Today everyone here at Team Temwa is celebrating International Women’s Day! This year’s theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: currently, only 50% of working age women are represented in the global labour force – and even then, the vast majority are in low paying employment with little social protection. For female breadwinners in places like Malawi, this makes providing for their families even more challenging.
Making a difference
With this in mind, we work hard to support female-headed households in northern Malawi.
One single mother we’ve supported is Vick: after becoming widowed, Vick quickly realised the difficulty in raising a family by herself. The only way Vick could support her children was through farming, and she soon became involved in our Farming Support and Training scheme. By learning sustainable agricultural methods, Vick can now feed her family, and even sell excess produce to fund her children’s education, so helping to break the poverty cycle for herself and her family.
We also provide microfinance loans with our partner, Deki, empowering people to start and expand their own business.
Edah was a subsistence farmer who initially took out a loan to start a grocery shop. Her business has been incredibly successful, so much so that she’s expanded with a second shop – and hopefully soon a third. Thanks to the income from her shops, she’s now an active member of the Lund Women Village Bank, giving her status and a voice in the local community.
In fact, the impact of her loans is far-reaching: now she can contribute to the household, no longer relying on her husband to be the breadwinner. She’s also invested in her children’s education, constructed a new house for her parents, and supported her divorced sister start her own bakery business – all using the money she’s earned through her business expertise.
The importance of education
Both Vick and Edah used their new income to invest in their children’s education. In a country where 36% of adults are illiterate and only 25% of children attend secondary school, education is a basic right many cannot afford. Due to the patriarchal culture in Malawi, girls are also more likely to be removed from school and married off before they have a chance to benefit from an education.
This was the future that seemed likely for 16-year-old Mickey. Mickey’s only caregiver is her grandmother, who’s too elderly to help with food production or earn a living, meaning Mickey and her brothers must tend the field at their homestead. They grow enough to get by, but there’s no surplus to sell – meaning the family can’t afford secondary school fees.
Education – especially for girls – is key to breaking this kind of poverty cycle. In 2015, alongside our partner the Nick Webber Trust, we committed to supporting Mickey through secondary school, with a bursary to cover fees, equipment and other essentials. The bursary is already transforming her life:
“Thanks Temwa for giving me the opportunity to be at school. Now I have the chance to try and fulfil my ambition of becoming a secretary.”
Currently, 88% of supported graduates are employed or in higher education and only 50% of the female graduates are married. Hopefully, when Mickey graduates in 2019 she’ll be well on her way to becoming a secretary, leaving the fields behind.
One woman who has persevered and achieved her dreams is Emily. Emily’s been a teacher since 1996 and currently teaches 7 to 8-year-old pupils at Chikwina Primary School. She’s always dreamed of becoming a teacher:
“When I was in primary school I was very happy when my female teacher picked me to answer a question and I was inspired by her. I am happy because my dream has come true and I am proud when I see young learners reading passages.”
It’s important that children are inspired by their teachers, just like Emily was. Although Emily is an incredible teacher, she still finds it hard to educate children in an area where only half of children complete primary school, and schools suffer from limited resources and large class sizes.
Our Early Grade Literacy project helps teachers like Emily to raise the attainment levels of primary school-age children, through activities including after school literacy clubs, spelling competitions, and community literacy fairs. Emily has certainly noticed the improvement in her class and is incredibly happy to see her young students flourishing.
Support women in Malawi this International Women’s Day
Edah, Emily, Mickey and Vick are all strong, independent women who – with a little help – have faced the challenges of being a woman in rural Malawi head-on.
Inspired to support others like them? Donate now or join us this year and take on a sponsored challenge to help us raise invaluable funds to continue our projects, empowering more women in northern Malawi.