By ICS Empower volunteers Naledi Loate and Laurienne Buhinja

Having spent a few weeks in Malawi we have noticed that it is a slow paced nation and, coming from a fast paced society, the “no hurry no worry” attitude can be quite daunting and at times very frustrating.

A reminder of this came when a member of our team had an allergic reaction and needed to be seen by a doctor. Frustrating as it was waiting so long for medical assistance, we learnt that being patient and keeping calm is the Malawian way of getting things done.

Dedicated to learning

Education in Malawian culture is theory based, leaving little opportunity for creative learning for the youth. When we introduced what we thought were simple creative learning styles meant for youths, we found all of the adults as eager to participate as the children.

As much as school and further education is not prominent, the Malawians are dedicated to learning and many of them are hard workers with practical skills learnt from hard graft.

Women's roles and rights

We also found it interesting to see the different businesses that women have created for themselves here. On one of our market trips we saw a few female-owned hairdressers that had a booming client base.

Women and men are very different here in terms of roles and rights. In the UK women can work and live independently of men but Malawian women live with many more restrictions. Marriage is highly valued and their culture strictly defines the male and female roles within a marriage. Here the men are seen as the head of the family, the breadwinners, whereas the women are limited to being housekeepers.

Although this adherence to conservative values is mostly found in the rural parts of Malawi, we recognised it is a structure that appears to encourage mutual respect, where both men and women embrace their roles and create a strong family unit in the process.

Respect for others

It is because of this that the youth in Malawi have a high level of respect for their elders and that respect resonates throughout the community. Their hardworking and faith-filled manner allows the country to have a welcoming spirit and an admired attitude towards visitors.

The culture is indeed different from what we know but, through this experience so far, we have learnt to let go of time constraints, stopping throughout our busy days to greet a fellow human being because, from this, relationships can be formed.

Photo: Women and children taking a walk with some of the ICS Empower volunteers.