Nyasha Phanisa Sithole, W4GF Support Officer, spoke to Mara Kumbweza Banda (Technical Advisory to the Paradiso TB Patient’s Trust) to chat about key challenges that women in Malawi are addressing.

What inspires you? Mara represents elderly women living with HIV in Malawi and got engaged when she realised there was a no information for rural women living with HIV on HIV and TB. Mara since then rose to become the first female Board Chair for the National AIDS Control programme and held this position from 2012-2015 position. This work and experience enhanced her capacity to do more work and advance the role and status of women and girls in the HIV and TB response. Mara now represents the TB constituency in the Malawian Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM). I acknowledge the National TB programme of Malawi who supported my earlier work around TB to link with organisation working on HIV and TB which later opened doors for me to be a member of the CCM.

What you think about W4GF Key Collaborators? The Key Collaborators has enabled Mara with more opportunity to connect with other women and to information and resources. It’s always good to engage for W4GF. This network has enabled me to learn lessons from other countries which I have been able to apply in my country and through W4GF advocacy activities Malawi benefitted the catalytic funds for adolescent girls and young women programmes.

What are some of the challenges with the CCM Evolution process? As a fairly new civil society TB CCM representative we are sometimes ill prepared to adequately influence technical conversations. In addition to this new CCM members do not have any orientation of their role or induction to how the CCM works – we learn and understand how things work as we participate in meetings.

The CCM Evolution presents an opportunity to address key challenges. As civil society CCM members we are not always supported to provide feedback to our constituencies – this makes our engagement adhoc with limited resources. This widens the gap of information sharing between CCM members and our constituencies and vice versa. Being on the CCM is voluntary and because we represent different constituencies who are affected by TB we our own and organisations funds to meaningfully engage in the CCM.  Everyone knows this reality yet we continue to face critics in the Malawi CCM who say we are not representing and performing up to standard.

What is the CCM Evolution? The Global Fund Secretariat was requested by the Global Fund Board to examine how to evolve the current CCM model to better deliver on the Global Fund strategy 2017-2022. This was also been part of the “CCM Audit” released by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The objective of the CCM evolution is to ensure that current CCM practices can inform the exercise (‘learning from the past’), while ensuring the new CCM model would allow CCMs to best deliver on the new strategy (‘setting up the vision’). It also includes how to differentiate CCMs.

To address this challenge the TB constituency in Malawi has developed a system to ensure the timely exchange of feedback by having lead organisations in each district to channel information to and from organisations and share with me as the CCM representative. We have also been using technologies like What’s App though challenges still remain on internet access.

As outcomes of the Evolution consultations, CCM representatives requested pre and post CCM meetings so that we go into each meeting with one voice.   We are also developing tools to enable meaningful  engage with our constituents including:

  • A communication plan to communicate with our constituents
  • A costed engagement plan for resource mobilization
  • A scorecard for data collection in the communities to feed into the national response
  • A scorecard to appraise the performance of CCM representatives annually.

CCM Members have lobbied the Global Fund Secretariat for additional human resource and this has been approved by the Over Sight Officer. We also requested that CCM keeps the Evolution as a key Agenda Item in our meetings so that we can follow the discussion. We hope that the CCM Evolution pilot in Malawi will result in real changes around how civil society representatives are able to meaningfully participate in the CCM.

Malawi is a patriarchal society and it’s not easy to lead as a woman. In my earlier days reaching out sometimes no one would pay attention – worse still were those who dismissed me even as their peer. The situation is very different now and we hope that the Evolution process will continue to usher in a new era, where the CCM members can be adequately supported to be effective. Women and young people should be in control of our own national resources. Keep fighting and don’t settle for the wrong end of the stick!”

To read more about the CCM Evolution check out aidspans latest article here