Oct 22, 2017 Last Updated 12:06 PM, Oct 21, 2017
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Economically empowering rural Malawian woman

Chisangalalo women in their ‘Shoprite’ Chisangalalo women in their ‘Shoprite’ Picture by Madalitso Phiri
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Feature- It’s a long and winding road to reach Likongwe village in Traditional Authority Kalonga in Salima district.

In fact, the people from this village and the surrounding areas tell me that to reach the boma (district headquarters); it takes them at least a good one and a half hours on foot. 

And to agree with them on our way to there, in the hired bus were in; it took us at least forty to fifty minutes before we found the first village, Likongwe itself to be more specific.

Otherwise for that period in transit, you are only greeted by a large area of either uncleared or harvested gardens.

What impresses along the way, though, is that in this modern day and age, when deforestation is the order of the day, you can still see some natural trees.
 
While still in wonderland of where we are going, we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of a village, with at least fifteen clad in ADRA colors singing Ife tachiona ah, chikondi cha ADRA x 2 (we have witnessed the love of ADRA.)

The bus comes to a halt and coming out of the bus, one of the dancing women tells us what Non-governmental organization Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) has done in improving their economic lives.

The woman, Mayi Chimbalanga says it all started in 2009 when officials of the organization visited the village and told them that because they stay away from town, they should mobilize themselves and contribute some funds so that they could be lending each other at a small interest and the initiative was called bank M’nkhonde.

“We liked the idea and formed a group initially of 13 and called it Chisangalalo, we started keeping and lending each other and personally it has improved my life as in the past, I used to struggle even to send my child to secondary school but now because of bank M’nkhonde now, I can borrow money and do some businesses to send him to school,’’ she said.

Chimbalanga adds at the moment, over forty women from the village and some surrounding ones are involved in this project and it’s growing from strength to strength.

And she even goes further to say that after noticing the success of their story; ADRA advised them to write a proposal to request for funding so that they set up a grocery for the group so that they should be more funds.

“We successfully did this and were given 120,000 kwacha which we used to open this shop which we called the village Shoprite and because we are very far from town, most people from this village and the surrounding ones come here and things are going well as we share the profits and also keep on improving the stocks,’ she said proudly as the other women nod in agreement. 

Because of these successes, it has led to the establishment of a tea room which is just adjacent to their shop.

They have now since embarked on a new project to save the environment by making and selling stoves that do not a lot of firewood.

They sell these at four hundred kwacha each and have since sold over fifty so far.

‘These stoves need just three pieces of firewood the whole day as once the pottery stove is hot it doesn’t need firewood anymore,’ explained Chimbalanga.

This, she says is making them make money and save the environment at the same time.  

They thanked ADRA for changing their lives forever, she says.        
 
On another topic, another lady chips in to say that the village, which has roughly over eighty households, was also facing problems of lack hygienic water, is now all smiles, as the NGO drilled a borehole.

‘In the past we used to spend most of our time at the district hospital due  water borne diseases such as diarrhea and this was derailing us from embarking in various business adventures, ”says Abiti Sikwese.

But she adds that with the borehole, which was within sight of where we were, things have improved greatly and they don’t waste much time to go to the dambo’s to fetch water.     

ADRA manager for the Central region Francis Zande explains that what drove them to come in to assist was to empower women who are mostly regarded as beggars in most families in the country.

“ In the cultural set up here you will find that it’s a man that usually fends for the family and that leaves the woman vulnerable and despair to the man who turn ends up physically, sexually and financially abusing her in the process,” said Zande .

He added that it also left the women and children destitute when the man has died.

Zande said they are also involved in other villages such as Sanga, Laimon and Kalije where 68 similar groups have been set up with over three hundred women directly getting economically empowered.

These groups, Zande adds, are in traditional authorities Kalonga and Kambwiri respectively.

He says the agreement with the women is to take five percent of the profits to orphans, the aged and the vulnerable in their respective villages.

The women in the other villages are being involved in similar activities including the raring of goats as well which they are also selling.

The big question is when the women of Salima are crossing boundaries to economically empower themselves, why are the majority of them still suffering financial, physical as well as sexual abuse?              

Last modified on Friday, 28 March 2014 06:14

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