A new Progressio project in Malawi aims to prevent political intolerance and violence in the build up to the country's next elections in 2014, and to help ensure peaceful, transparent and non-violent political processes in Malawi long into the future.

The project, funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund, will work to build the capacity of faith-based civil society organisations, faith leaders from all denominations and community-based educators.

Through their close working relations with communities, it is envisaged that these key actors will be in a stronger position to advocate for political tolerance as well as manage conflicts and tensions before, during and after the elections.

The project also aims to increase awareness among political parties and the public about the importance of peaceful and transparent political processes; and promote dialogue between civil society, political parties and governmental stakeholders.

Key project activities will include community awareness raising sessions; capacity building for the Lilongwe Archdiocese Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), the Malawi Electoral Commission, faith leaders and community-based educators; focus group discussions, community sensitisations and counselling sessions.

Other activities will also include supporting the Malawi Electoral Commission in advocating for the holding ofa peaceful and democratic election.

The project will run from December 2012 to November 2014. Progressio gratefully acknowledges funding from the United Nations Democracy Fund for this project.

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This new project builds on the Progressio project "Building the institutional capacity of the CCJP to advocate for free, fair and non-violent elections in Malawi" which ran from April 2009 to June 2012 and was funded by Irish Aid.

Read a blog about 'Defending democracy in Malawi' written in 2010 by Progressio development worker Mandlenkosi Mpofu who worked as an Electoral Support Specialist with Lilongwe CCJP under the Irish Aid funded project.

Progressio country manager in Malawi, Thomas Msiska, explains the impact of the previous project that this new UNDEF project seeks to build on:

"Mandlenkosi trained CCJP staff members in electoral processes. The knowledge the CCJP staff gained was transferred to the Community Based Educators and the Faith Leaders who have a large command of the community members in general. The trained faith leaders were able to assist their congregants with information on the electoral process which assisted in raising awareness amongst the electorate on the power of their vote and importance of participating in the electoral processes.

"Through the project, Lilongwe CCJP trained and placed monitors in almost all the constituencies of the Central region. There was an incident where all political parties rejected the results by the Malawi Electoral Commission and the figures by the Lilongwe CCJP monitors were used to verify the results of some polling centres in Lilongwe where misunderstandings had erupted on the credibility of the figures the Malawi Electoral Commission compiled for those constituencies. Otherwise the Government would have had to spend a lot of money in rerunning the voting process in those constituencies."

Photo: Women and children at a community event in Malawi, photographed by Progressio ICS volunteers.