One-month mark at work

June 25, 2018 | Nicole, International Development and Globalization, Uniterra, Malawi, Girls Empowerment Network, Knowledge Management Officer

Hi all and warm greetings from Malawi, the warm heart of Africa. I have been in Blantyre for just over a month now. Actually, yesterday was my one-month mark at work. It’s so strange to see how a place can so quickly become a home.

I chose to come to Malawi for many reasons. I am studying International Development and Globalization, so I knew that my education could never really be “well-rounded” unless I had the opportunity to see development in action and to learn from those working at the grassroots level. I came to Malawi because I have been interested in researching the region throughout my degree. Most importantly, I chose this internship because I am working with an organization that works to keep girls happy, safe, and free to choose their own futures.

The organization I work with, Girls Empowerment Network Malawi (GENET) works in interventions to empower girls and increase their well-being. They are a staff of 31 who run about 11 projects of truly comprehensive programming ranging from promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights to making education more accessible to girls, influencing local policy on child marriage, and training girl leaders to run clubs that discuss girls’ issues/collective solutions and advocate in the community against child marriage. The work is truly incredible and I have learned so much about grassroots development, development programming, and the intricate cultural context in which development happens. I also work alongside the most hard-working group of individuals I have ever met. They will work as many hours on as many days as it takes to provide the programming we need.

My work here is in their knowledge management systems. I am designing a tool to track all of their organizational objectives from the activity level to create totals at the organization level. This has been a great application of my course work because it has helped me to apply my learning and it is something that I feel very capable of doing. I’m also working to implement a file-sharing system and cloud software, and doing some training sessions along the way. Needless to say, I’m very busy. I’m happy to be so busy (even if it is also stressful) because my co-workers are always on-the-go working between our regional offices and the field.

I have also been able to visit a few of our projects which has been phenomenal. As my job is not in programming and my Chichewa isn’t yet at a level where I can be of any help, I go to listen, observe and learn. It’s good to see the context in which we work as it informs the types of data collection I recommend.

As for my day-to-day life, I guess you could say I am in a routine. I go to certain activities certain nights of the week, I have a few good friend groups here, I know the city very well, and I feel comfortable. I found it a challenge to make Malawian friends in my first few weeks, mainly because it is not safe to be outside after dark so I spent a lot of time at home with my ex-pat roommates. It’s also tough to make friends when you don’t know normal places to hang out, etc. Thankfully, I have been able to make some great connections and build close friendships. I feel like I have a community here now.

It’s hard to think of leaving, but as I keep telling people, I’m only here for 3 months this time.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.