MEJN was formed in November 2000 after a meeting of 27 civil society organizations seeking to maximize their pro-poor involvement in economic governance. Members decided that a network secretariat be established to coordinate their efforts in the economic governance of Malawi. Their participation on the PRSP formulation process was first on the agenda. The meeting acknowledged that the background and economic literacy levels of CSOs in Malawi did not allow them to constructively participate in economic governance issues, and as such the network should harness their economic literacy. MEJN also replaced the Jubilee 2000 movement, which was responsible for debt cancellation campaign and had operated for two years.
MEJN is a coalition of more than 100 civil society organizations, which have activities in the field of economic governance. MEJN’s membership includes NGOs, Community Based Organisations, Trade Unions, representatives of the Media, the academia, among others.
The MEJN Secretariat, which is located along Mazengera road, in Area 47, Sector 4, House number 776 in Lilongwe, coordinates the day-to-day activities of MEJN. A Board of Directors manages MEJN activities. MEJN is also represented in the districts and has regional coordinators helping to coordinate the activities of the MEJN district chapters.
MEJN is a grouping of Civil Society Organizations that exist to promote good economic governance through research based advocacy and grass roots mobilization among the people of Malawi.
Overview of the District Chapter Programme
The Districts’ Chapter Programme commenced in 2002 with the establishment of Chapters in a small number of districts. This work continued throughout 2003 and 2004 and to date, Chapters have been established in 27 of Malawi’s 29 districts and they are under the direct mentorship of the Regional Coordinators fully established with offices in the three regions of Malawi, North, Centre and South.
The impetus for the programme came from a perceived need to link more closely with local communities and, in line with the national strategy of decentralisation, to extend the MEJN structure into the districts thereby institutionalizing MEJN’s representation nationwide. The main aim at the time was to create ‘loose’ structures in all districts which could implement MEJN’s programmes and activities and provide data for MEJN’s ‘evidence-based lobbying’. This was intended to complement the work of MEJN’s membership base – the original structure of representation, which had been set up in 2000.
Malawi had 28 districts. One of these was recently split into two to make 29. MEJN has set up Chapters in all except N’neno and Likoma, (Source: MEJN PSD presentation to the 2004 Annual Assembly of Chapters, p 10)
MEJN has three main areas of engagement: First as a bridge between the civil society and government; Secondly, to build capacity of civil society in economic and budget literacy to enable them to make informed contributions, and lastly to enhance advocacy and lobbying of decision makers to advance the interests of the MEJN.
Concrete examples: Capacity Building through economic literacy and budget literacy
MEJN develops materials and simplifies and translates important policy documents (such as the MGDS, the Budget, Trade Agreements etc.) into the vernacular to allow citizens to participate in economic governance on an informed basis.
Participatory Research and Budget Monitoring
MEJN carries out surveys on a regular basis to gather information from the people to then use the data for evidence-based advocacy. For instance, MEJN has been conducting a Service Delivery Satisfaction Survey since 2003 to assess the accessibility and the levels of satisfaction of people in Malawi with public services. These surveys have been carried out as part of Civil Society’s contribution towards monitoring of the PRSP implementation.
Facilitating Dialogue among various stakeholders
MEJN is holding regular meetings and debates with Parliamentary Committees, decision-makers at both, national and district level and civil society to exchange views and be a bridge between government and civil society.