Monday, March 29, 2010

Enoch Katchika-Jere Goes Home for the Week-end

Victor Katchika-Jere, ASAP Malawi's Country Director,is pleased to report that Enoch spent the week-end resting at home for the first time since his birth on March 16th. On Wednesday Victor explained:

"My wife fell sick in the middle of the night on Tuesday. We rushed to the hospital and was told by doctors that her blood pressure was precariously high. The doctors were left with no option but to prematurely terminate the pregnancy through Cesarean section in order to save lives of both the mother and the unborn baby. She was operated on yesterday afternoon at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital and gave birth to a baby boy! The mother’s condition is now stable and the baby is in the Intensive Care Unit"

The story has a happy ending and we are happy to welcome Enoch into the world!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pre-schoolers Benefit from Micro-finance

In Mutasa District of rural Zimbabwe, Anah Muganiwa, Gladys Murinda and Jesimine Gawaza have recently teamed up to open a creche using their Internal Savings and Lending (ISL)proceeds. ISL is a hugely successful rural micro-finance methodology that ASAP has been implementing in Zimbabwe since 2001 and in Malawi since 2008. The 3 women have secured a license to operate a creche from the Ministry of Education. The capital realized from group savings shares was used for logistical purposes and paying of initial rent of the premises. They now realise profit by end of each month and currently have an enrollment of 65 children.

To read more about ASAP's ISL projects click here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe

On March 10th U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced this year's recipients of the International Women of Courage Award. These women have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights and women’s equality. From Zimbabwe, Jestina Mukoko was selected for her exemplary and steadfast dedication to human rights.

To watch a short video clip of the awards click here.

To read more Jestina Mukoko's story click here.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Arnold Tsunga Interview recently interviewed Zimbabwean lawyer and human rights activist Arnold Tsunga at the Human Rights Summit in Washington D.C. Arnold is the brother of Regai Tsunga, ASAP Zimbabwe Country Director. In a current climate one international human rights activist called a “global backlash against civil society”, we asked Arnold about the situation in Africa.

I heard you met with President Obama this morning. How did that meeting go?

It was a very good meeting, very positive. He is inspiring. He started by outlining America’s policy, which was very well received. It centers on strengthening multilateralism - a new US policy approach to ensure that complex global challenges are resolved through collective processes rather than through unilateralism. We as human rights defenders feel that any weakening of multilateral institutions like the UN, as well as the regional systems, poses a particular danger to our work. So his words resonated with us. One way he pushes this agenda is to always emphasize to other governments that human rights do not rank second or are inferior to other American interests in bilateral affairs. He also makes a point to have high-level meetings with civil society as well as government. This does not make many governments happy, but he thinks it is important that America begin to relate with the world in a way that reflects American core values.

What are the most important distinctions across Sub-Saharan countries in terms of human rights?

Much of East and Southern Africa have similarities in legal and educational systems, not to mention language, as a result of British colonization. While Central and West Africa have some similarities, Central Africa is dominated by the pervasive influence of the DRC in the Great Lakes area. There is more instability and more serious human rights violations, almost a failure of government. If you look at the DRC, Congo, Chad, Central African Republic, and Sudan, especially the Western side of Sudan, you can see these countries are very fragile and lack popular participation in governance. East Africa is the most stable region with the exception of Somalia, especially post the Rwandan genocide. [Rwandan President] Kagame has done a good job, I think, in terms of re-invigorating a system of government and making sure the economy functions.

How would you characterize the situation in Zimbabwe right now?

Zimbabwe is on the mend. The economy has made significant improvements. Because of global political agreement, you will find that the oppressive violence, abductions, and executions that took place in the run-up to the 2008 elections have largely disappeared. You still have residual violations like arbitrary detentions, intimidation of human rights defenders, confiscation of newspapers, and preventing people from assembling to discuss issues around the constitution and trying to further the consolidation of democracy. These actions come from elements of the government who do not believe in the change process that is taking place. The concern is that unless there are effective democratic and political developments the progress can be reversed. Mugabe is still strong and still controls the security sector, though they have seen that they need the opposition and they are losing the propaganda war. People no longer believe the Mugabe mantra that the conflict in Zimbabwe is about the West versus Africa and is a fight for black economic empowerment. There is a general agreement on the African continent that Mugabe’s leadership has failed. As a result of that the ability to use brazen force has been reduced. But the capacity is still there.


Arnold Tsunga is Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Africa Regional Programme and one of the leading human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe. He previously held the position of Executive Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), as well as acting Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ). Arnold Tsunga also sits on a number of Boards of human rights groups, provides leadership on a voluntary basis to several non-profit organizations and has written numerous articles on the human rights and rule of law situation in Zimbabwe and the region. Although he has been harassed, threatened, arrested and beaten several times, he continues to represent people who have been arrested unfairly under the repressive conditions in Zimbabwe, especially those who have been physically abused while in custody. For his dedication to defending human rights in spite of the threat to his own life, Arnold Tsunga received both the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and the Human Rights Watch Human Rights defender Award in 2006.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A First for ASAP Malawi

Saturday, February 20 and Friday February 26, 2010 brought sweet memories to Blantyre Rural and Chikhwawa District communities respectively, as community members danced, clapped and cheered for the first graduates of ASAP’s Village Savings and Lending program in Malawi. A total of 332 community members, participating in 31 Savings Groups, graduated on the two days.

Graduates were presented with certificates of accomplishment as a confirmation that they had fulfilled all the requirements for the village savings and lending initiative. The graduating community members displayed items, which they sell in their small businesses demonstrating to the other community members that they had indeed benefitted from the discipline of savings and lending.

ASAP Africa Malawi Country Director, Victor Katchika-Jere, attended both ceremonies and in his speech encouraged the graduating members to continue working and saving together in groups to ensure members always have accessible loans. “When we started, communities did not have the much-needed confidence that they could put their savings together and lend out their money to group members. They were asking ASAP to provide them with seed money but we did not. Today, we are witnessing the same community members who, nine months ago thought they could not do things on their own, sharing thousands of Kwachas and showcasing the types of small-scale businesses which have been established within a few months.” he said amidst handclapping and cheering from the crowd.

In the Chikhwawa ceremony Traditional Authority, Chief Ndakwera thanked ASAP for transforming the mindset of the people who had been made lazy by relying heavily on handouts from different organizations. “ASAP has managed to change the way we look at development. We need to take a leading role in our own development and the development of our area,’’ he added, “In just a few months community members have saved thousands of Kwachas and we have seen people investing their money in different business activities. If we all join hands with ASAP through this self-help initiative, our area should very soon develop beyond belief.”