What Made Men in Malawi Step Up Their Game

What Made Men in Malawi Step Up Their Game

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Kalimba Chiwaka is a village agent in Malawi, who works with Village Savings and Loan Associations to train them in savings, business skills, and women’s empowerment. He is involved with the LIFT II project, which focuses on getting the most vulnerable people—especially those with HIV—access to services and the financial opportunities of the VSLA model. Kalimba is one of the thousands of volunteers who work in CARE programs supporting health, finance, and food and nutrition security. I got a chance to talk to Kalimba this week about the changes he’s seen, and this is what he said.

“It has been easy to get people to accept poorer and vulnerable people into the VSLAs. They are even willing to change their by-laws to accommodate people who are poorer and can’t pay the same fees and interest as the rest of the group. We have never had anyone refuse. They think about what it was like for them to get the chance to join the VSLA, and what opportunities they have had since the joined. The groups want to be sure that they can give those same opportunities to other people who need them.

What has changed for men since LIFT II started? Men have had to step up their game. Women have started earning money, and they are using it more responsibly than the men were. They are able to pay for school fees and food. They are supporting the household. It’s embarrassing to see how much women are able to with just a few resources do that men were not doing before. So they have started to invest in their families more.

Before, if a woman walked around looking nice and wearing clean clothes, people knew that her husband was taking good care of her. Now, when they see her, it might mean that she is taking good care of herself. This means men have to work to make wiser investments, and to work with their wives to take care of the home. They are proud of their wives, and now they are trying to keep up with them.”

CARE’s project under LIFT II has referred over 4,000 vulnerable people to new services, and is helping the poorest of the poor access opportunities and new chances.

About the Program: In 2013, with funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded LIFT II to a consortium headed by FHI 360. LIFT II’s primary goal is to provide evidence-based, gender-sensitive programming to improve household economic strengthening and food and nutrition security support as a component of a continuum of nutrition and health care and support for vulnerable individuals and families. An essential component of the LIFT II approach is supporting community referral networks that systematically and appropriately link Nutrition Assessment, Counseling and Support (NACS) clients with community-based economic strengthening and food security support.