Some women in Blantyre, who are part of Tiyamike Women’s Group, have acquired art skills of making among others, necklaces using old magazines and calendars, thanks to an initiative by visual artist Enelles Pemba Phiri and nurse and midwifery lecturer Linda Robinson.
Phiri, who is a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow teamed up with Robinson creating an initiative that would help women make money and support their families.
The women have since graduated from the training which was conducted at Robinson’s house for some works facilitated by Phiri and fellow visual artist Peter Ndalama.
Robinson said as a nurse and lecturer at Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) where she teaches midwifery, she has been working closely with many women and got to know some of their challenges.
“I have been working with many women when they come for childbirth but many have no means to support themselves and if they have no education they rely heavily on husbands or man,” Robinson said.
She said she had been thinking of ways of how to assist the women hence creating an initiative of skills development.
“I later talked to visual artist Eneles Phiri, who accepted that we work together to empower women by teaching them some skills they could do at home and make money for their homes. We will then try to look for markets for them,” she said.
Apart from using old magazines, the other skills that the women learnt are jewellery and beads making from bamboos.
“I have friends, who donated jewels for a start and the thing is most of the things made come from locally available materials. We hope this will help as already there are friends outside the country, who are interested in buying such items in large quantities,” Robinson said.
She said they were also thinking of ideas for the women to produce unique artworks.
Phiri said as an artist, she thought of how she could use her art to spread her skills to other women.
“Women who have acquired the skills will never be the same. Now they make necklaces, table mats, beads and other items using simple things such as bottle tops,” she said.
The visual artist also said the different artworks are made from trash.
“The idea is simply to turn trash into cash for the women to support themselves. At the same time they are also helping in conserving the environment,” Phiri said.
She said many women in the country are abused because they do not make money on their own.
“We can fight poverty with art. People now love art and are beginning to appreciate it. As a Mandela Washington fellow 2017, I believe in uplifting fellow women and this has also coincided with March as a month we celebrate women,” she said.
One of the participants Gertrude Austin, who stays in Mbayani said she has been fully empowered with the skills learnt.
“The skills learnt will stick in me and no-one can take them away. I will now make money through sale of necklaces and other items, all we just need are the markets,” Austin said.