Name: Jo Hook

What community does your organisation represent?

Temwa is a UK registered charity that works in Northern Malawi.  We work in remote communities that are extremely hard to reach and neglected; supporting them in improving health education services, agriculture, forestry, micro-finance, skills training, and schools.  However, Temwa was founded in Bristol and has a strong network of local supporters, proud of an organisation that is doing such positive work in one of the worlds poorest countries.

What is the organisation trying to achieve for the community?

Our mission is to develop self-sufficiency, to:

  • train villagers in the importance of good nutrition and sustainable farming
  • plant trees to combat the effects of deforestation and climate change
  • run mobile HIV testing clinics and establish HIV support groups
  • promote young children’s literacy skills and fund students through secondary school
  • provide microfinance loans to budding entrepreneurs

Our work supports some of the most vulnerable households in the region, such as those which are headed by a female or child, have HIV-positive members, or are hosting one or more orphans.  At the heart of everything is our commitment to community-led development: all our projects are developed in partnership with the people we support.  In this way, we can work together to break the poverty cycle and create lasting, sustainable change for the future.

What the best thing you’ve achieved to date?

That’s a tough question.   If I had to mention just one thing, it would be that we have supported community members to plant over 1 million trees.  Deforestation is a huge problem in Northern Malawi and Temwa is helping community members to combat this.

Are there any aspects of the political system that are holding the community back? If so, please explain.

The political system in the UK clearly does not work. The UK democratic system is flawed and that has a huge knock on effect to charities and NGOs (Non Government Organisations).  A flawed political system in the UK allows political parties to get away with large budget cuts to UK Charities and NGOs, which in turn means that the most vulnerable in society are having vital services cut, which has disastrous effects.

What changes to the UK political system might be helpful?

Firstly I believe we need to reform the electoral system.  First Past The Post is deeply flawed.  It ensures big parties have many more seats than they should have, taking into account their vote share.  It takes away from the small parties that have support distributed across the UK.  It would be healthy to have an electoral system that allowed a varied coalition government.  Many countries have such a coalition government made up of many different parties, which allows many different voices to be heard in parliament.

Greater local government would also be beneficial. The UK has a rich diversity of regions, nationalities and cultures that we should celebrate more. Devolving powers to local areas is a really good way to empower communities and allow people to have more of a voice.