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Twapashagha Mable Twea
(Malawi)

MSocSc in Social Policy, University College Cork, 2010

My advice to new Fellows: I know everyone comes to Ireland to work hard. Focus on your studies, but please do enjoy Ireland. There's a lot of learning that will happen from living there. Enjoy the experience.

I'm from Malawi, born and raised. I’m a mother of three. I did the Ireland Fellows Programme in 2010/ 11. I studied at University College Cork, where I did a master's in social policy. 

I did a bachelor's degree in social sciences at Africa University in Zimbabwe where I specialised in sociology and psychology. 

At the time I applied to the Ireland Fellows Programme, I was working for the government of Malawi, and I was working for the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, and Development as a social development officer. My role was to support in policy development, as well as the programme development and monitoring of implementation. I was very much engaged in national level discussions and looking at other areas. Specifically, I was looking at the Social Cash Transfer Programme and the School Meals Programme at the time of my application. 

I spent most of my time in Ireland studying and doing research. But there was also a lot of freedom. I think at the time that I was at UCC, there were only two fellows: one from Uganda and myself. That gave me a sense of comfort, because we were studying the same course. I had that companionship at the time. I enjoyed walking a lot when I was in Ireland, because Cork is amazing. It's beautiful. I walked a lot, I walked everywhere. I think what was most memorable was the opportunity that the IFP gives you to have those frequent interactions with other fellows. You get to understand where the other people are and what they're studying and what their experiences are. That for me was very crucial, the few moments that we gathered as fellows. I have very fond memories of my time in Ireland, and it's still on my bucket list to revisit and just to be a tourist.  

The strangest thing for me was the weather in Ireland. But the people were generally friendly, very welcoming. It felt like home, it still feels like home. Except for the weather! 

I'm currently working for Concern Worldwide as a Policy and Advocacy Manager. That involves a lot of policy. I enjoy it. It's putting a voice to things that normally have been left alone or trying to accelerate a voice on something. One thing that excited me when I got this job was giving back to the Irish community because Concern Worldwide is originally Irish. Prior to that, I have worked with GIZ, and I worked for UNICEF.  

I think everything that I learned in UCC still applies because I've stayed within the policy environment. I've worked around social protection but right now with Concern, it's broadening my scope as well, because I'm working in many areas: gender, disaster risk management, humanitarian response, the Ukraine crisis now. So, it’s broader and everything still applies back to the course that I did and how applicable and relevant it still is now 10 years after I left. I'm still in touch with my lecturers from UCC. We often talk about me maybe pursuing a PhD or something like that. My hopes would be to expand my knowledge and skills around policy, especially developmental policy.  I might like to teach at some point, but I'm not there yet. I'm still accumulating some knowledge and experiences and will see if that's a practical decision. But I think so far, I am within where I would want to be. My hopes and expectation are to continue doing what I'm doing, and to do it on a more global scale. 

I would recommend the IFP a million times. I think when we first did the alumni survey, I was very frustrated. The main frustration was managing my own expectations. You come back home with this wealth of knowledge, and you just want to be given an opportunity or a platform to apply it. But things don't work as well or as quickly as that so you must be patient, you must see when you can apply yourself, and you must remember the local context. So be patient with yourself. It's good to always know that you're part of a system and a part of a community because I think over the years, I've been meeting a lot of the fellows in different forums, like I met a few people, in a workshop in Kenya. You get this sense of community and home. I think for the Malawians that I was with during that time, we are still close, and we keep in touch.  

My advice to new Fellows: I know everyone comes to Ireland to work hard. Focus on your studies, but please do enjoy Ireland. There's a lot of learning that will happen from living there. Enjoy the experience. It's more than studying and it’s more than just the classroom experience. Go out, learn the culture, learn the life. Immerse yourself in everything and come out with a rounded experience.