Conversations with Collaboration Champions, Episode 1: Kate Harawa, Director of Influence and Scale, Water For People Malawi

Conversations with Collaboration Champions, Episode 1: Kate Harawa, Director of Influence and Scale, Water For People Malawi

Conversations with Collaboration Champions, Episode 1: Kate Harawa, Director of Influence and Scale, Water For People Malawi 545 409 Agenda for Change

Welcome to our podcast focusing on collaboration and collective action in the global WASH sector. This image shows a portrait of our first guest, Kate Harawa.

Conversations with Collaboration Champions is a new podcast series from Agenda for Change, focused on sharing stories, events, and resources that highlight collaborative approaches to WASH systems strengthening. The podcast is hosted by Alec Shannon, Deputy Coordinator of Agenda for Change. Check back regularly for more episodes! 


About Kate

Kate Harawa is Director of Influence and Scale with Water For People Malawi; previously, she was Country Director. She is passionate about improving the quality of life of all people, and especially girls, women, and children, by helping them realize their potential and contributing to their development. In Africa and Malawi, women and girls are the key stakeholders in WASH, hence Kate’s work directly impacts these groups. Before coming to Water For People, Kate also worked on environment and health-related projects with Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief and OXFAM. You can connect with Kate on Linkedin and also read her interview with Agenda for Change from June 2020.


Episode Highlights 

  • Kate has been helping to lead a collaborative effort of WASH systems actors across Malawi. The group met in November 2020 for a workshop.
  • The collaboration agreed to meet monthly moving forward.
  • Water for People Malawi is using the District-Wide Approach and considering districts as partners in this initiative.


Episode Transcript

ALEC: Alec Shannon, Deputy Coordinator – Agenda for Change
KATE: Kate Harawa, Director of Influence and Scale – Water for People Malawi

ALEC: Hello, and welcome to episode one of Conversations with Collaboration Champions, where we highlight stories, events, and resources, focused on collaborative approaches to WASH systems strengthening. I’m Alec Shannon, Deputy Coordinator of Agenda for Change, and today it is my pleasure to welcome Kate Harawa, Director of Influence and Scale with Water for People Malawi. Over the past year and a half, Kate has been co-leading efforts with fellow Agenda for Change members and colleagues to build consensus among all WASH actors in Malawi and to provide greater coherence across systems strengthening efforts. As part of this ongoing collaboration, a number of Agenda for Change members, and others, recently gathered for a two-day national workshop to build consensus on Malawi’s WASH sector strengths and weaknesses and to develop an action plan for the way forward. Without further ado, let’s hear from Kate.

ALEC: So thank you again to Kate Harawa – Kate is the Director of Influence and Scale at Water for People Malawi, and Kate I saw recently, it might have been in the fall, maybe I’m a little late, but you were celebrating fifteen years with Water for People in Malawi, is that right?

KATE: That’s right!

ALEC: Congratulations, that’s so exciting!

KATE: Thank you very much, it doesn’t seem like long.

ALEC: And remind me how long have you been Director of Influence and Scale?

KATE: So, next week I will turn one year as Director of Influence and Scale.

ALEC: Oh, wow! So more congratulations are due. That’s excellent. And prior to that, you were Country Director?

KATE: That’s right, I was Country Director for Malawi Water for People.

ALEC: Well, we are so happy to have you and your wealth of experience and knowledge. I know that you have been a leading part of this collaboration effort amongst different WASH systems actors. For people that aren’t as familiar, do you want to just give us a little bit of an overview of who those different actors are and how you’ve started working together?

KATE: Thank you, Alec. It’s an honor to be interviewed, but also to have served in Water for People in those two different positions. So, talking about the Agenda for Change collaboration in Malawi we have our five key partners, so we have WaterAid, we have CARE, we have WHH [Welthungerhilfe], and Water for People. And, the fifth one is not a global Agenda for Change partner, but they are very active and they are part of our collaboration, and that’s World Vision. So, those are the partners.

ALEC: Are there other, bigger partners that maybe aren’t part of Agenda for Change who you’ve also worked closely with?

KATE: So, yes. There are other people or organizations that are not yet part of the Agenda for Change. Currently, we have United Purpose who have asked to be part of the country collaboration. And, we just had a meeting maybe an hour ago where we were discussing that, and we said yes, we need to have criteria if we are to engage more – how do we assess? and how do we rate? But yes, United Purpose is joining us. Other than that, we also collaborate very well, especially on systems strengthening, with UNICEF.

ALEC: So you have a fair number of people, both Agenda for Change members and some, it sounds like, partners and colleagues also working on systems and sector strengthening. Can you tell us a little bit about how you pulled that workshop together? How all those actors formalized some agenda to come together and talk about the way forward?

KATE: We had a workshop in November, but prior to the workshop, we all agreed on what are the key things as a country that we need to look at. So we decided to do an assessment of the sector building blocks, and we focused on eight water sector building blocks, and the report that came out, in terms of the strength of those building blocks is what then brought us together to discuss the results and see how to come to a consensus. To say which ones are really key and what can we do, and collaboratively work on, to help strengthen to strengthen the water sector in Malawi? So that’s what I would say initially brought us together, so we had something tangible to discuss in that meeting.

ALEC: Was there any particular incentive beyond collaboration for joining the meeting? Was this just because of ongoing conversations, or was there something else that was leading you guys to all come together like this?

KATE: Well, first of all, all of us are Members of Agenda for Change, excluding World Vision, but they are a partner in the District-Wide Approach, which is one of the approaches that the Agenda for Change collaboration in Malawi advocates for. So, that was one. Secondly, we were not very excited about some of the things that are happening in the sector. We felt as though we have been moving in a circle, and we were all looking for ways and means to support the government to take the right position and take leadership, and then, we will be able to strengthen the system. Because without the government taking the right, leadership position, whatever we may be doing in the district, whatever we may be doing at the national level, it may not have an impact. So we were all moving with that incentive, that we want to see change. We want to see our sector ticking, and we want to be on track toward achieving SDG 6. So that was the major incentive. Other than that, yes we had resources from Agenda for Change, or a commitment from Agenda for Change, to support the collaboration.

ALEC: You did speak a little about a meeting with United Purpose, which I believe might be new colleagues to you. But are there others that you would have liked to include in this sector strengthening workshop that weren’t able to come together with you all?

KATE: Well, let me first clarify that we deliberately made an exclusive meeting so that whatever we discussed there is something that we want and agree on and that when we get outside this group, we are all able to speak with one voice and convince everyone else. So first, we wanted to get that consensus so those are the people we were really expecting to come, but outside of that, the first other target was then with whatever we agree we want UNICEF because they have a voice as well as a lead development partner in the country. And African Development Bank, also because they are a major player in the sector. And then we have the Network for NGOs in Malawi, that’s WES Network because they also have a following and it’s an umbrella for all NGOs. So actually, after the meeting, they met with members of WesNet as well to brief them. And then within Agenda for Change partners we have Concern Worldwide.

ALEC: So, you’ve had the workshop now, did you all come to some kind of agreement of what your next steps are going to be after this? Can you give us an idea of what’s coming?

KATE: Yes, we have a number of action points, with some deadlines. The first one was that we need to have regular meetings. So that we are also able to track or monitor the progress of whatever we have discussed because each member had made some commitments in terms of the action plans. What we are going to do, who is going to lead what? So we agreed we’d be meeting monthly, and today as I said, we just had another meeting as a team. Apart from that, we also looked at the issues that came into the building blocks assessment report. We looked at who are the people that we need to reach out and discuss with, so as I mentioned, we had discussed we need to meet UNICEF and African Development Bank, and also United Purpose, and all that has been done except for the African Development Bank meeting. We also agreed that we need, after meeting these other key partners, then we need to come up with something that we can take to the government for their action. So that process is yet to be done, meeting with government officials is yet to be done, but today’s meeting helped to consolidate the way we will approach the government and the way we can present ourselves as people that can provide technical assistance or technical support to the government so that the systems should really be working. The last one but not the least is that we have committed districts as Agenda for Change collaborating partners in Malawi so these districts are the districts we want to support at the district-level, using the District-Wide Approach. So strengthening systems at a district-level, and also maybe support at lower levels below the district council level.

ALEC: Are you all aligning yourselves around specific building blocks that you are all going to move forward together and take action items to the government? Or are you going to divide and conquer and each focus on separate building blocks that are more specific to each of your work?

KATE: So within us, we have different strengths. But, the District-Wide Approach looks at all eight building blocks. We add more because Welthungerhilfe has one more to do with behavior change. So we do include that one. So in the districts that we are working in, we are supposed to focus on strengthening all of those, that’s the system, that’s the building block for the sector. For the national level initiative, we highlighted a number of things depending on our strengths, so we looked at monitoring, who can be leading issues of monitoring? In terms of linking with government, linking with other players, and making sure as a country our systems are strong in terms of monitoring our progress toward achieving sanitation and water for all, for everyone, forever. In terms of water resources management, it wasn’t just one NGO, but we had Water for People, we had WaterAid, we also had Welthungerhilfe as people to lead. So we had specific names within those organizations that can support that process.

ALEC: Are these all people, Kate, that you have worked with for some time? Or are you seeing certain people come and go, and others are sticking around for the long run?

KATE: Most of these people are sticking around for a long time. But I would say that at the meeting I was introduced to people for the first time from different organizations that we have been working with. There were people from World Vision, from WHH. And then we developed that relationship and that interest-based on one strength we saw. So like this person is stronger in this area, and I think he would be of much help to support us as a team, as Agenda for Change collaborating partners. But also to help us to move together to support the Ministry of Water.

I’m very excited about the current developments. As I said we have United Purpose coming in and saying okay we’re taking Thyolo and we have the government-led districts like Rumphi, Phalombe, and the like that are also coming up. It’s been exciting, really, to see people joining.

ALEC: Alright, Kate. We’re almost at the time and I’m not sure if there’s anything else you want to add before we go, but just to say thank you again for your time, it’s always lovely to chat with you.

KATE: Thank you very much, Alec! It’s been an honor to be part of this discussion on Malawi collaboration. Thank you so much for having me.

ALEC: Thank you again so much to Kate Harawa for sharing more about collaboration for sector strengthening in Malawi. We certainly look forward to following along as these efforts continue. We appreciate you tuning in to our first episode of Conversations with Collaboration Champions and we hope you found it insightful. We’ll be back again soon with episode two, where we will hear more about collaborative WASH sector strengthening efforts in Rwanda. Stay tuned!

Interested in learning more? Stay tuned for our next episode, where we will discuss collaborative WASH systems strengthening in Rwanda.

Back to top