Chrissy Munandalu Hilweele
MSocSc in Social Policy, UCC
Chrissy works as a Social Protection Officer in Zambia. He received a fellowship in 2015-16 to study for a Master of Social Science in Social Policy in University College Cork.
In Zambia I am a Social Protection officer advocating for the rights of marginalized groups such as children, persons with disabilities and people living in poverty. I work primarily through policy development and advocacy.
I chose the MSc in Social Policy at UCC because I thought that this course would give me skills to help with my work. You can’t effectively implement a policy programme without the appropriate skills.
So far in my course, I have learnt a lot about disability policy. I have learnt a lot about gender and sexuality and how they are mere social constructs. I am particularly interested in what we have learnt about the theory of emancipatory research which suggests if we are to solve problems of the marginalized groups, we must involve them in the decision making and in research. We have learnt that you can’t just implement a particular policy or programme – you need to do research. So when I get back I will be able to say "do we have the statistics to back up this decision and programme?" I think it’s very nice when you learn, after a period of working, I am now able to reflect on my work practice to see what I have done wrong. I will be a better informed officer. I have been given social analysis skills. As part of my course I have been analyzing social policy in Zambia; the child policy and the disability policy. I am now able to see the gaps due to the skills I have acquired on this course.
When I first came to Ireland, it was quite a challenge. There were lecturers that I could not understand very well. But eventually through interacting and mingling I can now understand the Irish accent. One strange thing I have encountered about Irish life is how you get directions to go somewhere. In Zambia, when you ask someone how to get somewhere, you are told the directions – go this way – turn left. But here in Ireland you are given a map to find your own way. I have learnt how to do this. Here in Ireland it is great that you have plenty of food; fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and great hospitality, despite the weather being unfriendly. The learning style here is also different. Here we are using independent thinking, you are free to use your own ideas once you can justify them. This is to me is a new way of learning, but it is lovely.
Ireland is a small country with a small population that has a strong successful economy. Ireland is a great example for Zambia. Once the skills from Ireland and Zambia are married together, we can make a better Zambia. We are trying to emancipate our country from poverty and illiteracy. We want to empower marginalized groups. We want to uplift the welfare of the people. When you uplift the welfare of the people, it lifts the economy. Zambia has gained great knowledge from Irish Aid / Ireland and some day we would like to reach a point where we are the ones imparting that knowledge, where we are the ones sponsoring students and running a fellowship programme.
I hope to continue with work and to impart the skills I have learnt to other members of staff in my organization. I might outreach to universities to impart my knowledge and what I have learnt to students free of charge. We are humbled, we owe you for what you have given us, we owe the people of Ireland and may God bless you.