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Empowered to inspire others

By Yankho Phiri:

ENTREPRENEURIAL — Chakhwima attends to a customer

In an era where men dominate different trades, some three young women are geared to defy the odds and inspire others to rise and shine.

They have ventured into trades commonly associated with men and are competing favourably with their male counterparts.

Powered by Engender Health International, the young women are producing good results in businesses and technical work with skills gained through the organisation’s women economic empowerment initiative.

The initiative, which is under Essential Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Services Project, is being implemented in four districts, namely Kasungu, Mzimba, Blantyre and Chiradzulu.

Through the project, some youths from the districts were enrolled at Bowe Youth Vocational Training Institute in Kasungu to undergo training in various trades and they have already shown positive results in their communities.

Twenty-year-old Sarah Kawalawala from Traditional Authority (T/A) Wimbe in the district was trained as a bricklayer.

On her graduation day, she was given a toolbox as a start-up capital.

After returning home, she successfully worked on two projects that dazzled members of her community.

Apart from renovating a classroom block, she has erected a church building that awaits roofing.

Kawalawala says the two projects paid her well in that she invested earnings in a butchery business.

“I was paid a good sum of money for the first time in my life. I later invested the money into butchery business; I sell goat meat and pork,” says Kawalawala, who has two employees.

The bricklayer and entrepreneur at 20 is an inspiration to young girls in the area who now believe that they, too, can excel in life.

“Although I am already registering success, I want to go back to school to gain more skills,” Kawalawala says.

In T/A Chigalu in Blantyre, lives another young woman who is making it big working as a technician.

Twenty-three-year-old Samalani Fyson was trained in electronics repairing and is now a reliable mobile phone repairer in her community.

SKILLED — Kawalawala poses in front of the church she built

Just like Kawalawala, Fyson is on her way to the top through the business.

“I am a reliable cell phone technician around here.

“Through my business, I make a profit of more than K1,500 per day. This is enough to take care of myself and support my siblings,” says Fyson joyfully.

In Kasungu, at Mtunthama Trading Centre, Fyson has an age-mate who is also making it big after undergoing a hairdressing and saloon course at the institute.

Sarafina Chakhwima is a proud owner of a saloon in the tobacco-growing district and the business has proved to be a life-changer.

Chakhwima still lives with her parents but no longer relies on them for financial support.

She makes her own money through the business.

“Life was not easy for me. Although I had completed secondary school studies with good points on my MSCE [Malawi School Certificate of Education], I became hopeless that I would get a job or go to college.

“Luckily, I was among the boys and girls who got selected to undergo various trainings at Bowe Technical Institute under the Women Economic Empowerment Programme of Engender Health,” Chakhwima explains.

She says, after the six-week training, upon graduation, she was given starter-pack equipment to start own business.

“The starter pack was quite motivating. I opened a saloon here which is now giving me enough money to support myself. I save some through mobile money wallet as taught,” Chakhwima says.

Chakhwima and Kawalawala’s successes have excited T/A Wimbe who says the youth training programme has helped reduce incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) in his area.

“Boys and girls who have benefited from the project are GBV survivors. Before the intervention, cases of girls being attacked in their homes were regularly reported because they were just staying idle.

“Such cases were leading the girls to unplanned forced marriages where they could also face some GBV because of being considered useless in the community,” Wimbe explains.

He now believes that the youth that have acquired the skills will impart them to others who did not attend the formal trainings.

“Eventually, I believe, in the years to come, they will help in developing this area,” Wimbe says.

Kasungu District Social Welfare Officer John Washali underlines the outcomes from the beneficiaries as a tool for breaking chains of poverty which is most common cause of inequality and economic GBV.

“Such outcomes always excite us because they indicate that the project is progressing and bearing expected fruits which ends poverty in communities.

“Empowered women will be able to stand up against economic GBV and even end it too,” Washali says.

Although the project is called women economic empowerment, the interventions do not sideline boys.

They also benefit from the initiatives funded by the United Sates’ Department of State.

Currently, Engender Health has trained more than 590 boys and girls from four the districts.

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