Usually civil society refers to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and associations that people belong to for social and political reasons. Examples of civil society organisations might include: churches and church groups, community groups, youth groups, service organizations, interest groups, and academic institutions and organizations.
Analysts have argued that CSO`s influence governmental decisions, making and participate in a variety of public participation processes. As such, the establishment and maintenance of a healthy civil society is extremely important for the successful development and operation of democratic political systems.
Another essential part of the operation of civil society organizations (CSOs) concerns the mediating role they play between individuals and the state. Citizens can benefit significantly when a network of civil society organizations mediates the relationship between them and the state. The performance of government programs is improved and the impact of state policy is felt when there is relatively organized citizens’ groups. Citizens are also able to derive greater benefits from government programs when their individual efforts are organized and made more unified by CSOs.
In short we should conclude that CSO`s speak or represent the voices of the voiceless people on the ground. But have the CSO`s been significant for Malawi?
There have been several occurrences or phenomena when this country needed the voice from civil society organisations. And as expected they really spoke. They voiced out their concern during the tyranny rule of late president Bingu Wa Mutharika. They pointed at areas which they felt needed some corrections during the reign of Dr Joyce Banda`s. Some are able to monitor and suggest for improvements at this time of Peter Mutharika. They added their voices during the May 20 2014 electoral impasse. They have contributed to federal and secession debates. But to a larger extent i am not pleased.
Why does CSO`s in Malawi fail to speak with one voice? Why in Malawi it is possible to have one CSO speaking against homosexuality for example while another one is against it? I am asking this considering their basic role which they have in this society which is to represent the voice of the voiceless! Or you mean it is possible to have CSO`s that speak for a single voiceless community contribute different views on one issue? I think answer there is NO! To me, it is awkward to see these CSO`s take different sides of an issue like homosexuality and federalism. I my opinion i think if these CSO `s speaks for ordinary Malawians we could not have one speaking against homosexuality while another one commends it.
I hope it is time for most CSO`s in Malawi to rebuild their reputations. We know that the problem of failing to speak with one voice stems from the fact that individual people heading those bodies have their personal affiliations. Thus natural, but what some of us hate is to have someone advancing his or her personal interests by claiming to be representing voiceless communities.
Another very critical reason i am irritated with CSO`s in Malawi is the issue of July 20, 2011 ant-governmental demonstrations. These CSO`s were busy here and there lobbying citizens to take to the streets, to show their anger over some other governance issues. They really achieved that. Unfortunately, on this day July 20, the country lost lives of about 20 individuals. But what happened next. Family members and relatives of individuals who were dependent on these deceased now have no one to rely on and those organisations and institutions that mobilised these protesters cannot even think of helping these bereaved family members and relatives.
As the family members of the deceased said at a press briefing they held in Mzuzu recently, none of the CSO`s that took part in organising these ant-governmental protest have offered any support to the victim apart from the Church and Society of the CCAP synod of Livingstonia. Time to see change!