Monday, November 22, 2010

The Start of a New Decade

By Sangwani Mwafulirwa

With the support of ADRA Malawi under its Women Empowerment project, the women group of Village Headwoman Chilingulo in T/A Chikumbu in Mulanje conducted a double celebration. It was a celebration of Mother’s Day and International Rural Women’s Day which has coincided with the launch of the African Women’s Decade in Kenya. Led by T/A Chikumbu, the women outlined what they wanted to achieve in their area of environmental conservation, education, gender equality and women empowerment.

According to the Group Village Headwoman Chilingulo, some children have been facing challenges to attain secondary education let alone tertiary training because their parents or guardians were too poor to afford school fees and their upkeep.

She said this has contributed to early marriages amongst girls who find nothing to do after completion of primary school education which is free. As for boys, they go and work in tea plantations in an attempt to make ends meet.

To avert this, the village head said they have set up a special fund that will help all needy children who have been selected to government secondary school so that they do not fail to pursue their studies because of the two usual challenges; school fees, examination fees and uniform.

“Even those that will go to tertiary schools will be supported. We are very much interested in having nurses from our areas and we will make sure that by 2020 there are five nurses from this area working at the hospital,” she explained.

To achieve all this, each family will be contributing money or harvest, to be sold and the money will be administered by a committee. According to the village head, so far the households have already contributed a gallon of pigeon peas for selling.

The Chilungulo head has also taken a stern stance against early marriages by imposing a ban. Any parent who will consent to early marriage will be summoned to her court where if guilty, will be fined a goat and the child be sent back to school.

On women empowerment, they plan to engage in income generating activities whose proceeds will be saved in a village savings group.

“We want to have easy access to capital other than rely on micro-lending institutions whose conditions sometimes leave us poorer than before. We will borrow amongst ourselves at flexible conditions and low interest,” she explained during the launch.

To conserve the environment, the women will have already planted a nursery of natural tree seedlings which they will plant in uncultivated areas and also a village managed forest so that they get firewood easily.

The village head said women will also be encouraged to attend adult literacy classes so that by 2020 no one will need to use a thumb when voting or signing after receiving a subsidised fertiliser coupon.

Supporting her junior’s initiatives, T/A Chikumbu urged men in the area to support the women by providing them space to work and participate. She said she will see to it that some traditional practices that perpetuate gender inequality and hinder women participation in development work are abolished.

Under its WEP project, ADRA Malawi is working with women in the area to empower them to be economically independent through engaging them in income generating activities and by teaching them about their rights and how best to claim them.

It is through the training and support provided by ADRA Malawi in the WEP 2 project (Funded by ADRA Sweden), that women’s groups like this one have been able to mobilise themselves to initiate development initiatives within their own communities. It is inspiring to see women taking actions that will have a positive and lasting impact for women, girls, men and boys, for today and into the future.

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