had in place several other developmental blueprints including Vision 2020 which has now been replaced with Vision 2063 which is youth-centric with mindset change as one of its pillars.

Listening to the conversations, starting with our political leaders to business and local leaders, we are getting convinced that we have a ‘Spirit of Poverty’ moving around us. The spirit of poverty starts at household level whereas a people of Malawi, we have stopped working hard. In our homes, we no longer help our children to work hard, even in school. We now have formalized cheating among students in our schools. It seems there is a general feeling that we cannot pass an examination without cheating. This, in our view, is the spirit of poverty. We then go to our various places of work where employees believe that they are working for their bosses. However, when the month ends, they do not share the amount they receive with their bosses. If we get into the government systems, the attitude is ‘nzaboma izi’ (there is no need to work hard after all this is nobody’s business). As we get possessed with the “Spirit of Poverty” we utter sentiments like ‘kulimbikila kemeneku mukufuna akutameni ndani’ (who do you want to impress with your hard work?), ‘mukugwira ngati nzakwanu’ (you are working hard as if this belongs to your family), “musamawalemelese anthu ena” (working hard in this institution only makes others but you rich). But when salaries for these delays, you will see how much they cry, we know this is the Spirit of Poverty. Why should they be crying and yet they were not working as hard?

Maybe as we clock 60 years of independence and 30 years of democracy, we need to have a serious reflection on how we are faring in terms of responding to this ‘Spirit of Poverty’. We need to think about the donor aid investments and our own financial investments and ask if we are making progress. We need to ask about the level of corruption and theft at various levels and question the impact of these issues in Malawi. We need to ask whether aid is being invested in the right schemes. This will help us to reflect on whether our aid is used correctly. We need to reflect on 480 days of allowances in a year. We need to reflect how budgets for our programmes all reflect DSAs and how various sectors of government and NGOs are prioritizing workshops likening them to investments. We need to reflect on how donors focus on the “Burn rate” as opposed to the outcomes knowing that we will be happy with the burn rate irrespective of where the funds went. Sometimes you wonder whether all these workshops are necessary.

All this is because we have the “Spirit of Poverty” that needs to be dealt with. If it is a generational curse, maybe we need deliverance.

Happy Labour Day.


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