As well as graduating a whole new group of women from our Fashion Lab Mayamiko Trust has been hard at work running old projects and starting new ones. If you hadn't heard of the Mayamiko Trust before, it was started in 2008, before the brand came along. It's a charity aimed at hosting life changing projects that support people of Malawi towards sustainable living. As well as providing tailoring training to the women behind our clothes, the Trust has partnered with Sunny Money to help provide lights, worked with beekeepers to protect elephants and helped to disseminate feminine hygiene products made in our workshop from left over material. We care about women and empowerment which is why we continue to deliver to communities in need and refugee settlements further a field - if you want to read more about tackling period poverty click here.
Last year we also started a pilot providing financial literacy and business training, aimed at empowering, helping to diversify families' incomes and create more women entrepreneurs. Many of the women who train at the Fashion Lab use micro-finance and funding to go on to do their own projects and we have found financial literacy training has provided a key tool in sustaining this independence. We therefore saw an opportunity to take it further, including adding digital content to our facebook page to reach even more people through the country's growing connectivity.
Malawi is ranked 126 out of 149 countries on the gender equality index by the UNDP based on the dimensions of political empowerment, economic activity and reproductive health, meaning poverty often carries a female face and disparities persist. The aim of this project is to 'improve women's socio-economic wellbeing through literacy levels and social skills, access to finance and entrepreneurship training'. In October last year 5 trainers were trained who then went on to choose their own venues to teach new cohorts what they had learnt through a 3 day in-person course. Plus, many used Whatsapp groups, where available, to create a platform for peer-to-peer learnings.
Despite the difficulties of the pandemic we have seen great resilience and a lot of hard work among the participants. Lily Singano took part last year and has seen her confidence blossom. At just 20, Lily is making maize flour from home and her entrepreneurial spirit saw her even sell some at the training. She asked lots of questions and has been a keen social media marketeer. Her dream is to get her product registered with the Bureau of standards so she can one day have it in the supermarkets!
Molly owns and runs Mo-Ice a personal shopping business as well as a cocktail and beverage store. While nervous to restart making drinks again, the training has helped her with the confidence needed. When she finally opened her shop again in the Bwandilo area in January, she was met by COVID-19 restrictions shortly after, but stuck it out given she was already paying rent. The numbers are now starting to go down, she's getting her vaccine and looking forward to getting going again - putting all her efforts into marketing. We hope we've got lots more stories to share soon, but until next time...