When the man she loved and trusted so much filed for divorce in 2017, 42-year-old Ndilindiyani Kulinji did not know where she would get the next support with which to look after her three children.
Reluctantly and without any educational or professional qualification that would enable her secure an employment, Kulinji – who hails from Majuwa Village in Traditional Authority Kwataine in Ntcheu district – accepted and assumed the unshared responsibility of feeding, clothing, and educating the children.
“I was devastated, but life had to go on with or without someone to protect and support me,” said Kulinji.
Various studies have revealed that single mothers in Malawi face multiple challenges as they are primary caregivers in the household as well as the community.
Former UN Women Country Representative Clara Anyangwe once observed that women in Malawi carry a trifold burden of caregiving (reproductive), productive work, and nurturing for infirm or elderly family and community members.
Anyangwe cited the role women play in the purchase of subsidized farm inputs where they would spend days and nights on end to access the inputs while carrying underage children along with them to the selling points.
When they are in line, vendors take advantage of the hapless single mothers to demand sex from them in exchange for sale of inputs to them.
With financial support from Financial Access for Rural Markets, Smallholders and Enterprise (FARMSE) Programme, the Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (MUSCCO) is working with Community Based Financial Organisations (CBFOs) such as Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to address prevailing gender norms and roles, in order to improve women’s and girl’s participation and position in civil, economic and social spheres.
In Ntcheu district, for instance, MUSCCO is working with Titukulane VSLA to create a platform for tackling social and cultural norms that limit women’s inclusion in financial spheres.
FARMSE Programme and MUSCCO envisage that by building the capacity and economic resilience of both men and women, they will be able to tackle gender-based violence emanating from economic and economic inequalities.
Faced with financial exclusion following the divorce, Kulinji and others formed Titukulane Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) in 2019. Until February 2020, the group did not have any technical knowhow on how to run its affairs.
Hence, after partnering with MUSCCO, the association received financial and technical support in entrepreneurship, value chain development and linkages to high value markets to enhance rural income (on farm and off-farm).
The union also facilitated literacy trainings for the CBFO and its members to adopt and meaningfully utilise appropriate formal financial services.
Additionally, MUSCCO is supporting household food and nutrition security, income and asset accumulation, and diversification of livelihood opportunities, gender mainstreaming and women economic empowerment through household methodologies, climate smart interventions that enhance household and community agency in environmental presentations and resilience to climate change.
So far, 547, 220 rural CBFO members have benefitted from the programme, including the youth. And Kulinji is one of the beneficiaries of the programme through Titukulane VSLA.
Kulinji told journalists on a tour of FARMSE-supported projects in Ntcheu on Friday that her life as completely transformed after joining the association.
“There are so many benefits I have realized from becoming a member of this association. First, the association helped me started saving with Mufuna SACCO and through this SACCO, I accessed four bags of fertilizer for the last cropping season. With those bags, I realized 150 bags of maize, something that has never happened to me even when I was still with my former husband,” she narrated.
Kulinji further disclosed that her membership with Mufuna SACCO is helping her pay school fees for her children with ease.
“I no longer kneel before someone to access financial assistance to finance education for my children. I am now economically empowered to take good care of my children,” she bragged.
FARMSE Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist Golie Nyirenda said the programme has set aside about K4 billion to support CBFOs spread across Malawi.
Nyirenda said the programme is working with several organisations including Heifer, MUSSCO, COMSIP, Action Aid, Malawi Milk Producers Associaton, DAPP and Opportunity International Malawi to achieve its goal.
“So far, 49, 331 new groups have been formed and 11, 411 existing groups have been reached with various capacity building interventions,” he said.
United Nations (UN) has singled out women’s equality and empowerment (SDG 5) as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at achieving inclusive and sustainable development.
UN says women’s and girls’ social and economic empowerment also contributes to their ability to pursue their right to a healthy life since this gives them the agency to make decisions that promote their own health and wellbeing, as well as that of their families.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :