By Twandy Mwangonde, Chisomo Ideas, Malawi, 2017-2018 Diploma Course
I work for ‘Chisomo Ideas’ in the community of Chinsapo in Lilongwe, Malawi. Our organisation’s main focus is women and youth. We have a soccer team, an after-school program called street school and a women’s and girls’ program. I am mainly involved in the women and girls program.
Going through TFT challenged and changed my whole development approach and my perspective. I learned to listen more to the people I work with. I tend to let them do most of the talking and coming up with solutions, choosing which projects to take on. I don’t normally influence the change. I facilitate the change process and give them my support.
At the same time, I face challenges at an organisational level due to my new views about development and I have difficulty in communicating what I learned from TFT to my colleagues Concepts I brought from TFT like listening more, involving people more in the change process or, instead of thinking for them, let them think for themselves, seem strange to my workmates. However I continue to apply Freire’s principles and allow the community to rather tell me what they want.Community members creating their own solutions have had positive outcomes. The women we work with in the community have started a bakery business. They came up with the idea and I just supported them. They started to do their own baking and their own accounting. All I did was to train them to bake. After that I gave them a starter pack. They bought their own equipment and we helped with the ingredients. They do the work. They divide tasks among themselves like who will bake today and who will go to the market to sell.
I just check up on them at the end of the week to see how they are doing. The major change was in the approach – they chose something, they are working towards it and they are managing it themselves. I am just the support system. I can see there is more ownership towards the bakery than any other thing because now I see they can do it by themselves. I feel there are more women to follow-through with what we have done; it is what is coming from them and not from me or anybody at work. There’s also more commitment towards whatever they do, so I think it is working!