Building community leadership in Malawi

iLEDA Volunteer Amy Eaglestone from the Netherlands visits Idasa’s iLEDA School for citizen leadership for democracy in Malawi. She travelled to the southern African country with iLEDA School head Noxolo Mgudlwa and trainers Auburn Daniels and Lesley Adams. She discovers several development challenges and argues for citizen leadership training.
By Amy Eaglestone
It was raining when my colleagues and I landed on the only flight that day into Lilongwe International Airport in Malawi. It wasn’t the tropical rain that buckets down to offer a short respite from the African heat and humidity, but that European drizzle, that does nothing but make your clothes and hair damp and uncomfortable. So as we ran across the tarmac to the shuttle bus, I mentioned to my colleague that this wasn’t exactly what I was expecting in the heart of Africa.
But to a westerner like me, Malawi met my expectations. The women wear colorful traditional African dresses, they carry heavy buckets of water and other necessities on their heads, food is sold from small stalls or just off the ground along the main roads, the red soil stains everything, coca-cola in little glass bottles is so sweet it makes your teeth stick together, you need a 4×4 to get from one town to the next and the best place in town to eat is the café behind the petrol station. But above all it is where natural beauty, cultural diversity and extreme poverty go hand in hand. Continue reading

Models of Hope in Ghana

The Community of Practice for African media practitioners working on HIV/AIDS was recently launched in Livingstone, Zambia by Idasa’s Governance and AIDS Programme.  Two of the participants speak in this video clip, about an initiative in Ghana called “Models of Hope” which provides positive role models for people living with HIV.  See more here.

Media and HIV – getting together

It was hot, humid and sweaty and the airline had lost my luggage.  After filling out a few bureaucratic forms with a smiling Zambian face, I joined the bus of strangers – new recruits to Idasa’s Community of Practice for African communications practitioners who write about HIV/AIDS.  We were to spend two days together, at the start of a 4 year relationship.  The bus journey to the hotel was peppered with polite, get-to-know-you conversations…

Two days later, many hours of sharing stories and exploring how to build citizen action through media and communication work, we were no longer strangers.  The group sessions promoted discussion and deliberation about the role of citizens, and the role of journalists – and how these two overlapped for people in the room.  Questions shot around the room about how to wear two different hats, how to manage conflicts of interest, how to avoid being used for personal agendas, and make sure your journalistic skills are not exploited.

The discussions were thought provoking and relationships formed in a way that will encourage deeper engagement over the next four years.  The workshop included a session on how we should keep talking to each other, especially in between meetings, and for the duration of the 4 years.  Following their suggestions, a social networking hub was set up for participants to keep talking – and a googlemap was also used to plot participants work and partnerships across the continent.  See some of the interviews on video here.


– Samantha Fleming was an Idasa participant at the launch of Idasa’s Community of Practice –

Live or Dead Aid – Who is responsible for development in Africa?

Who is responsible for development in Africa?

Dambisa Moyo

Dambisa Moyo

This is the question I’m mulling over, after a presentation by Dr Dambisa Moyo, author of Dead Aid.  The book has caused quite some controversy, not least among NGOs and recipients of the aid that Moyo critiques.

Foreign aid is a complex subject and one that has many vested interests. Any discussion on the future of aid is likely to be heated and emotional.  There are those of us whose very livelihoods depend on it, for without that donor money, we wouldn’t be able to pay our own bills.  And there are those of us lefties who struggle with the politics of the author – neo-liberal, economic focus, seemingly aligned to the interests of global capital. Her work experience is at the World Bank (seen by some as an arrogant manipulative International Financial Institution (IFI)) and Goldman Sachs. Her background at these institutions dents her credibility in South African development circles, where your politics and credentials are judged before you’ve opened your mouth.

Some people view her ideas with skepticism and see her as an emissary from yet another global institution that is intent on imposing their own agenda. Moyo contests this vocally, saying she is born and bred Zambian and has strong roots in the heart of Africa.  For most of us, despite any critique, it is fabulous to have an African academic raising these issues for debate. Continue reading

Action for a Safe South Africa

Action for a Safe South Africa is a new initiative of Idasa and other partners. One of the primary aims of the movement is to encourage citizens to be more active in creating safe communities in which we can live without fear. What do you think can be done to create a safer South Africa? And what would you do to be actively involved in making your community a safer place? See what others who attended the convention had to say here – and share your thoughts here …

Constitution must become a living reality for the poor

“It is all too easy to put the poor into a category, a mental ghetto of sorts, and leave them to eke out their existence, hoping that the government will make good on its promises to address the issues: lack of housing, hunger, denial of the basic rights to education and indeed to the hope of a better future.

But the poor have their own voice, they know the story of their lives and they know what would improve their lives.”
Etienne brought this article to our attention, written by Njongonkulu Ndungane, the former Archbishop of Cape Town.

Read the full article and share your opinions …
Continue reading

Defending the Constitution

Idasa has endorsed the following statement, drafted by Kader Asmal. The SA Constitution is only as strong as the ability of ordinary citizens to use it. Words such as these are an important part of making a Constitution a living document, but words alone are not enough.

We need to be thinking about this question – in our work, how do we play our part in defending the aspirations of the Constitution? Share your thoughts here … Continue reading