"Now people say,
“Wow, these women can do this”"
We ran our second Women Together learning exchange in July 2018 with 3 women's groups in the Lilongwe area of Malawi. These groups included widows and HIV positive mothers - women who are usually outcast and stigmatized came together to find new support, new friends, new skills, new strength, new courage, encouragement and inspiration.
In late July, women from 3 communities in southern Malawi came together share skills and knowledge on soap making, organic gardening, and production of homemade briquettes for household fuel. The briquettes - made from household waste including paper, corn cobs, and water - offer an important alternative to charcoal and fire wood. They save money, fuel, forests, and time, and offer a new income generating opportunity for the women who produce them.
The inclusion of soap making was made possible thanks to an important new collaboration between women's groups in New York and the Tickbird collective in Malawi who specialize in soap making. The women of Tickbird were facing the threat of losing the land they use to grow the lemongrass used in their soap production. Through the New York collaboration, both groups were able to raise enough money to secure a 10-year lease for the land, ensuring the viability of soap production for the collaborative. The women's group in New York includes designers who are now supporting Tickbird in the marketing and packaging of their soap. It's a great partnership and we're headed back in October to do more!
Followup Business Management Training for Cookstoves
In a follow-up to the exchange we held in May 2018, we returned to the location in south Malawi where 16 women were trained in making cookstoves. Because of these energy efficient stoves, these women are now saving both money and time usually spent on collecting or buying firewood. With their new time and money, these women are able to send their kids to school, are able to be at home when their children return from school and are able to serve them fresh nutritious food. They are able to buy household goods like soap, and can spend more time on income generating activities at home. Since their training in May, they say they feel more confident and outspoken and are now teaching men the skills they learned through the exchange.
Since May, these original 16 women have also trained 40 more women in cookstove technology and have formed a cooperative to produce and sell their stoves together. They have also negotiated with their local village leaders and mobilized community members to construct workshops for the manufacture and storage of their cookstove stock. To give them the skills for this new phase of their work together, we offered a 4-day training in financial literacy and business management for them. Together we learned what it means to work as a team, to be accountable and responsible for each other and for our shared assets and shared goals. Together we are building a new, productive, creative and liberating experience of community for women.
There are many ways that you can participate!
We need your skills and time - we would love to work with you remotely from your home, or to have you come out into the field to work with us on a women’s learning exchange.
Most importantly, we need folks to invest in these learning exchanges – every single contribution is valuable to us – from $5 to $50,000.
Use the donate button below, or email us and let us know how you'd like to participate -
we will be in touch soon!