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This time we moved from the workshop rooms to the communities. We are humbly learning from the experience of the those who live on the margin, from their perspective, from their perseverance, from their assertiveness, from their desire to make something of their lives, from their love for one another and their determination to survive the ravages of HIV and AIDS. The ‘graduates’ of JASS whose projects we have visited, so far, are implementing their plans.

We visited Lena’s project. It’s built around the mass production of healing herbs. Malawi is poor and not everyone can afford ARVs. So we met women and some men organising around herbal gardens. Young ones, old, and in between – we met them all. As we talked, we realised that it’s not just the herbs that are springing up; new passions are also springing up from within communities. They are springing up among the people who have been pushed to the margins of society. For us as JASS, we are privileged to tell the world that the forgotten women, the excluded ones, are right here, where it hurts. JASS’ political project is on creating spaces to make their voices louder, their needs known and their ‘bodies’ visible. It’s not surprising then that yesterday we shared mats, drinks and sisterhood, we stood in solidarity with them, they shared collective pain, their dreams, their sacred stories, their collective yearnings that another kind of world is possible. Together, we imagined a better life and a better society. As we listened to the whispers of hope from these who live on the edge of society, two women chiefs spoke with the kind of courage that defies poverty. We were compelled to believe that grassroots movement in Malawi is not possible but has already began. On our way back to town, drained, tired, sweaty but excited, Sindi whispered, ‘Hope, our liberation is bound up with that of these women, I would like to come and stay with them much longer.’

Today, we head north. It’s a long trip but we are motivated by the knowledge that where hope has been stolen and dignity trampled upon there is a crying need for the space to imagine a better life and a better society. We shall co-create the space.

Hope Chigudu is on the road in Malawi.

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