Women's Economic Empowerment in Kauma

In May 2023 we launched our Vocational Skills Training for Women’s Economic Empowerment Project with our Malawi partner, Lilongwe Youth Organisation (LYO), based in the heart of Kauma village, in the southwest of Lilongwe.

The project welcomed 45 trainees who were unable to access the formal state education system, and delivered vocational training in bricklaying, textile and fashion design or electric and solar installation.  Trainees received support in trade-related functional literacy and numeracy, and undertook a 1-month work placement hosted by a selected local business.

Participants have graduated with the technical skills to earn an income, work placement and customer relationship experience,  a nationally recognised qualification, and quality tools supplied by Tools for Self Reliance to support them in their chosen trades.


Economic Empowerment for disadvantaged women

Malawi remains one of the world’s least developed countries, with over 70 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. In 2020 the World bank/ILO reported a youth unemployment rate in Malawi of almost 10%.  When this figure is disaggregated by gender, it is clear that women are harder hit and the strict definition of unemployment disguises the reality for many young women, with an estimated 21% underemployed and almost a third of potential employment falling within the informal sector.

Although the 1995 Malawi Constitution guarantees equal rights to men and women, statutory and customary laws and social norms create immense obstacles to equality and perpetuate gender disparities. In turn these disparities impact on the division of power, participation and control over resources and decision-making, so that Malawian women remain disadvantaged in all arenas of society.

A report from the local Household survey, conducted by the Kauma Community Development Committee in June 2022, revealed the high number of female-headed households in the Kauma area. Many of these women have no reliable source of income and their fragile economic situation forces these single mothers to turn to high-risk behaviours to feed their families.

Our project with LYO provided 34 women with the opportunity to learn new skills in a vocational trade, business skills and life skills, which will enable them to develop a sustainable and regular income and make informed safe choices.  In addition, 11 young men were selected to join the project; males who are supporting women in vulnerable households where the woman herself cannot attend the training.

Participants chose to study either bricklaying, textile and fashion design or electric and solar installation.  In the third month of training, they divided into 15 new business groups, learning to work effectively with others, and choosing their business names.

The final month of the project enabled the trainees to gain work placement experience; they undertook placements with artisans from established businesses in the area who themselves have received top-up vocational and business skills training with LYO.

As the project drew to a close, the participants each received a certificate from TEVETA (the national authority which assesses and accredits vocational trainees), and a starter toolkit from Tools for Self Reliance.  The project culminated in a joyful graduation ceremony.


Bright futures

Tailoring trainee with her sewing machine

Alice Posani Mwale

Alice Posani Mwale

Alice, one of our tailoring trainees, undertook her training placement at Five Stars Designers.  The workshop owner is so impressed with Alice that she’s been offered a scholarship, to to study to degree level at the prestigious Lilongwe Technical College.  Before joining the project, Alice felt she had no meaningful place in her community.  It is a different story now as she earns her own income to support her aging parents.  Alice said: “The skills I have learnt are helping me generate income.  I am optimistic that I will be successful in my career”


Electrical & solar installation trainee poses for his photograph

Ernest Kafuwa

Ernest Kafuwa

Ernest Kafuwa chose to train in electrical & solar installation.  He undertook his one-month placement at Electricity Supply Cooperation of Malawi (ESCOM) where they were so impressed with Ernest that they offered him a job.  He in now earning K40,000 per week and training others to become electricians.

Ernest told us: “My lifestyle has tremendously improved, as I am now an employee of a big Malawi government electricity supply company, so the skills are helping me generate more income.”


Bricklaying trainee with a trowel and level

Brian Chalinda

Brian Chalinda

Brian Chalinda enrolled as a bricklaying trainee after spending years of unemployment.  Before training, he couldn’t even afford a meal for the day and his family were struggling.  After a month of intensive training, Brian was able to start using his skills to generate income and was able to help support his family.  He said: “These skills are for life, which means my life and that of my family will greatly improve because using the skills, I will be able to generate income.”

Brian began his training placement with Choice Construction, where his skills gained him favour with customers and and prompted the business owner to offer Brian full employment. Now he has no difficulties to provide for his family and seen light at the end of the tunnel.


Transitions from learning to earning

The acquisition of vocational skills is just one element of our project programming.  To ensure that graduates are supported post-graduation, we will soon launch our first Transition to Work project with LYO.  In this Year 2 training phase, participants will acquire key business management skills, gain confidence and support in seeking formal employment, and receive guidance and mentorship as they start their own successful enterprises.

We look forward to sharing more stories of success from this project. To sign up for all our latest project updates, please click here.

Projects such as these would not be possible without you.  We want to say a big THANK YOU for all of your kind donations, and for your preloved tools which support our projects. 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.

Back to news

July 2024

Where we work