By Steve M’bayeni, UNICEF Malawi
The world desperately needs people who can devote themselves for the services of others, those who can drop a “sweat” to put a smile on someone’s face. These people are all around us and we call them social workers, the invisible heroes!
Social work is a profession that empowers people and facilitates solutions to the problems individuals, families and communities face to realize their rights and ensure their safety and well-being.
Social workers deal with complex cases of violence, abuse, neglect, and trauma. They contribute to the care, support, promotion of rights, and empowerment of vulnerable populations served by the social service system.
At the frontline, social workers deal with children in conflict with the law, settlement of matrimonial disputes, and family violence – all of which can impact children’s wellbeing. They conduct case management, mediation and counselling, family visits to determine suitability for children in need of care and protection, and coordinate the work of NGOs and Community Based Organizations carry out in child protection. Many social workers at sub-national and national levels conduct research and advocate for social policy formulation and change.
From 3rd to 5th October 2018, UNICEF Malawi supported the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare (MoGCDSW) to convene the first-ever conference on the professionalization of Social Work in Malawi. Social workers, development partners, and international and national experts from the academia were in attendance to discuss the future of the profession.
Some of the social workers who attended shared their motivation for becoming social workers and their vision for the profession in the country.
Loveness Imaan, Chiradzulu
“Social Work is a profession that supports vulnerable people, mostly, children, women who often shoulder the responsibility of taking care of orphans, and elderly people. As a social worker, I am able to make a difference.
I’d want to see more people being trained in Social Work because the problems requiring the services of social workers are numerous.”
Thokozani Mtapaonga, Chiradzulu
“Social Work is a noble profession that brings justice to marginalized people; children, disabled persons, and those affected by mental health problems. Through social work, we can solve most of the problems people face and empower them to realize their rights.
My wish is to see a well-regulated profession with appropriate systems, structures, policies and well-trained staff and a Social Work board to oversee the accreditation and harmonization of Social Work curriculum across training institutions.”
Felix Kakowa, Zomba
“As a student, I led the creation of a Community Based Organization to assist children living in communities near Chancellor College in Zomba. I grew up in an environment where people support each other so it was natural for me to get into this kind of work, helping people especially children.
This profession needs people who are well trained and respect human rights. My dream is to see Social Work becoming a competent profession that cares for those facing problems especially children; a profession that builds strong partnerships and recognize all other players that can contribute to welfare of people.”
Willard Manjolo, Lilongwe
“I grew up in a close-knit community where people helped each other. So, it’s not surprising that I seized the opportunity to get into this profession.
I would like to see Social Work transformed into a culturally relevant profession that serves the interests of the poor, especially children.”
Joachim Cuthbert Mumba, Lusaka, Zambia
“I was raised in a Catholic family, and grew up with the burning desire to become a priest. Fortunate enough, I managed to go to a minor seminary and my journey to priesthood was very much alive. I just wanted to serve other people and priesthood at the time seemed the only viable path for me to realize my passion. When my uncle left the Catholic church I no longer wanted to be a priest. Later I was selected to the University of Zambia, but I wasn’t sure what to study, and ended up in social work. The more I learnt about Social Work, the more I realized that this was what I wanted to do all along. Friends discouraged me, but my desire for Social Work kept growing because of the encouragement I got from the Association for Social Work at the University of Zambia.
I would like to see Social Work associations in Africa strengthened, to give social workers a strong voice in human rights and justice. In Malawi, I would like to see Social Workers recognized for their work, through the establishment of a National Social Workers Board.”
Anstance Fometu, UK
“Growing up surrounded by poverty and injustices led me to this profession.
I am excited by the developments in Malawi’s Social Work, particularly the training of social workers. This will bring excellence to the profession. Social Work activities will gain more publicity and social media will play a very big role in this transformation.
Young people have to come forward and join the profession. Government has been supportive and it is my belief that Social Work will help address countless problems.”
Enock Bonongwe, Lilongwe
“I did not join Social Work by accident. I was the last born in my family and this meant that the environment I grew up in was a caring one. Naturally, I developed an affection for people. When I had to go to college I chose a programme that would lead me close to people and serving others. After I graduated, I worked as an Energy Officer but I always felt like something was missing, so I moved to the Ministry of Gender as Social Welfare Officer.
I look forward to a well-regulated Social Work environment where social workers receive recognition as it is in other professions. I envisage an environment where social workers would be guided by ethics, a regulatory body and with enough resources which currently are minimal.”
“At first I didn’t know what social work was. I thought Community Development was another term for social work. I just had a passion for the most vulnerable, to speak on their behalf and to deliver the necessary services to them.
I studied Social work because I have always wanted to make a difference., I can do this in a caring and supportive way because in everyday life people go through difficulties and daily life is a struggle.
I would like to see Social Work recognized as a profession, social workers being registered to practice and that people are getting the services they require.”
“Social Work is both a calling and way of life to me. At a very young age I lost my mum and life became difficult. Some days we didn’t even have anything to eat. This happened for a while until community members through traditional mutual aid systems came to our rescue. I managed to go to secondary school because of the support the community provided. My struggles in secondary school sow the desire in me to help people who struggle due to the social problems they face. Since then I dreamt of a profession that would provide me with a platform to inspire people, champion social justice, and influence social change.
When the opportunity came for me to study Social Work at Magomero College I did not hesitate. I see Social Work as a blend of various disciplines, science and arts, which makes it possible to solve problems of various dimensions. I am dedicated and passionate about Social Work, and I can proudly say that as a student, I am swimming in the right direction towards my goal of becoming a professional Social Worker.”