Diaspora

The Malawian Diaspora community in Scotland are an integral part of the Scotland Malawi Partnership – its leadership, governance and membership. They possess a unique insight into both our cultures and are an invaluable part of our special relationship.

Accordingly, since its creation, the SMP has been especially interested in encouraging Malawians resident in Scotland to become active members, joining the SMP Board, chairing our committees and speaking at our events, with significant time, energy and resources invested in promoting and supporting diaspora engagement.

We are proud to have always had leading members of the Malawian diaspora community on the Board of the SMP and to have had members of diaspora communities on our staff and paid by the SMP.

We work closely with, and look to help and support, the Association of Malawians in Scotland as the umbrella organisation for Malawians in Scotland. Members of this Association also get free membership of the Scotland Malawi Partnership.

We have had a number of meetings with the AMS to actively explore how the SMP could further support diaspora engagement and we have specifically consulted the AMS leadership on the SMP’s Build Back Better work, to ensure diaspora engagement remains at our core.

Following our February 2022 event looking at Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, we have reached out again to AMS proposing that we restart the SMP’s Malawi Diaspora Advisory Group (MDAG), which ran for a number of years, to explore further ways we can positively build diaspora engagement. We have suggested such meetings take place quarterly, with minutes published on this webpage to ensure full transparency and appropriate actions are taken.

Diaspora events in Scotland

We are proud to work closely with the Malawi diaspora on many of our events and often look for speakers from the diaspora community to inform our engagements. We feel this is especially important for large events which we know will be of particular interest to Malawians resident in Scotland and when there are senior government representatives from Malawi.

During every Malawi Head of State visit to Scotland since 2008 we have worked closely with the Malawi diaspora, lobbying the Government of Malawi to ensure strong diaspora engagement in the visit programme and giving time in our own events for strong diaspora participation.

We have always responded positively to requests from the diaspora for further engagement during such visits, often investing the SMP’s unrestricted funds and using our leverage as a charity to help make these events possible. For example, during COP26 we had a series of events with the President and First Lady of Malawi, each of which had strong diaspora involvement. At the request of the diaspora, we also organised and funded a special Afternoon Tea event for women in the Malawian diaspora to meet the First Lady.

We are pleased to have provided meeting spaces for diaspora-only events, for example, to meet new Malawi High Commissioners to the UK, recognising the value of having such discussions in Chichewa.

We also think it is crucial to amplify diaspora voices so, in addition to ensuring we have diaspora speakers at our key events, we have funded the 11-episode People to People podcast which is co-hosted and co-produced by a member of the Malawian diaspora and a Scot.

We continue to support Malawians resident in Scotland navigate the UK government visa and immigration systems, working to use our voice and leverage to support Malawians through what we recognise is a hostile, unhelpful and inefficient government process. We have actively lobbied in the Commons and the Lords for improvements in this area -with numerous debates and parliamentary questions- and have co-written a major all-party parliamentary report, which has had recommendations accepted in part by the UK Government. We also respond immediately to emergency cases, for example giving, advice, emergency funding and immediate representation to members of the Malawian diaspora who have become stuck in the immigration system (for example, in one instance, literally stuck between Malawi and Scotland in Nairobi airport).

We also run annual language and culture training, which is co-run by a member of the Malawian diaspora: allowing our members to tap into this unique expertise before travelling to Malawi.

It is always a delight to support diaspora led-events. For example, in April 2022 it was fantastic to host the launch of John Lwanda’s new book ‘ Making Music in Malawi’ as a hybrid event, with John in Scotland and other speakers in Malawi. We subsequently used our space in The Scotsman newspaper to help John promote his excellent book.

Before Covid restrictions made such in-person events more difficult, we provided direct funding for the Association of Malawians in Scotland to organise Malawi Independence Day celebrations, as they saw fit.

The 2014 celebration was especially memorable, as we marked 50 years of Malawian independence. The event, held in Glasgow was attended by over 200 people, mainly Malawians. There was excellent diaspora leadership in the planning for the day which as a result had a very friendly and authentically Malawian feel to it complete with traditional Malawian food, games, speeches and music from the famous Black Missionaries (Malawi's most popular band playing their first ever gig in Scotland) and Brave 'Blakseed' Mnyayi of the Nyasa Guruz.

Since then members of the Malawian diaspora have organised many more excellent Independence Day Celebrations, often with financial support from the SMP.

At its core, the SMP is nothing more or less than a group of people and organisations across Scotland who choose to come together unified by their belief in a dignified, two-way partnership of human solidarity with our friends in Malawi. The Malawian diaspora community in Scotland are most warmly welcomed into this community and we will continue to actively look for ways to help facilitate this while also respected everyone’s right to not engage. We do not look to homogenize, make assumptions about, or speak for the Malawi diaspora community but we do wish to ensure we always have a welcoming, inclusive space in which all feel valued and able to participate should they wish.