What did I learn from the coalface?

Any society has in it people who are sympathetic and kindly disposed to others who are having a less pleasant time than they are — it may be the disabled, it may be orphaned children, or it may be those in debt, those with poor harvests, those who are sick, those who are being abused. The primary response of people to help others is very important, but with a little guided reflection, such people can see that their help can be directed towards reforming and combatting the causes and the reasons why such people are having an unpleasant time. It is important and possible to guide people in such tracks, but this is often against their personal judgement, as they are not enthusiastic to get into what they see as “politics” — because “politics” has become a dirty' word in so many countries of the world.

I also learned that behaviour blanketed with the terms “customary” and “traditional” can be very vicious — e.g. the stealing of widows’ property and the raping of virgins by men with AIDS, which will likely give their victims AIDS as well. It is not only very vicious but very difficult to combat by expatriates who are vulnerable to accusations of interfering in something they know nothing about. My approach was nearly always to partner with the women’s organisations who were the most vocal opponents.

The return to Africa with this five-year stretch in Zambia came after five years apiece in Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. I have been asked for my views on this. At this time I thought that in Asia people’s poverty was caused by, for the most part, man’s (or woman’s) inhumanity to other people. The effects of debt, the violence of goons and thugs, the polarisation between rich and poor were the sort of arguments I used. In Africa, however, the problems were caused more by nature — droughts, epidemics, floods — and less by what people did to each other. This, in turn, would suggest strategies to combat poverty and marginalisation. However, appalling tribal fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and post-election Kenya, together with the behaviour associated with HIV/AIDS discussed in this chapter, on the one hand, and huge floods, droughts and epidemics in Asian countries, on the other, made me revise my over-simplistic thinking.

What happened to it all?

The World Bank’s Fee for Service policy has been greatly trimmed back, partly as a result of the situation in countries like Zambia where poor people could not pay for services if there was a cost.

There has been a huge growth in the number of people in Zambia who have access to ARVs - but where this is something that has to be paid for, there continue to be many who cannot afford them. Where ARVs are widely available, the transmission of HIV/AIDS has been considerably reduced.

The strong dislike that government officials have for CSOs has moderated a bit but has by no means finished. For the most part, donors have not seen it as their job to defend why they are supporting CSOs while at the same time funding CSOs. In my opinion this is their responsibility, since their funding to CSOs creates ill feeling on the part of the government towards CSOs

The number of deaths from AIDS in Zambia has diminished and the cemeteries are not growing as fast.

Ian Duty died of liver cancer but left a fantastic canon of musical work.

On apersonal note

USAID and UNICEF, which were funding Clare and me, were also ready to fund our children to go to international schools, which was a great relief.

Just less than 20% of UNICEF’s staff in Zambia had died, likely of AIDS, during Clare’s five years there.

Brenda Liswaniso, my Pact deputy', went on to be employed by a copper-mining company in Zambia to introduce corporate social accountability practices.

This was a time of expansion of internet sites. Zambian organisations (I am thinking of one in particular, Children in Need) were astonished to receive funds from overseas without asking for them — on the basis of their descriptive websites about their work — such were the feelings being generated about HIV/AIDS.

What were we thinking at the time?

As with the last chapter, I found myself writing manuals and sourcebooks on advocacy inspired by the work with CSOs in Zambia. Some of these were written while I was in Zambia, and some saw the light of day subsequently.

Holloway, Richard (ed.). 1996. Learning from Each Other: Report of an

NGO consultation on community-based approaches to development. UNICEF, Lusaka, Zambia.

Holloway, Richard. 1998. Establishing and Running an Advocacy NGO.

Pact Publications, Washington DC, USA.

Holloway, Richard. 2002. When Your Work Is Blocked: Adding advocacy to service deliver)'. Pact Publications, Washington DC, USA.

Holloway, Richard. 2004. NGO Corruption Fighters’ Resource Book: Hom NGOs can use monitoring and advocacy to fight corruption. Impact Alliance, Washington DC, USA.

And if anyone wants to know more about Ian Dury:

Balls, Richard. 2000. Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The life of Ian Dury. Omnibus Press, London, UK.

There’s also a 2010 film about his early life called Sex & Drugs Sc Rock & Roll.


  • 1 Antiretrovirals (ARVs) are a medicine that can stabilise AIDS, but cannot cure it. At this time it was expensive and not always available, particularly to poor people and in poor countries.
  • 2 One infamous organisation in Bangladesh was called “The Association for Blind Children” but actually traded second-hand cars, using the NGO title to get tax relief.
  • 3 There was a publicly displayed poster at the international airport in Lusaka intended to stop Zambian travellers overseas from contracting HIV/A1DS and bringing it back to their families. It showed the family waving goodbye to the businessman at the airport with the slogan “Think of them when overseas”. Once this was displayed and discussed, it was obvious how ineffective it was, but designing public posters about stopping raping virgins in the belief that it cured AIDS was a difficult task, particularly in a country where the President could only bring himself to refer to HIV/AIDS as “that disease” and where people were even very hesitant about admitting to its existence.
  • 4 See www.developments.org.uk/articles/sex-and-drugs-and-polio/.
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