Women in Balaka benefit from doormat making

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Three years ago, life was unbearable for Esnath Manja and her fellow women in Lupanga village at Traditional Authority Nsamala in Balaka District.

Most of the villagers here depend on farming for their survival. But in cases of poor harvests, life becomes challenging since most of them don’t have another option to rely on, hence they face various hardships.

The story of Esnath and other 14 women from the village is inspirational.

Life for women under Mwayiwathu Women Group has  taken a different shape as they are now becoming the talk of the village-courtesy of Mary Luhanga, founder and Matron for the group.

In 2019, while she was a leadership student at Destiny College in the District, she embarked on a project of teaching the women with skills in doormat weaving with a focus to empower them social-economically.

Luhanga said she had a passion to help the marginalised, the less privileged and victimized women walk away from the shambles of poverty, supporting them to be economically independent in their families as well as their societies.

”I always wanted to be an agent of change in the rural societies. I had to use the talent that my grandmother imparted in me and transfer it to these women after noting of a myriad challenges they faced in their societies in as far as economic independence is concerned”

”Generally, the idea in me was to induce a spirit of hardwork, as well as the spirit of self reliance considering the fact that mostly, women in many societies are victims of various gender based violence which render them into deep poverty within their localities,” Luhanga said.

One of the beneficiaries, Esnath recalls that before the group ventured into the business it was difficult for them to make ends meet since they mostly depended on their husbands for financial assistance, of which it was in some cases difficult for them to make any decision as regards their husbands’ income.

She added that they even turned out to be rejected stones as they could not be allowed to join any Village Savings and Loans (VSL) groups for reportedly having a weak financial muscle.

However, Esnath says the skills she and her fellow women have gained over the years have now started bearing fruits.

”The business we are doing have helped us to be financially independent as we are now able to buy basic commodities, pay school fees for our children in secondary schools among many others,” Manja explained.

On average, each woman fetch at least K50,000 per month from the business.

The women say apart from selling the doormats in their village and surrounding areas, they also sell their products in Balaka lodges and in some cases they receive orders in places as far as Blantyre and Lilongwe.

In a bid to reach out to as many beneficiaries as possible, Luhanga has partnered ”We create Art”- a youth led organization based in Balaka with focus in developing various forms of arts.

She said: ”We anticipate a lot of villagers to benefit from various skills since wecat is working in a diverse range of activities including arts, youth and women empowerment among many others.”

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