The Malawi National Commission for UNESCO hosted a coordination workshop for Southern African Intangible Cultural Heritage (SAICH) cooperation platform from 11 to 12 February 2019 at Lilongwe Sunbird Hotel, in Lilongwe. The workshop was organized as part of a project on strengthening sub-regional cooperation for implementing the 2003 Convention for the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). The project is supported by the Flanders Government under the auspices of the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA). The workshop was organised by Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), Zimbabwe which is the host and coordinator of the platform created in 2015. The purpose of the workshop was to formally kick-start activities of the final phase of the project in seven countries in Southern Africa, namely: Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The workshop was officially opened by the Principal Secretary for Ministry of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Mrs Ivy Luhanga, on behalf of the Minister. In her speech, the Principal Secretary emphasised that implementation of the 2003 Convention for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is first and foremost the responsibility of communities who are the owners of the heritage and governments only facilitate the processes to ensure that there are favourable conditions for the communities to play their rightful roles. She thanked UNESCO and the Flanders Government for the kind gesture and encouraged them to continue supporting the Government of Malawi and the countries in the region in various programmes and initiatives aimed at safeguarding ICH. Other speeches were delivered by the Coordinator of SAICH platform, Professor Herbert Chimhundu of Chinhoyi University of Technology, and Acting Deputy Executive Secretary for Malawi National Commission for UNESCO, Mr David Mulera.
The workshop developed implementation plans for five major activities of the new phase of the project, namely: (1) Upgrading and maintenance of the SAICH website and database in order to build a strong tech hub that will provide a vibrant and interactive platform for ICH information sharing and dissemination; (2) Domesticating the 2003 ICH Convention by translating it into selected languages that are widely spoken in the seven participating countries; (3) Producing and disseminating awareness-raising materials, both in print and in audio-visual formats; (4) Training Trainers of Trainers (ToT) in elaboration of safeguarding plans while also addressing issues of gender equality and ethics; and (5) Analysing the context and challenges as well as revitalizing the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Committees of the participating countries.
The new project phase will run up to June 2019. Two more workshops are remaining to be held.