U.S. Embassy helps Malawian women build skills, economic independence
On June 4, United States Embassy Management Officer Geraldine Gray Thibodeau officially inaugurated a project designed to develop women’s entrepreneurial skills in Malawi’s southern district of Nsanje. The ceremony took place at Traditional Authority Malemia. After undertaking an intensive six month training course, eleven entrepreneurially-minded women graduated last week. While enrolled in the class, these women used their Village Savings and Loan to save money to buy start-up materials such as sewing machines, and they are expected to start their own tailoring businesses soon. In total, the project expects to reach out to 400 area women over the next five years, beginning with the next class of 15 women who will start their studies on June 15.
Speaking at the ceremony, Gray Thibodeau said as the tailoring project demonstrates, providing women with vocational skills increases their ability to earn money — either through formal employment, or through self-employment.
“At the U.S. Embassy, we believe that women who have marketable skills are economically empowered, which means they are more likely to have lower rates of HIV/AIDS and other STDs, and to enjoy greater equality at home and in society,” she said.
She observed that the project is not only about earning more money, but it is also a way that women can educate their children because children of women with marketable skills are more likely to survive their early years and become educated at higher levels.
In June 2014, the U.S. African Development Foundation, through the U.S. Ambassador’s Self-Help Fund, granted MK 2,565,276 (US$6,832) to enable the Sustainable Rural Community Development Organization to procure 15 sewing machines, tailoring materials such as fabric, thread and wool, and train an initial group of women in tailoring skills.