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STRIVING FOR SUBSTANTIVE EQUALITY “MU MAUZENGEZGANI”: AN ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT OF WOMEN IN THE LOCAL CHURCH

By Father Erick Nyondo

This year, the Church in Africa celebrates the Golden Jubilee of Small Christian Communities (Mauzengezani). The Small Christian Communities (SCCs) are substantively a hub and a focal point of an African Church. They are a symbol and a sign of the African Philosophy, “I am because we are”. They are a reflective testimony of the African way of being and living, that is, a “koinonia lifestyle”.

The African life is relatively and systemically built on the communitarian mentality. Each individual assumes his identity and mission, in every respective society, from his or her community. It is therefore, an individual’s community that defines his essential core, destiny, mission and responsibility.

The SCCs are a culmination and an expressive beacon of the “African communitarian way of living” imbued with Christian values and gospel tenets. The SCCs are an intimation to the public of the ecclesiastical virtue of brotherhood and sisterhood. They are a mode of expressing the “Samaritan Spirit” of a brother being present to a brother or a sister being present to a sister, in both joys and sorrows and in perils and fortunes, in hurdles and hustles of life. Fundamentally, just like in the primitive Pauline Communities, the SCCs are a fount of grace gushing forth from “Broken Lord” (the Eucharist), “the Table that gathers all”.

However, the life of the SCCs buds from an African culture that is largely patriarchal. It is an undeniable fact that most of the African cultures are obsessively and largely patriarchal. The cultural overtone of African cultures is essentially masculine in which a feminine voice is trampled upon and is never accorded recognition and audience.  

If ever the feminine voice is recognised, it is very much usual that the same voice is slummed with indignation and resentment. Women are beneath notice. The “female role” in a community of males is less likely recognised and socially empowered with any merit. The merit of a woman’s role is confined to a domestic circumscription and tasks. Beyond the domestic diameter, a woman’s role is futile and intimidated.

The same status quo does thrive within the circumferences of the SCCs. There is a deluge and plethora of evidence that within SCCs the female voice is not recognised in administrative and decision making positions. There are rare occasions in which the decisional actions and voices of women are reckoned with recognition and appreciation. Yet the irony of the same is that most of the SCCs are composed of a relatively large number of women.

As the church celebrates this landmark and groundbreaking golden jubilee of the SCCs, it is precisely essential to reflect more deeply on the means of achieving substantive equality within the spaces of the SCCs. Substantive equality denotes a situation in which women just like men are granted an equal start, that is, equality of opportunity and are socially empowered with an enabling environment to achieve equality of results both at decision level and implementation level.

This sort of equality is not to be thought as some identical treatment of men and women but rather a situation in which the female voice is heeded as impactful just as the males. This requires the reshaping and reversing the “masculine complacency” that maybe the underlying cause of inequality and subordination of the female voice. The masculine prejudice assigned against the realization of females’ decisional contributions and the exclusion from decisional opportunities whittle the women’s remarkable contributions within the welfare of the SCCs.

The incorporation and admission of substantive equality which is concerned with output (for example, equality of results or equality of opportunity) and which is gauged by reference to a state of affairs, that is, the substantive equality of situation, would determine the lengths and breadths of women involvements. Such an equality would secure a subtle recognition of women’s contribution in decision making and implementation of goals.

Thus, women would not be relegated to only operations that are incidental to the affairs of the SCCs but substantially be involved in the decisive affairs for the running of the SCCs. It is now an ardent imperative that women at the SCC level should be empowered and yet more glow with both administrative and managerial powers to manage and decide on the affairs of the SCCs. They need to be assigned with roles and occupy offices (for example Chairpersonship) through which they can render their skills and competences without male-manipulation and dominance.

The ministrations of women in SCCs have not to be thwarted and foiled by men’s domination. Christ our master wills the empowerment of women and did consecrate the female voice as a first Voice of Witness and Profession of the Salvation in the person of Mary Magdalene as she witnessed the Resurrection. This same empowerment of the female voice need to be reflected in the SCCs as the prime community spirited by the redeeming and liberating Blood of the Lamb.

As the church celebrates the golden jubilee of SCCs, it must also set as a cardinal and golden mission to eliminate all forms of approaches that disadvantage the female voice either on preference levels, cultural levels and socialization levels in SCCs. The SCCs must begin to reward merit to each voice as a “redeemed voice” as Paul in his letter’s states, “there are no more Jews or Greeks ….” for the standard and dignity of us all is one, “heirs of the Kingdom”.

REAWAKENING THE MYSTERY OF MATRIMONY: A FIGHT AGAINST THE PREVALENT “NTHENGWA ZA KUTHULIRA”

By Father Erick Nyondo

Most often than not a feeling of ennui thuds in my heart. I try to weave a stretch of sense within the appalling crisis of marriage and customs that force girl children into marriage. One may be forced to ask: Is marriage anything of value? Is it honorable to force persons into marriage?

Marriage has been considered since the inception of man-kind as the most fundamental and basic social unit that is the heart of every society. It is a universal institution and indeed an essential institution. In the renowned statement of Lord Penzance, marriage is defined as “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.”

This definition of marriage has fundamental and practical implications in that marriage must be voluntary, heterosexual, monogamous and indissoluble (perpetual partnership). The ecclesiastical and biblical law focuses on “one fleshiness” in an effort to reiterate the nobility and supernatural character of marriage in establishing the dynamic union between one man and one woman.

A wake to the reality of “kuthula” feels greatly heinous and abhorrent in a face of essential understanding of marriage that is hinged on voluntariness and indissolubility. It is thus a trifling reality that dilutes the dignity of marriage and its core purpose. It saddens me that in an era in which persons are largely Christianized, intellectually illuminated and are aware of their constitutional rights would yet pave way to “nthengwa za kuthula”.

Nthengwa za kuthula” entail a practice where a girl found pregnant is taken by her relatives to the boy’s family to force them into a marriage. The worst form of the same is where a girl who is found conversing with a boy in a questionable or secret place would be forced to marry the boy under the presumption that they are in a sexual relationship. Sadly, a number of these marriages take a form of child marriages that are constitutionally prohibited and ecclesiastically frowned upon.

Lord Pearce J in exalting the necessity of capacity to marry observed that “According to modern thought it is considered socially and morally wrong that persons of an age, at which we now believe them to be immature and provide for their education, should have the stresses, responsibilities and sexual freedom of marriage and the physical strain of childbirth. Child marriages by common consent are bad for the participants and bad for the institution of marriage”.

The most perilous aspect of “nthengwa za kuthula” is that they violate the requirement of consent to marriage. Consent forms a basic cornerstone of marriage. It is a springboard of self-giving of one spouse to the other in the axiomatic and most sacred words “till death do us part”. In fact, consent is considered as a fundamental human right. It is a constitutional right and a divine right. A marriage without consent is a forced marriage and is an affront to the human law and the divine design of marriage. Consequently, nthengwa za kuthula are a violation of the right to free choice of most girls and a violation of the sanctity of women.

It is thus a paramount duty for the church which is a fundamental instrument of liberation to launch a renewed understanding of marriage within the cultural and traditional spaces in which “nthengwa za kuthula” have become part of the social-cultural habits. Christ constituted the sacrament of marriage as a sacrament tied more essentially on the right of choice and free will. The phrase “the two shall leave their parents and become one”, though with divers interpretation, relishes the most sublime and subtle aspect of a decisional choice of one’s spouse and mutual bonding of two souls.

Mutual partnership and indissolubility which are sacred incidents of marriage can and may never sprout out of a forced relationship. In “nthengwa za kuthula”, the partners are deprived of the freedom either to marry or to remain single, or to choose their spouse. It is usually evident in nthengwa za kuthula that a girl succumbs to pressures to marry and all types of intimidation from the relations which might be psychological, emotional and even physical. It is to the same breadth that something long-lasting and sacred may not be borne out of force and intimidation. Marriages by kuthula, are a mockery to the sanctity and essential character of marriage which within the circles of the church is touted with sacramentality.

The church must exhibit an overarching and cardinal commitment to re-evangelize its Christians to hold in esteem and think highly of marriage beyond the cultural and traditional meanings. It would be unbelievable and a decline of ministerial duty to entertain “nthengwa za kuthula” within the parochial circumscription. It is a pertinent and more urgent duty of church ministers to overhaul the status of sacramental marriages and give it a meaningful and dignified destiny amidst its crisis and the prevalence of “kuthula”.

INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT: ENHANCING SMALLHOLDER FARMERS’ INCOME THROUGH COLLECTIVE MARKETING

By Noel Chatepa

The improvement of smallholder farmers’ income is one of the goals of the Integrated Rural Development Project being carried out by CADECOM Karonga Diocese in Chitipa with funding from Misereor. To this end, a group marketing intervention is one of the interventions being carried out in which farmer clubs are encouraged to assemble their produce and sell it collectively.

Chitete Cooperative members in front of the constructed warehouse.

In line with this, the Chitete Producer and Marketing Cooperative Society Limited was formed by the union of six farmer clubs from the Adam 1 and Chawa Village Development Committees in Kameme, Chitipa, under the direction of CADECOM Karonga Diocese.


“We received training in seed multiplication in 2021 along with seeds such as maize, soya bean, and sunflower from CADECOM Karonga Diocese. In the same year, we also received orientations in finance, record keeping, cooperative management, and warehouse management” says Thomas Kanyika who is a committee member for Chitete Cooperative.

The warehouse at Sopelera Trading Center in Kameme.

Margaret Chizimbi, a member of the marketing committee for Chitete cooperative, echoes this by stating that “members from different farmer clubs in the Integrated Rural Development project were trained and assisted in setting up different sub-committees responsible for things like marketing, loans, financing, aggregation, and production.”


The cooperative started sourcing for capital to build a warehouse and in 2022 they opened a bank account and CADECOM Karonga Diocese provided 70 percent of the finance for the warehouse construction, with the cooperative contributing the remaining 30 percent in cash and kind.

The Chitete cooperative, which was founded in 2020 as a joint marketing group by the two Village Development Committees of Adam 1 and Chawa, has 144 members and trades in commodities such groundnuts, sunflowers, and soya bean.

INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT TRAINS 30 COMPOST MANURE PROMOTERS

By Noel Chatepa

A three day training of 30 compost manure promoters in agrimarketing of “Indore Organic fertilizer” is underway in Chitipa. The training is part of the interventions in the Integrated Rural Development Project being implemented by Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) Karonga Diocese with funding from Misereor and it involves farmers from Mwankumbwa, Chisankhwa and Kameme.

Agri-business trainings in progress.

The meeting also involved the reviewing of compost manure made by the promoters to check their progress and each compost promoter’s manure was analyzed based on the methods and materials used to make the manure. This was to assist in comparing different samples of manure brought in by the promoters.

CADECOM officer Veston Beza (Right) taking records.

The compost manure promoters are being trained in agricultural business and marketing skills by CADECOM Karonga Diocese Agri-business officer Kaitano Maison together with Integrated Rural Development project officers Veston Beza, Bridget Mshani and are being coordinated by Saloom Longwe.

“FROM VOCATIONAL TRAINING TO BUSINESS SUCCESS: DAVID KANTHONGA BENEFITS FROM THE INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT”

By Noel Chatepa

Kanthonga in his tailoring shop.

David Kanthonga, a young man from Chisankhwa, James Village in the area of T/A Mwaulambya is a shining example of the transformative power of vocational skills training. Through the Integrated Rural Development project being implemented in Chitipa district by Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) Karonga Diocese with funding from Misereor, David was able to undergo a six-month tailoring program, which has profoundly impacted his life.

Initially, David, like many other youths in his community, faced limited prospects for sustainable employment. However, the Integrated Rural Development project identified David as a promising candidate and enrolled him in a vocational skills training program.

Kanthonga working on a piece of cloth.

Upon completing his training, David was provided with a sewing machine by Father Litani from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Chisankhwa, enabling him to start a small tailoring business. The proceeds from this venture have not only sustained his family but also allowed him to purchase a computer and printer/photocopier, diversifying his income streams.

David’s story is a testament to the effectiveness of the Integrated Rural Development project, which aims to improve the economic well-being of rural communities through sustainable agriculture, joint marketing, Assisted Natural Regeneration and small-scale income-generating activities like beekeeping, village savings and loans, and vocational skills development.

Kanthonga.

In David’s own words, “I am very thankful to CADECOM Karonga Diocese through the Integrated Rural Development Project as I was taught how to tailor uniforms, shirts and other types of clothes which has allowed me to sustain my family and purchase a computer and printer/photocopier which will diversify my income. I am very thankful.”

Kanthonga (Left) taking measurements of a customer.

David’s journey is an inspiring example of how targeted vocational training can empower individuals, unlock their potential, and transform their economic prospects. His story serves as a shining beacon, inspiring others to embrace the opportunities presented by such initiatives and strive for a brighter, more self-sufficient future.

The Rural Integrated Development project is being implemented by CADECOM Karonga Diocese in Chitipa with funding from Misereor.

EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES THROUGH ASSISTED NATURAL REGENERATION AND BEEKEEPING: THE STORY OF ROMAD MSHANI AND FAMILY

By Noel Chatepa

From Mwankumbwa EPA in the area of Traditional Authority Mwaulambya in the northernmost district of Chitipa, comes out the story of a project that is changing lives. The Integrated Rural Development project, being implemented by the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) under the Karonga Diocese with funding from Misereor, is a beacon of hope for local communities.

Romad and his wife Wakisa holding their bottles of honey.

Romad Mshani and his wife, both dedicated farmers and parents to four children, are part of the Integrated Rural Development project which promotes Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) as one of its components. This innovative approach encourages communities to restore degraded lands by nurturing existing vegetation. Instead of planting new trees, villagers protect and nurture natural mini forests, allowing them to regenerate naturally.

Romad Mshani standing next to one of his beehives.

Romad’s family became enthusiastic participants in this endeavor and as part of ANR, the Mshani family received artificial beehives from CADECOM. These beehives not only supported pollination and biodiversity but also provided a sustainable source of income. Romad and his wife, Wakisa, tended to the hives with care, watching as bees transformed nectar into liquid gold—honey.

Mshani (Right) selling honey to a customer.

The Mshani family’s journey took an exciting turn when they harvested their first batch of honey as it opened doors to economic independence and the proceeds flowed back into their household, providing funds for essential needs.

With the additional income, the Mshani family diversified their livelihoods, and they invested in small-scale goat farming and now own several goats.

Mshani poses with his goats from honey sales proceeds.

“I am very grateful to CADECOM under the Karonga Diocese for training me in ANR as I would have just been cutting down trees not knowing that through preserving the environment, I can also find a source of income” he says.

The Integrated Rural Develpment Project is being implemented with support from Misereor and it aims to improve and sustain food production among 480 households in Chitipa District. Further the project is implementing interventions to strengthen farmers joint marketing and train youths in vocation skills.

“STAKEHOLDERS TRAINED ON GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE CASES COURT PROCEEDINGS”

By Wantwa Mwakasungula – TFM

CCJP Karonga Diocese project coordinator Vincent Bwinga (Standing) during a training session,

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), in collaboration with the Karonga Magistrate Court, has convened community stakeholders such as Chiefs, Mother groups, Community Victim Support Units, Zone Implementation Committees and Child Protection Workers to educate them on the proceedings of gender-based violence cases in court and to familiarize them with the operations of the Timazge Nkhaza project.

Vincent Bwinga, the project coordinator for CCJP Karonga Diocese, stated that the objective of this training is to raise awareness of community structures on court proceedings and gender related laws.

Trainings in progress.

Bwinga further said that a lack of accurate information on how the courts work often leads individuals to struggle in articulating their concerns in court as a result impeding their access to assistance or legal recourse.

However, the introduction of court circuits through the Timazge Nkhaza project will empower stakeholders to significantly contribute to aiding individuals facing various challenges in their respective areas.

During the training session, Magistrate Court Clerk Alick Mbughi emphasized the importance of understanding the by-laws for stakeholders to effectively support individuals in their communities dealing with gender-based violence cases.

In response, Senior GVH of Chisi, Bern ford Msongole, expressed appreciation for the training and highlighted that as stakeholders, they will disseminate knowledge to help reduce instances of gender-based violence.

“It is imperative for us to have a comprehensive reference guide to assist us in addressing such cases within our communities,” he said.

CCJP Is implementing the Timazge Nkhaza project in three Traditional Authorities (T/A) of Mwakaboko, Kilupura and Kyungu with funding from the NCA-DCA Joint Country program.

“LESSONS LEARNED AND NEXT STEPS: COMMUNITY TRANSFORMATION PROGRAM REVIEW MEETING”

By Noel Chatepa.

The Community Transformation Program Team

A meeting is underway at St. Kizito Conference Center in Chitipa where the Community Transformation program team is gathered for a review meeting of the project. The team is sharing progress updates, discussions and planning for the next phase of the program.

The Community Transformation Program is being implemented in the three districts of Chitipa, Karonga and Rumphi with funding from Cross Catholic Outreach.

#CommunityTransformation #ProgramReview

PEOPLE FROM TRADITIONAL AUTHORITY MWAKABOKO TRAINED ON HOW TO SPOT AND REPORT GENDER BASED VIOLENCE  

By Lusungu Mzembe (TFM)

CCJP Karonga Diocese field officer Moses Mwakisalu conducting a training session

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace under Karonga Diocese through its Enhancing Effective Protection and Promotion of Women and Girls from Gender Based Violence has trained community members from Karonga District on how to spot and report cases of Gender Based Violence to relevant authorities with an aim of putting an end to Gender Based Violence in their communities.

In an interview with CCJP Karonga Diocese field officer Moses Mwakisalu, he stated that a lot of people feel neglected and distance themselves from taking part in social issues as they live in remote and hard to reach areas and that causes them to not have the urge to report cases of gender based violence as such CCJP has trained representatives of different groups from Ngisi and Ngana in the area of Group  Village Headman Mwandambo so that people should easily spot and report cases without any hindrances.

Training session in progress

“We saw that it was of high importance to teach the people from this area and enlighten them on how to identify  gender based violence, how they can assist  survivors who have encountered  gender based violence,  how they can draft their reports at community level and where they can  report to relevant authorities. Many people in the communities are not aware of the process as such we believe that through the training a lot of them will now report the abuse they face at the same time reducing cases of gender based violence in the district,” Mwakisalu said.

Mwakisalu said that the training will also help them to come up with data about gender-based violence for each area and know the exact number of gender-based violence cases and it will also indicate which group is more prone to abuse and help CCJP Karonga Diocese in implementing their project as they will be able to identify gender-based issues that are affecting people in the district.

Training in progress

Commenting on the matter chairperson for the mother group at Ngana area, Tumpe Mwanjere commended CCJP for the development saying that it will help a lot of people in the area to report cases of gender based violence as they have been enlightened on issues of gender based violence and where they can report such cases if they encounter one or witness one.

“We are very thankful for the training in our area as it will help us to identify gender-based violence, write reports at community level, we will be able to assist survivors by also guiding them to get proper treatment in cases of rape and we are aware of the places and authorities where we can report the cases. We will also inform the chiefs to mobilize community members and teach them the significance of reporting gender-based violence,” Tumpe said.

Training in progress

Among other representatives who attended the training are community leaders, religious leaders, representatives from mother groups, community policing units, teachers, male champions,  clinicians, youth groups and child protection workers.

CCJP Is implementing the Enhancing Effective Protection and Promotion of Women and Girls from Gender Based Violence project (Timazge Nkhaza) in the three Traditional authorities (TA) of Mwakaboko , Kilipula and TA Kyungu with funding from NCA-DCA Joint Country Program.

KARONGA DIOCESE CADECOM DISTRIBUTES FARM INPUTS FOR WINTER CROPPING TO FARMERS

By Noel Chatepa

Karonga Diocese CADECOM has distributed farm inputs for winter cropping to 500 farmers in the area of Traditional Authority Wasambo in Karonga from 6th to 7th June 2024.

The event which was held at Vinthukutu EPA was graced by the Vicar General for Karonga Diocese Monsignor Lorent Dziko and was attended by representatives from government and T/A Wasambo.

Monsignor Dziko (6th from Left) with some of the farmers

“This distribution exercise is very important as this area does not receive adequate rainfall and in 2023, this area also faced droughts so it is very beneficial to both the community and the diocese. We considered that as they have a water source close by hence the distribution of the seeds so that they may irrigate the crops to be able to harvest at least something”, Monsignor Dziko said.

Monsignor Dziko (L) handing over maize seed to some of the beneficiaries.

Monsignor Dziko also added that this will reduce instances of bad behaviour in the communities such as theft and excessive drinking instead the people will be focused on working on their fields.

Speaking on behalf of T/A Wasambo, GVH Jonas Mwanyanja said, “our minds have been opened and with these farm inputs we will be able to do winter cropping and I encourage my community to refrain from selling the farm inputs and to use them for their intended purpose”.

Monsignor Dziko (L) handing over maize seed to some of the beneficiaries.

Anne Silika Mbewe, one of the farmers set to benefit from the project said that she is very grateful as with the recent weather patterns, it has been hard for them to harvest during the normal farming season but with the farm inputs they have received and guidance from CADECOM field officers, she expects to have a good harvest from the winter cropping.

Monsignor Dziko (L) handing over a bag of fertilizer to GVH Jonas Mwanyanja.

Karonga Diocese CADECOM is implementing the Climate Just Communities project in the area of T/A Wasambo with assistance from DAI.