When Patricia Mtungila started off as a reporter over 10 years ago, she didn’t know much about where she would be going or
what kind of journalism she was interested in. She started reporting on governance, elections as well as women’s and girls’
rights in Mzuzu, Malawi until she saw a bigger purpose for herself.
Now, Mtungila is an activist, development communicator and the founder of Purple Innovation for Women and Girls – an
organisation that trains and empowers women and girls with skills and knowledge to spearhead the fight against gender-based
violence and poverty in Malawi among other interventions. The organisation is helping women and girls create solutions by
themselves, for themselves.
Even though most of her work is in advocacy and women empowerment, Mtungila believes journalism plays an important role
in uncovering corruption and specifically how the lack of good governance affects women and girls.
She brought her two passions together in a project supported by African Alliance.
In February 2023, Purple Innovation teamed up with African Alliance to kick off the strengthening Covid-19 funds accountability
project – a six month investigative journalism training programme to help qualified journalists in Nkhata Bay and Mzimba to
unearth corruption, mismanagement allegations and accountability issues surrounding Covid-19 funds disbursed to the
Malawian government since the onset of the pandemic.
“We’re capacitating investigative journalists to better uncover Covid-19 funding. As you are aware, when Covid-19 hit in 2020
thereabout, Malawi was one of the countries that was hugely funded, both locally as well as by bilateral and multilateral
partners, however, after that, we could see from the reports from the minister of finance and even from news reports, there was
a lot of mismanagement funds amounting to $10 million could not be accounted for,” she said.
Adding that while the mismanagement of funds was reported, no arrests have been made and the money has not been
returned, so the project can help bring the issue to light.
The journalists are expected to produce evidence-based, 25 investigative stories on public procurement in Covid-19 materials in Malawi that can inform legal investigations and prosecutions of allegedly corrupt public officers.
Journalism in Malawi
Journalism in Malawi is under-resourced, according to Mtungila.
“Most media houses will not invest so much in these investigative stories and so they are sort of left hanging or we just end up
having a simple news story and not really digging up the facts. So, that’s why we thought of investing or capacitating these
journalists so that with these resources and with the time given to them, they should produce the best stories that can lead to
tangible impact in Malawi’s society. We want to know where these funds went – and we would want to see transparency and
accountability around these funds,” she said.
She said capacitating journalists to do deep, investigative reporting is her way of giving back to the industry.
In addition to working with African Alliance, Purple Innovation is working on a number of different projects that deal with HIV
awareness and prevention, career guidance for school girls, entrepreneurship training for women and girls, scholarship
linkages for girls and employable skills mentorship for recent graduates.
Mtungila refers to herself as a development communicator, rather than as a journalist. For her, this means going into
communities and talking to the people that are affected by an issue – understanding them – and then getting their voice into the
mainstream media. At its core, journalism and communication is about having an impact on communities, she said.
In the current climate, Mtungila said journalists need to think outside the box – think outside the 5 Ws and H when doing stories
– and learn how to use social media tools and other digital innovation to tell stories and create impact.
Additionally, journalists need to push for accountability and transparency, especially as the 2025 elections in Malawi approach.
She said now more than ever, journalists need to love their job and their country.
“Whatever they [journalists] report on has a huge role in influencing public opinion and also shaping the future of Malawi and
informing voters as well, so, it’s very important to really be ethical be really passionate about the profession as well as the
country,” she said.
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