Global Fund for Widows – has injected K12 in the Widows Savings and Loan Association (WISALA) project, which a local organization has initiated to economically empower and improve the economic livelihoods of widows and their dependents.
The Malawi Widows Association (MAWIA) initiated the project following various studies, which revealed that a majority of the widows live in abject poverty, are marginalized and are usually forced to give up their inherited property due to pressure from relatives of their departed husbands.
Already, widows are considered as one of the vulnerable groups of people in the country and are reportedly constituting four percent of the women population in Malawi.
MAWIA programs manager Abel Mwenibanda said it is against this background that the association initiated the WISALA project to lift the widows from their destitution.
The launch of the project, which is modelled on village savings and loan associations, brought together key representatives in women empowerment programs, chiefs and scores of the widows themselves.
Mwenibanda said WISALA is a three-year project, which is being supported by the Global Fund for Widows.
“The project trains the widows and places them in groups – each group having 25 members operating what they call a samibank – where the widows put their savings together and take loans to run their businesses,” he said.
Each member of the group, disclosed Mwenibanda, saves 33 percent of a minimum of K80, 000 (K26, 000) as a startup.
The Global Fund for Widows, through MAWIA, then pays the remaining 67 percent, which is K54, 000 per person.
At the launch of the project, K1, 350, 000 (67 percent) was deposited in the samibanks of four widow groups after each group contributed their required MK650,000 (33 percent).
Among the four groups are Tikondane and Chikondi from Lilongwe’s high-density areas of Mtandire and Mchesi, respectively.
Mwenibanda said the project would shortly add three more groups as it expands nationally after what he described as a successful pilot phase in three traditional authorities in Salima District.
“From now onwards, we expect the four widow groups to be meeting in their respective areas at their own time to continue contributing further to savings and taking up loans. We want to be action oriented, reaching out to all parts of the country. We want to do more of the mobilization and training of widows so they partake in the project which has come to improve their living standards,: said Mwenibanda, who is also the technical advisor for the Global Fund for Widows.
He added that MAWIA will take advantage of the widows meetings, through the WISALA project, to train them in paralegal issues so they have some legal knowledge and know their rights and teach others on the same.
“We will also be providing pro-bonal services. Those aggrieved will be allocated a lawyer without them paying anything. We want to do all this in order to alleviate the enormous challenges of widows in Malawi. Most of them have no access to financial services, face cultural challenges and property grabbing issues. Sometimes these things are perpetrated by ignorance. So, there is a need for capacity building,” Mwenibanda said.
In her remarks, the Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources, Nancy Tembo, who was the guest of honour at the event, said WISALA project has come at the right time when HIV and AIDS, Covid-19 and other ailments continue claiming lives, more especially of men, leaving behind widows who struggle financially and to raise their children.
Tembo described the project as a ‘well rounded initiative’, which will greatly benefit women, communities and the whole country.
“When you look at the set-up of the project, all you see is a sense of ownership by these widows. The project ensures that these women recognize the responsibility they have to ensure that a saving culture is entrenched. We need to encourage this as a nation.
“Most of these widows have been in such a situation for a long time, trying hard on their own to make a meaningful livelihood. And there is still a need for that capital injection to continue propelling them forward. As a government, we will always support WISALA and several other initiatives that empower women such as banki mkhonde and other forms of village banks,” said the minister.
On the other hand, Tilitonse Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Robert White, called for more support towards the project.
“It is indeed an initiative worth supporting for it is targeting a vulnerable section of the society. This is what we should aim for as a nation so that more Malawians are empowered financially, socially and politically,” White said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :