Meet Janet Nyoni, Program Manager for People’s Action Forum, Shanta’s implementing partner organization in Zambia.
How long have you worked for PAF? Did you work for another organization prior to PAF and if so, what were your responsibilities there and how did it prepare you for your current position?
I have been involved with PAF since 2000 when someone introduced me to the organization. Prior to working with PAF, l was involved with three organizations. First, with Zambia Housing Fund, I was involved in community mobilization. Then I worked at Children in Distress where I was involved in identifying children in need of material and emotional support. I was also identified other institutions and individuals who would help to support the children in distress. I moved on to the Young Women’s Christian Association where I worked more as an advocate to ensure that justice prevailed in the system for abused women and children. I was also involved in providing counseling.
What do you think makes Shanta so successful with our programming in Myanmar? Do you anticipate a similar reaction/progress in the villages you will choose to partner with in Zambia?
From the reports and success stories I have read as well as training with the Shanta staff, it is evident that the village community members understand the model of the community-led development process as well as understand the full commitment to participate for change to take place for a better life. The financial obligation by villagers is also commendable as it proves their commitment by contributing their savings and interest earned in their own community bank systems.
Once the model is taught and supervised in the Zambian villages, I anticipate a similar positive reaction. I believe that CHANGE is a process that comes with challenges, and some might not understand the need for full community participation, especially when it comes to contributing funds towards a project.
PAF believes in a process where people identify their problems or challenges together as a community and discuss how to solve them. This process requires the use of participatory tools much like programming in Myanmar.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? Can you share a special time that made you feel particularly fulfilled by your work?
The most rewarding part of my job is when I hear someone testify how they, as a group, managed to accomplish something after being given the tools and guidance but not a handout. Those stories make my day because it just shows that I did not go in to solve their problems but went in to help them identify their own problems and create ways for them to overcome these roadblocks. I would say I am more of a facilitator.
One particular story stands out in my mind. PAF worked for several years with a community in the southern province of Nega Nega in the Mazabuka District. Women were not welcome to speak up in meetings, always depending on their husbands and male leaders to do all of the talking and planning. One day when I was visiting the community, a woman approached me and said,
“Janet, it’s good that you did not give us fish but taught us how to catch fish.” The village women shared with me that all of the training and discussions geared towards empowering them to use their voices, and have trust and faith in themselves had paid off. These women no longer felt hopeless when their husbands went away, often taking their earnings with them. Now, many of these women have their own incomes from selling goats. This enables them to support their children at school and have funds to manage themselves. These stories made my day so bright and fulfilled.
Our first Insight Trip to Zambia is scheduled for September to visit PAF and our newly launched partner villages. What can trip attendees look forward to?
It will be very interesting to see how programming is commencing in our newly launched partner villages. And community members love to meet new people! Attendees can watch traditional dancing and singing and interact with our people by participating in these festivities.