Individuell Människohjälp (IM), the Swedish development arm in Malawi, is actively working with local partners to tackle poverty. Last month, IM commemorated 10 years of existence in the country, and 80 globally. Our reporter FATSANI GUNYA engages Steve Tahuna, IM country director, on the change the fund has impacted on the country’s socio-economic front.
Congratulations for clocking 10 years in Malawi. However, few people may know what IM is doing in the country. Can you briefly share IM’s background?
IM came to Malawi in 2007 under the name, Swedish Organisation for Individual Relief [Soir], which focused on a number of areas, most importantly, HIV and Aids. But around 2014/2015, Soir rebranded to become IM Swedish Development Partner, IM in short.
IM is Swedish language Individuell Manniskohjalp meaning “individual support.” A new strategic plan covering 2015 to 2017 period was developed focusing on four thematic areas: Civil society capacity development, education, health, and economic and social justice support.
We are happy that IM has clocked 10 years of its operations in Malawi primarily because we have achieved a lot in the decade gone by as regards our set expectations when we just arrived. We are mainly into supporting players in the respective sectors through financial and technical support. We also pride ourselves in the capacity development of our partner organisations.
What are some of the highlights for the past 10 years?
IM still cherishes a project in which we supported girls in secondary schools with school bursaries. Some of the girls have done very well and are in colleges and universities in the country. Recently, some girls have been selected to study pharmacy, electronics, computer engineering, nursing and midwifery and biological sciences. The examples simply vindicate that IM is there to empower people to socially and economically transform themselves.
Who are the past and current IM partners?
In the past we had: Creative Centre for Community Mobilisation [Creccom], the Story Workshop, Mponela Aids Counseling Centre [Maicc], Targeted National Relief National Development [Tanard], Fawema, Maphunziro Foundation just to mention a few. Currently, we are working with six partners.
How do you fund these local organisations?
Basically, we need an organisation that demonstrates potential in terms of growth and delivery of effective development interventions with rights holders. Our key focus areas are social and economic inclusion for women and young people. IM interest is to develop the civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations [CSOs/NGOs] to become more agile, more effective and accountable to the people and deliver effective services while making a difference in the lives of socially and economically excluded groups particularly women.
So we are open to work with any civil society organisation/ NGO that is in line with our values, goals and objectives. We believe IM is innovative and we would want innovative organisations to submit their profiles and innovative ideas to us.
Why is CSO/NGO capacity development one of your interest areas?
Civil society capacity development focuses on strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations [CSOs] in terms of how they manage themselves and how they meet the needs of the targeted rights holders. IM also supports the CSOs capacity in advocacy for them to advocate for issues affecting rights holders in the country particularly women and young people.
You mentioned education as another area where you are giving support. What have you achieved in the sector?
In all regions we operate in across the globe, we direct some huge chunk of funds towards promoting education. In the same vein, IM supports building the capacity of CSOs to deliver education services in the country. Since 2015, IM has been working with two CSOs focusing on education namely, Forum for African Women Educationalists in Malawi [Fawema] and Civil Society Education
How do you support the sector?
In the past three years, IM has been working with two CSOs: Women‘s Legal Resources Centre [Worlec] and Sustainable Development Initiative [SDI]. We focus on improving economic status of the marginalised groups, particularly women and children. This has been one of the successes in IM’s programmes in the last 10 years. For example, recent external project evaluation indicates that economic status of many women targeted by Worlec in Salima and Balaka districts has significantly improved that most of them are able to support their children in school. The women formed groups called star circles where they discuss issues affecting them and decide where to take them to.
How does IM support other sectors such as the country’s health sector?
IM focus is on reproductive health for young people and we work with Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education [Cyece] in Mangochi District. The project mobilised and empowered young people to access sexual reproductive health and rights [SRHR] services by working with duty bearers such as health workers in the area to accommodate young people and provide youth friendly health services without any prejudice or being stigmatised.
On the other hand, we have also worked with community leaders setting up by-laws in the communities to protect young people particularly girls from various forms of abuse such as; inter-generational sex, rape and defilement that usually result pre-marital pregnancies and drop out of school at an early age.
The by-laws have really assisted in preventing child marriages in this particular area and also getting the youth to access SRHR services to reduce sexually transmitted infections including HIV and Aids. Thanks to the chiefs for their understanding of young people’s needs and concerns.
After 10 years, what is the future of IM like in Malawi?
Currently, we are developing a new strategy for 2019-2023. At the same time we are identifying innovative organisations to work with. Our focus will likely be on social and economic inclusion; working closely with CSOs and CSO networks on women and youth social and economic development, policy implementation and CSO capacity development.