Travelling into the rural areas and interacting with the rural communities gives an opportunity to see life from the other side. As much as the urban world and the rural world are totally different worlds, they have one mutual underlying fact; both worlds have people who are frantically trying to survive under their present circumstances.
Funny thing is both worlds usually ran on unfounded assumptions about the other. This is usually because none of the two have had the exact experience as the other. For instance, most rural people assume that life in the urban world is simple and that money is always available. A person from the rural area finds it hard to believe when a relative living in town tells them they are broke, or they cannot afford something. A very naive and wrongly placed assumption it is, but that is mostly the case.
On the other hand, the urban people usually believe that the people in the village do not have a life and the best life would be for them to come into town or to emulate the modern lifestyle. They ran under the assumption that the rural population is an easily impressionable lot with no long term goals. Do we stop to consider that some of the people in the village are content just the way they are? Do we stop to consider that what we consider poor standards of living is what they consider peace of mind? Sometimes we over impose our values and believes on others.
Many a time, urban people develop a super condescending and arrogant complex which makes them believe that they are superior to the people in the village and live better lives. In some instances, the arrogance is masked as assistance. We at times preach about wanting to help the rural population when really what we are trying to achieve is control and superiority. When we want to help, let us learn to help people within their realms of comfort and not overstretch others to meet our standards. That moves from assistance to manipulation. It migrates from helping to stroking egos.
For politicians, it is more evident that the rural population is considered a means to an end and not a vital tool in an ongoing mission. Before election time, politicians will cosy up to their rural constituencies and wax lyrical about fulfilling their hopes and dreams of development and a sustainable future. The well meaning politicians do and say all the right things until they are on the thrown. This is when their true arrogant colours come to light as they turn around and treat the very people who put them into power like peasants who have no say.
However, what I have come to appreciate is that the rural population is a serious development partner that needs to be given the chance to partake in the development discourse without its voice being drowned by the loud tech hyped urban population.
Especially in a country like ours, this will be of more importance because less than a third of the Malawian population is urban. This means a large force of the country is in the rural area. This should tell us that if we are to achieve any meaningful change and if we are to forge ahead as a country, the rural population has to be part and parcel of the decision making process. Do we allow ourselves to engage and listen to ‘the other side’ or we constantly make decisions on their behalf? How many standards have we imposed?
I believe the rural force is an even more determined force than the urban force. If the rural force was to protest against injustices, the whole village would be there. If it was up to the rural force, underperforming figures of authority would have been ousted swiftly and quickly. This is because the people are more passionate about survival. They do not have social media platforms to make impressions on, for them every day is a new day to fight and survive. Every issue is a real issue to confront.
Urban or rural, we are all Malawian and moving forward calls for unbiased synergy.
I rest my case.