Tiwale Seeks to Empower Malawian Women by Providing them with Economic Opportunities

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Malawi is the world’s poorest country by per capita GDP. Most families cannot afford to finance their children’s education which can cost up to $30 or more annually. Only 33% of secondary school aged children are attending school. From this 33%, only 42% are girls. Most girls marry early in exchange for dowry; payment from the husband’s family.

With the infrequency of social mobility in Malawi, daughters and her daughter’s daughter often face the same fate: early marriage and insufficient schooling. Over time this vicious cycle has created a substantial population of women who are under-educated, jobless and facing extreme poverty.

Tiwale which means “let us shine/glow” in Chichewa, was set up as a youth-led community based organization to empower Malawian women by providing economic opportunities through leadership workshops, micro-finance loans, vocational skills training, and education grants.

Ellen, the founder of the organization, has been a budding entrepreneur since her pre-teen years. She is trying to change the difficult circumstances of women in Malawi who deal with low primary school completion rates, low socio-economic status, higher than average rates of HIV and AIDS, and one of the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality through her for-profit social enterprise, Tiwale.

Tiwale started with a team of five young people between 14 and 19 years old in January, 2012. The project commenced with a business education program that was to be followed by micro-loans. The first loan program aided 12 women to start businesses. To date, this venture has trained 150 women as entrepreneurs, guided 40 women to start businesses via micro-loans and has allowed 30 women to undergo a vocational skills training program. While also offering grants, loans and lessons that can lead to empowerment and independence.

Ellen’s enterprise has had its fair share of victories including winning the Ashoka’s Future Forward: Youth Innovations for Employment in Africa challenge. One of the Tiwale organization projects are to train women to do traditional fabric dye-printing. Some of the revenue from the sale of women’s handiwork is used to fund other programs offered by the organization that give women opportunities for self-sufficiency. These programs include a  school grant program that covers fees, transportation costs, school supplies, and offers a small living stipend, plus the flagship microfinance loan program.

Considering that many women in Malawi do wear African-styled fabrics, and yet most fabrics are imported, Tiwali introduced the dye-printing skill to the women of Ntsiriza community. The Design Project involves a group of 30 women undergoing a dye-print training program for a week. The women then work with their teacher to produce various patterns (usually ten). The patterns are dyed onto fabrics which are sold through our organization. 60% of the profit goes to the women who created the fabrics and the other 40 percent supports our organization’s initiatives such as our school grants program.

She received USD $1,500 in unrestricted funding to be used towards the implementation of her work described and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Ashoka Changemakers Day on Youth Employment in Africa, which had kicked-off at the Globalizer Summit in Cape Town, South Africa, in February. There, they received training and support.

Furthermore, to grow their efforts at providing economic opportunities for Malawian women, Tiwale had acquired a plot of land to construct an education center which would provide secondary school education classes and further vocational skills training for the women of Ntsiriza Community, Malawi, set to have been completed by the beginning of this year.

For more information click here.