Photo: Nicole Johnston/Oxfam

I am in Malawi on a short field trip to interview some of the main actors involved in pro-women policy processes in the country. On the road to Mulanje from Blantyre in southern Malawi the scenery is beautiful. The landscape is lush and green with maize and tea crops stretching as long as the eye can see. In the distance the impressive and majestic Mulanje mountain shows itself in its true glory. It is hard to imagine that only a couple of weeks ago this district was one of the worst-affected by the flood disaster. Unprecedented rainfalls displaced an estimated number of 200,000 people and caused nearly 200 deaths. Floodwaters have left thousands of people destitute cutting them off from clean water, food, healthcare and resulted in massive destruction to general infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and power facilities.  Apart from the immediate devastating consequences of the floods, the country is threatened by a potential hunger crisis.

I am on my way to a two-day workshop on women’s political participation with colleagues from the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at Chancellor College. There are few visible signs of the floods. But in  the bustling city of Blantyre, the best hotels are fully booked with stakeholder meetings organized and sponsored by the Malawian government and development partners. A new group has also entered the scene - international relief workers. and there are frequent power outages. In some weird, illogical way it almost feels good that we cannot totally avoid the effects of the catastrophe that has taken place. The rivers we pass on our way have broken their banks leaving vast mud-filled areas. In some of the villages nearby large crowds of people have gathered. It takes some time before I realize that they are patiently waiting for handouts of food.

Sometimes life’s harsh realities certainly hit you hard in the face. 

Vibeke Wang, senior researcher at CMI, Malawi, February 2015

Vibeke Wang

Senior Researcher and Coordinator: Gender Politics