Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Emas Potolani
Besides working with primary school kids at Chitete Primary School, over the past three months and some weeks, I have spent my time interacting and working with Chitete women. I must confess that my stay in this community has been quite amazing so far, and indeed this is my other home. My early days in the community saw me encountering various remarkable works by these women in this community, from a young mother who is taking advantage of the Out of School Initiative (OOSC) to reshape her future through free education provided by our development partner, BuildOn to an old woman who caught my attention by cultivating a quite big piece of land that probably is above her strength all by herself. All in all, I must say, these women are focused, hard-working, humble, energetic, and development-hungry. I have been involved in a series of meetings with these women on various topics like Agriculture, entrepreneurship, housekeeping, sanitation, and education.
Day to day life for these women is easy for them as it seems to be normal while for someone who might just be visiting might find it hard and perhaps complicated. The day for most of them starts with waking up in the morning to do some house chores and prepare other things around the house so that when the husband and or kids wake up will find most if not all of the chores around the house already done. Fetching water in the morning for the house is inevitable. Most of the women walk a distance of about 1 km or more to fetch water from a borehole (Water Pump) or the well. After that most of them spend time keeping the home while their children are gone to school and their husband gone to run some usual errands ranging from bicycle taxi business to some small piece works elsewhere.
Let me give you a vivid picture of some of the things that women in my community do. Let us begin with education, as we all know, education is a greater treasure in life and as Nelson Mandela said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. There is an adult literacy school which I help in coordinating in my community; this school is open to all parents and adults in our community and those around us. The Adult Literacy class at Chitete Primary school is dominated by women. This is why I refer to these women as hard-workers and visionaries. These women are eager to learn. They are eager to learn how to read, how to write, how to calculate, how to go about as successful entrepreneurs and how to care for their homes and children. They are the kind of women who are ready to be taught, ready to gain knowledge and ready to work for the development of their community, their families and their lives. This enthusiasm has not stopped here. The OOSC initiative has also seen women showing interest in the class. Even though the target for the program is for dropout kids (ages 7 to 17), some women have found it an advantage to show up in the class and learn to gain some knowledge they can’t probably gain from the adult literacy class. Wow! This moves me a lot, incredibly amazing!
Currently, there’s a group of women who have secured land near the Shire River that has passed through our community. I am currently working with these women to put all necessary structures in order so that we commence an irrigation project. I am very happy to work with these women in this project because not only will it benefit these women and the community socio-economically but it will also be of benefit to their families in terms of food and nutrition. When we visited the secured piece of land we found that the land has suitable soils and is perfectly located near the Shire River such that it gives us hope of a successful project.
As we are in search of irrigation water pumps, we have already started working on the land and more pictures will be shown in the next blog. So far I have managed to link with the Agriculture Development Division (ADD) for Neno, and they will provide us with technical expertise as regards irrigation and other necessary assistance. Additionally, one of our partner organizations Kusamala Institute (www.kusamala.org) continues to work with me as I strive to teach the people in my community on modern farming methods. And as you know that it is good to start with a small group and move to a larger one later, I chose to begin with the women.
The women are showing strong interest in learning to make manure, liquid fertilizer and many other modern farming techniques which I am sharing with them and I hope this will also help them improve their households’ way of farming in turn. It is very encouraging that some other NGOs are also showing much interest in helping these women and I am sure that their lives will never be the same.
Like I said earlier, these women are energetic and hard-working; most of the women at Chitete village do not just stay idle. They do various businesses at Zalewa, a trading center that is less than 2km away from Chitete village. They sell sugarcane, tangerines, nthuza, masau (local fruits) which are mostly found in the forest around the village, and various other home-made snacks.
I found one woman who owns a very small retail shop deep inside the village but she wasn’t comfortable to take a picture with me or me at her canteen. This woman walks everyday to Zalewa to buy her business merchandise to sell in the village, isn’t this amazing?
When it comes to development activities, you will never stop to notice these women coming in large numbers. They dominate the community meetings and although most of these women do not contribute much during development meetings, you will surely see them in large numbers coming to participate in the development endeavors.
In my subsequent posts, I will write about another amazing project that I am working with a group of about 10 to 15 women that is aimed at ensuring socio-economic independence, health households, caring for our environment among the many objects. In this initiative, the women will be well trained and then commence producing some products which they will be selling as a group and then use the proceeds to further their own small businesses or even start one if they do not have. Like I mentioned, I will write in detail about this initiative in the subsequent posts, just continue to follow this blog for more.
Chitete women are women who deserve a hand on their already made various efforts to sustain their lives, families and community. They deserve to be empowered and supported as much as possible, surely one will never regret working with and providing support to these women. I am very proud that I am involved in empowering these women, this is surely development redefined.