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TiLD in Malawi, Africa - Design Thinking abroad

Last Friday, our co-founder Ann-Sophie Mante introduced Design Thinking to Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Lilongwe, Malawi, to stress the importance of user-centric innovation in development.

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries with a poverty rate of 51,5% and a projected GDP per capita of 488 USD in 2020. 70% of Malawi’s 19.7 Million strong population age below 35 years. 80% live in rural areas. Only 11% have access to electricity and internet. Quality jobs are rare. Of those who work, 83,5 % work in the informal sector, earning a 1 USD/day.

Overall education levels remain low due to early school-dropouts. Families need their children’s helping hands in a poorly performing economy heavily relying on agriculture and farming or cannot afford school fees. Especially girls are disadvantaged. Many drop out of school as one in two girls experience child marriage before the legal age of 18 and child pregnancy. As a result, women have an inferior societal standing compared to men in most of Malawi.

After a short introduction to Design Thinking, GIZ Malawi’s Social Protection Program, working on improved livelihood in rural communities, brainstormed the challenge ad-hoc – “How might we inspire rural young girls to become career models in their communities?”.

9 Malawian participants prototyped 2 inspiring solutions in 2 groups. Presented as role play, one offered a mobile, interactive development theatre aiming to change and remove harmful cultural practices hampering girls’ future opportunities. This theatre has an educational element as it portrays the destructiveness of certain practices such as female initiation rituals at the age of 12-14 from which child pregnancies would result, leading to girls dropping out of school early and low education levels. The active involvement of communities and local chiefs into the play fosters understanding in them as an audience and initiates vital conversations on the spot, possibly even agreement on a change in practice. This was seen when testing the prototype – the play’s audience (other group) reached the agreement to refrain from harmful initiations rituals and to arrest adults continuing with past practices.

The second solution – presented as a story board – focused on girls’ tutoring on rights, contraception and future career opportunities by a female teacher in a no-boys’ classroom in rural areas. Girls could get advice from the teacher as their trusted focal person on topics they could not speak to their family about due to cultural reasons. Additionally, contraceptives would be distributed in the classroom.

These solutions show how much can be achieved in only 2 hours of Design Thinking.

Ann-Sophie currently inter alia explores how to deploy Design Thinking in the controversial development sector during her 3-months legal training with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ).


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