Women Investing in Business Together in Malawi, the "Warm Heart of Africa"


If I could summarize what I have seen in Kaundama village in just a word, it would be "harmony". I have met the delightful, inspiring members of the Namirazi women's association (named for a local river). I was instantly drawn to them because of their joyful singing; I thought it was just to welcome us, but they continued to sing as they walked to and from their fields, as they cooked lunch, after they ate they just clearly loved the camaraderie and companionship they have found in their savings and loan group.

The group works so well together, they have undertaken a major investment in a new business. In the next couple of months, they will start raising poultry. Each member has already committed 3,000 Malawian Kwacha (about $20) to have the coop constructed. It stands at the ready. After they have saved a total of 110,000 Kwacha ($760), they'll be ready for CARE to help them arrange the purchase and transport of the chicks, feed and other supplies to start the new venture.

Women Investing in Business Together in Malawi, the "Warm Heart of Africa" image 1
Namirazi association women check out their first major group investment for their association's

new poultry business - a chicken coop .

©2008 PhilBorges/CARE

As I listened to the women's vision for their new business, I couldn't help wondering where the men are. Many of the men I met expressed great enthusiasm for the VSL program, and they are certainly glad their wives have a way to earn income. But few seem to demonstrate the same drive to try new things or spirit of collaboration.

Several of the women commented on the value of working together, but none more eloquently than Elise Mdzuma. "If I reach something on my own, I will not have peace, because I am the only one. But together, 11 households will be better off. The whole community will benefit from our business," she said. Elise and the other members of Namirazi are powerful advocates of the life-changing benefits of CARE's village savings and loan strategy. Their songs tell others of their pride in their progress, and invite everyone to discover the benefits of working in harmony.

The above post is photographer Phil Borges' third entry from his trip to Malawi. Phil traveled for two weeks in May to Malawi with colleague filmmaker/photographer Smith Patrick to learn about how women's village savings and loan associations impact families and communities. It was Phil's seventh trip with CARE.