Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world —more than half the 13 million people there live below the poverty line. And for women in rural areas it is especially difficult to escape poverty. What is more, gender inequalities restrict economic growth, exacerbate poverty and undermine Malawi’s democracy by denying women and girls full enjoyment of their human rights. This creates a vicious cycle of poverty and gender inequality.
For many women in southern Malawi, the thought of starting and running their own business was an unreachable dream. The ideas were there: grow more than a handful of tomatoes and start a market stall; breed pigs and sell the meat. But without the money to invest in land, seeds, fertilizer, tools, animal feed, veterinary advice —none of their ideas could get off the ground.
With Oxfam’s support, including a sizeable donation from The Circle, there are now dozens of thriving Village Savings and Loans Groups that have helped to kickstart women’s small businesses and make enough profit to pay back loans, put food on the table and pay for school fees. In total, 905 farmers were trained to increase their production and another 180 were trained in business skills, given loans and now are self sufficient.
Greater independence has also given the women more confidence and brought them together to attend Oxfam-run workshops about women’s rights, public speaking, and leadership skills.
2014 UNAIDS estimates show that approximately 1,100,000 Malawians live with HIV, 130,000 of which are children and 560,000 are women over fifteen. This project provided 1,000 people with access to HIV/AIDS counselling and testing.