In August 2011, based on need and leadership potential, WHEAMS selected a group of women to start a Women Empowerment Group. The objective of this group is to empower vulnerable women to become economically self-dependent.
Approximately 80% of the women in the group are either HIV+ or they have someone in their home who is HIV+. The group of 11 women has been trained in artisan work, with an emphasis on making necklaces (jewelry) using locally available raw materials. These necklaces are brought to Canada for sale. Thus far, $350 dollars worth of necklaces have been sold and the money sent back to Thukuta village.
The village posed for a group photo with their necklaces on:
While waiting for funds to return from Canada from their jewelry sales, the group became interested in growing maize and soya beans. In December 2012, the women found a 1-acre piece of land, and prepared it for farming. WHEAMS paid for rental charges for the piece of land, bought seed and fertlizer.
Unfortunately the crop failed to produce because of a lack of sufficient rain but the women have not lost hope or motivation, and desire to attempt again. In the meanwhile the group was challenged by the lack of a community mentor and support person. However, Diana Kayange, a Community Development graduate, heard about WHEAMS and decided to see what they were doing in Thukuta Village. Inspired by the vision, she decided to commit & set up a VSAL (Village Savings and Loans) program for the group. The funds that were returned from the jewelry sales in Canada were put towards initiating a VSAL program in June 2012.
Diane has assisted in facilitating the formulation of the women’s constitution/guidelines, design the programmes and activities, and training the women in various areas including basic business management and adult literacy.
Future Goals for the Women’s Empowerment Program:
· Literacy for the women.
· Establishment of a local restaurant
· Re-establishment of the maize and soya farming.
Read here for Liz’s first post about the Women’s Empowerment Project from the summer of 2011
Some of the challenges include the fact that this is the first time for these 11 women to work together as a group. In addition, the facilitator only had to train the women one skill due to the limited time he was contracted. The training did not include areas such as group dynamics, business management, marketing, and other related fields. About 80% of these women are either HIV+ or they have someone in their home who is HIV+; this calls for specialized attention in handling them. Another related challenge is that the Malawi Government is running short of ART’s and ARV’s for ‘treating’ HIV+ individuals and we might come to a point where they would be looking at us to help them procure the said drugs from private Pharmacy shops.
Divorce rate is very high in the village and most of these women are household heads. The women’s expectation is very high, and WHEAMS has to seriously look at how best to meet their expectation. Illiteracy is very high.
Please help us pray that: • The group should become economically sustainable. • Government should find sustainable ways of ensuring the availability of ART’s, ARV’s, and all other basic drugs; and make them available in public hospitals. • Financial resources would be provided for continuous training of the women in various disciplines/skills. • The desired holistic transformation of life should be realized in these women and the community at large.