In Lilongwe in the Central Region of Malawi, 55 women have completed their training with our partner Foundation for Educational and Social Development (FESODEV). They are all now graduates of the Tawoloka Project, specifically designed to reduce the barriers that stand in the way of women participating in training.
Celebrations as trainees graduate from the Tawoloka Project
Our training projects are open to everyone but in realty it can be difficult for women to find sustainable employment in traditionally male-dominated trades such as carpentry and welding. By focussing catering, hairdressing, and tailoring, the Tawoloka project was designed to equip female trainees with all the skills needed to start their own enterprises in sectors where women are already succeeding in business. With training delivered over just three days a week, and childcare provided, the programme ensured that trainees still had time to attend to family responsibilities and also had time to generate an income on the other days.
Another important part of the project was comprehensive business and financial management training, covering topics such as bookkeeping, customer records, and calculating profit. Now, the women have already formed small business groups and entered into Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) schemes so they have greater financial power and can support one another as they begin earning and saving an income.
In June, Africa Project Manager, Cecily Bryant, travelled to Lilongwe to meet some of the women as they neared the end of their work placements and were making plans for the future.
On a busy market day, Cecily met Jamila and Sipiwe in the restaurant where they were on their catering work placement. Jamila and Sipiwe were busy attending to customers and serving up Nsima (maize porridge), tea, snacks, scones, and bread. Before joining the training in August 2022, Sipiwe had only cooked and sold doughnuts and cakes and Jamila had no cooking experience at all. Almost a year on, with skills training and on-the-job experience under their belts, they both women are confident not only in food preparation, but in providing customer care, sourcing produce, managing stock control, food safety and hygiene.
Jamila uses the money she earns for Buying food, farming and paying school fees for her three children. She has also started saving in her VSLA group. She has found a location to set up a catering establishment in Nkhoma. She plans to teach her siblings so they can help her run her business. She said “I want to have big restaurant and many workers in order to make more money.”
Sipiwe plans to “open a restaurants and make money for my children’s future”. She has already identified the ideal place in Kanengo, where there is limited competition from a few restaurants nearby. She hopes to have customers from the neighbouring campuses for lunch and breakfast.
Peace had always wanted to do hairdressing but was never able to afford the training. She about the project with FESODEV through the village headman and in January started training at Auntie Fundu’s Hairdressing Salon. Along with fellow trainees, Pauline and Agnes, she began with learning ‘skin to skin’ – tightly adding braids of natural hair into the hair line. Then after a couple of weeks, they moved on to braiding with extensions. Pauline explained that with only a few other salons in the community offering to braid hair there is plenty of opportunity to attract business. Having covered topics such as calculating profit in their business training, the women are confident in setting their prices to remain competitive whilst ensuring they cover their operating costs. And with customers typically providing their own extensions, the women need only charge for labour.
Peace, Pauline and Agnes each plan to start their own hairdressing enterprises. Peace is looking for a location in Kanengo, within walking distance of her home, where she can open her own salon and call it ‘Auntie Peace’s Salon’. Agnes has found a good location around Salima where she will not have competition from other salons. In three years time she plans to be a hard-working hairdresser making money from her salon called ‘Kamilanga Salon’. She will hire other women hairdressers, probably single mothers like herself. Pauine has already found a place to start her business at the the Nkhoma trading centre, about 10km away from her the training placement but closer to her home. She says she will have a big salon called ‘Luntha Salon’, meaning “Good Talent”.
The women are all VSLA members, so will use some savings from their VSLA to get them started.
Before training in tailoring, Sabina had a business selling dried fish. The profit was poor and she wanted to change to a trade that would command a steadier and higher income. She had always wanted to do tailoring, but had never had the chance to learn. She was really happy when she heard about the project and headed straight to the FESODEV offices to apply. She was accepted on the tailoring project where she met her classmate Eniya.
Eniya is a widow who lives with her mother. Her children are grown up and have moved away. Eniya had no profession before she started training; she was doing some farming and raising chickens but she had no regular source of income at all. Tailoring was also her long-term dream and she was very excited when she heard about the project.
In November last year the women began their training together at a church hall. It was challenging at first as neither Sabina nor Eniya had ever done any tailoring before. But after a couple of months, things got easier and by March they felt confident in what they were doing. Soon they can were making all manner of garments including trousers, shirts, shorts, petticoats, gowns and skirts. In April Sabina and Eniya began their work placements at Mr. Nkwere’s tailoring shop in Njesi trading centre and gained experience preparing real orders for real customers.
Sabina and Eniya are confident about the future. They have identified that there is plenty of opportunity to work in tailoring and in 3 years’ time, Sabina wants to earn enough money to pay all the school fees for her two children. Sabina and Eniya have both started looking for places to start their business. They recognise that it will be a challenge to get themselves established as they don’t have much capital yet to launch a business, but they will approach their VSLA groups for loans to help with some initial start-up costs.
We wish them, and all our Tawoloka graduates the best of luck for the future as they start on their exciting journeys into business. We can’t wait to follow their progress along the way.