Spreading the Lessons of Land Rights
In what now seems miraculous in hindsight, we were able to finish the last two activities of my internship period on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. It was definitely a harried and sometimes stressful preparation period in the preceding days. The activity we conducted was called Training of Trainers (T.O.T) Refresh, essentially a ‘refresher’ course on the T.O.T that Matilda and LUPPEN did in the spring.
Essentially, the T.O.T is an activity that aims to educate a core group of potential trainers in the four settlements we are currently focusing on – Katantha, Kaliwawala, Area 44, and Kamphinda. By inviting a diverse group of village headman, women, and men, from a diverse age range, the training is intended to educate these trainers not only on land rights and human rights, but also on how to effectively communicate and educate their peers in the settlements. In this way, the trainings have a sort of multiplier effect by anchoring land rights knowledge in a core group of individuals who disseminate what they have learned for years to come. Considering the recent changes in the Land Bill of 2016, one of the biggest challenges facing the government, as well as NGOs working with land rights, is to increase awareness of the new elements of the land law and how they affects peoples’ rights to land.
The Refresh, as I mentioned before, brought together the same group as the TOT Base to review the material that was taught earlier this year. In order to do so we hired three facilitators from the Ministry of Lands, City Council, and the Human Rights Commission to give a one hour presentation on their respective expertise. Each of the presentations seemed engaging and informative, and the feedback from the participants and the LUPPEN executives corroborated that. At the end of the day, we gave a brief test on the material, and distributed certificates to those participants who passed. Importantly, it was more of a way to instill confidence in the participants so that they feel comfortable teaching the material to their peers, rather than a rigorous test to filter out those who were less proficient.
To me, activities like these are of central importance to actually making a sustainable change in communities. Indeed, all too often development work involves construction of big infrastructure projects like schools, clinics, or larger medical facilities. Not to say that these projects can’t be effective, but the most important and lasting sources of change lie in the empowerment of local people. Educating people within the settlements on what the law stipulates concerning their rights to land is development that keeps giving. The people can now discuss the land law, how the law affects them and their families, and resist accordingly if the law does not serve their interests. It is all too common that laws concerning land uphold the status quo, buttressing the interests of the rich while neglecting the poor. Infrastructure projects can be great for short term interests, but empowering the people through knowledge is the only way they can actually resist the power structures that are continuously marginalizing them. In that way, it’s sustainable. It has a multiplier effect. Knowledge of land rights can evolve their relative positions of self determination. It is hugely rewarding to know that the 100 people in the room for these activities are there to help everyone in their lives affecting by unfair land policy.
I managed to find some time to try to make the most of my last weekend in Malawi. A couple of friends and I traveled to Dedza, a small town about 85 km south of Lilongwe. Dedza is the highest town by altitude in all of Malawi, so the surrounding landscape is a constellation of beautiful mountain outcroppings connected by verdant valleys. We spent the day hiking up and exploring Dedza Mountain, and couldn’t have asked for a better day for it. The weather was perfect, and I started to feel a bit wistful about having to leave such a beautiful country. But perhaps I can save the lamenting for my next post! Until next time!