Tawoloka Tailors

In the autumn of 2022, 55 women took a big step towards success in Lilongwe, Malawi. We are delighted to share their progress.

Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world.  Over 70% of people live below the poverty line and the difficulties they face have been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the global impact of the cost-of-living crisis.  Single mothers and female early school leavers face particular challenges when building livelihoods, including less time to participate in training opportunities due to childcare of household responsibilities, low literacy levels and exclusion from financial services.

The Tawoloka project, run in conjunction with our partner Foundation For Education And Social Development (FESODEV), addressed these challenges by providing vocational training in trades where women have a greater opportunity to succeed post-graduation, business skills support and access to savings and loans. 

Taking on training in their choice of either catering, tailoring or hairdressing the 55 women began their 12-month course.  In addition to classroom sessions and work-placement experience, the women received training in fundamental numeracy and literacy, business skills and marketing.  The Tawoloka project, which translates as “Let’s Go”, was the first to offer a new holistic package of support, providing trainees with realistic study timetables to help them fit learning and income generation around home life and day-to-day commitments.

Childcare at the creche

A creche facility allowed trainees to leave their children in a safe and supported environment where they would each receive a nutritious lunch time meal.

An adapted training schedule, with workable classroom hours, ensured the women were more readily able to attend their courses without the pressure of competing priorities.

The women also completed training in Village Savings and Loans (VSLA) and formed their own community savings groups to build capacity and confidence in financial management. Through the VSLA scheme, the women were able to build their savings and access to loan facilities as the members start their businesses.

Project Manager Annie Mpanganeni, who received training locally from CARE International to run the training, said; “We appreciate this project for the VSLA programme, the ladies have been helped a lot financially, when they had school fees challenges from their children they had somewhere to get, if there was no food at home they could take a loan and buy food for the family, when the ladies and their kids get sick and they have no money for the hospital bills, they could get a loan from their VSLA groups. To be honest this has been a very big milestone in this project.”

From left to right: Annie Mpanganeni with tailoring trainees Sabina and Eniya


44 year old Sabina reached primary school but had to leave education due to the unaffordable school fees. Working 7 days a week for low profit selling dried fish, she wanted to change to a trade that would command a steadier and higher income and allow her to support her family and keep her own children in education. She had always wanted to do tailoring, but had never had the chance to learn before joining the Tawoloka project.

Now Sabina is a member of the Kamalutu VSLA group. They meet every Wednesday, to dance and sing, check attendance of all members and attend to financial business. Sabina explained that she was elected to be the treasurer of the group and to be responsible for keeping the VSLA box and a written record of all transactions. The Kamalatu group has a total of MWK270,000 in their fund. Shares of MWK500 each are purchased, and each member puts in MWK200 for the social fund. She said she isn’t worried about keeping the box, because most of the money is out on loan to members of the group. Big loans are paid back within 2 months and smaller amounts must be paid back within 2 weeks. To date, all loans have been repaid. The agreed interest rate of 10% ensures growth of the fund and savings.


56 year old Eniya is a widow living with her mother.  Her children are grown up and have moved away. Before training she had no profession and was doing some farming and raising chickens but had no regular income.  Tailoring was also her long-term dream, but before she heard about the Tawoloka project through friends, she had never had the opportunity to learn.

Eniya is the chair of the Chindone VSLA group.  She was voted in by the members.  She is responsible for calling meetings and for their overall management.  Their group also keeps written records and members contribute shares each week at MWK500.  They have a total of MWK150,000 in the VSLA pot which group members can borrow to meet business investment costs.


Project success

The project completion rate was 100%, with consistent attendance from all trainees, which is a real testament to the project design. All 55 trainees have successfully moved into income generation and are reporting significant lifestyle and financial improvements. 45 trainees have successfully set up a business. Ten trainees have secured formal employment.

“The greatest success is that all 55 trainees have managed to acquire knowledge and skills making use of this while earning money for their family members needs and they have managed to open their own businesses which is a great achievement.” FESODEV Director Dr John Chirwa.

Tailoring trainees including Sabina (4th from left) and Eniya (5th from left) in the FESODEV offices

The project graduates have reported a significant immediate increase in income, but importantly, thanks to the business skills training and their participation in Village Savings and Loans Associations, the women are continuing to invest in their businesses with an eye on long term transformative changes to their household financial status.

Most compellingly, every trainee told us they could now buy food “all or most of the time” at the end of the project, with over a third now adding meat to their diet at least once a week, an impossibility for all the trainees before the training began.

Piloting the creche facility for the children of participants has proved such a success that we will look to incorporate this into all our future projects with FESODEV.  Our exciting new vocational training project is in development, and will offer trades including hairdressing & cosmetology and solar & electrical installation.  We look forward to brining you updates soon.


Projects such as these would not be possible without you.  If you would like to support our life-changing projects, please click here to give a one-off gift or set up a regular donation.  Thank you.

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January 2024




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