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Investing in women pays huge dividends in Malawi

25 July 2014

The change in Edda and her family’s life since CARE began working in her village in rural Malawi is significant. She and the four grandchildren she cares for are eating more food more often, and are not as susceptible to grave risks of hunger. 
Edda is also able to use the profits from her small business activities and the money she saves through the Village Savings and Loans Group to provide the things her grandchildren need to go to school, including uniforms, school books and soap.
Edda and her grandchildren are now eating more food more often, and are not as susceptible to grave risks of hunger. ©Josh Estey/CARE
When my colleagues first met Edda in rural Malawi in 2012, her situation was dire. Edda is a subsistence farmer, which means she grows most of the food her family eats. 
‘I fear hunger,’ she told us. ‘I am tired of living miserably and I dream of a better life – one where we have a good house, enough food and the children go to school.’
Sadly, Edda’s situation is common in Malawi, where rural poverty is high, food insecurity is widespread and women lack social and economic support.
In 2012 CARE began working with Edda and her community to support women who struggle to provide food all year round.
I travelled to Malawi in January this year, and the Edda I spoke to was strong and tenacious. A lot has changed in two years. Edda has been saving money regularly through a Village Savings and Loans group CARE established, and with the money saved so far, she has bought rabbits, a pig, pigeons and chickens to breed and sell.
Edda has also learnt small business skills through the project, and put them to good use selling local snack food in her village.
‘I have been trained in business, how to set it up, and how to run the business. This has helped my business, has helped me buy some things like maize and meat,’ she explains.
The best news is that the family is eating more now. It is the lean season again, a period when her family used to suffer with just one meal per day. Yet Edda’s farm is doing better than ever. Now, the family are eating two meals of maize porridge with vegetable leaves a day instead of one. Sometimes, they are able to add kidney beans to their meal too.
Edda can now provide the things her grandchildren need to go to school, including uniforms, school books and soap. ©Josh Estey/CARE
With more food on the table, more opportunities to earn an income and support her family, and with her newly learned skills in savings, spending and small business, Edda is in a better position than ever before to escape the cycle of extreme poverty and hunger.
Now, Edda looks to the future with excitement instead of worry.
Thanks to CARE’s supporters, around 15,000 people like Edda, across two districts in Malawi are being supported through this project. They are receiving training in reading and writing, financial literacy, saving and budgeting, modern farming techniques, crop management and nutrition in order to overcome hunger, improve their family’s health and deliver previously unimaginable opportunities.

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