Naomi, Our Champion Mother

Naomi, Our Champion Mother

Naomi lives in central Malawi. Here we say women like Naomi are born with a "man’s heart." She overcame much adversity in her life and uses that horrible situation to inspire others around her.

Born in Zimbabwe as Elle Tina, she was the third of seven children. At 15, Naomi was raped and became pregnant with her son, Wally. She later changed her name to Naomi, inspired by Naomi in the Bible who also faced troubles but overcame them through courage.

Naomi has lived up to her namesake. She returned to secondary school soon after Wally’s birth, despite being mocked by her school mates for being a teen mother. Even teachers teased her and said she should not be at school but married at home. However, this only made her stronger and she vowed to work hard and pass the final secondary exams to get her high school diploma. Naomi was doing well at school; unlike other students, her experience was coupled with having to raise a young child. She eventually had to quit school because her father could no longer afford to send her and she thought her bright future was over. Like so many girls in Malawi, Naomi’s father sent only his sons to school.

Soon after, she succumbed to the village pressure to marry; she had two more children and adopted two of her nieces. This new life was an unhappy one and after several years she decided to end the marriage. It was difficult being a single mother to five children but Naomi explains “life always has challenges but it is what you make of those challenges; you have to face everything as it comes.”

When CARE Malawi launched the Join My Village project in 2009 with an aim of encouraging girls to remain in school, Naomi was one of the first women to get involved. Throughout her life, Naomi has been an ambassador of goodwill. She has been a mentor to many families in her community, volunteering to teach young people about child protection. She attributes her own rape to poor knowledge by men. Naomi was a “Mzati” in the first year of the project, which is a leadership position that plays an important role in monitoring project activities.

She also served as the Chairwoman of her Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). In her second year of working with the project, she was elected as a Village Agent. Village Agents manage VSLAs, ensure they comply with the correct methodology and manage any issues or disputes. Naomi uses her role to also meet and spend time with new villages on community development issues, such as educating them about girls’ education and HIV.

Naomi says the program has shown her community a “hidden treasure” through VSLAs. Rather than simply offering handouts, it gives the community knowledge and tools to assist themselves, uncovering  their own “treasures” within.

“Now we can help ourselves, many feel like they have a job to do and that is to look for money which they can save. This is better than cash in hand,” she says. While jumping on her push bike, heading for her voluntary work as a Village Agent, Naomi says everyone has benefited financially, socially and educationally.

Not every woman can be strong and do all this work. But a champion mother like Naomi Chibwe can. She was born with passion and is a leader in her own right. When asked why she does the work she does  – despite her own challenges – she replies, “I love my community and especially the girls, I don’t want them to end up like me.”

But we think any girl that ends up like Naomi is a champ!