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VSLA Brings Small Business Success

Written by: Madalitso Banda

It’s a sunny day even though it’s the winter season in Malawi. The bright sunlight is a welcome sight for farmers, as some are harvesting their maize, while others are drying soya that they have harvested.

I have arrived at Gefrey Village, located in the south-eastern portion of the Kasungu District of Malawi. This area became well populated because of tobacco farming, but now, it is evident that the period of tobacco has passed by; it is rare to see tobacco bales being transported to the market as they used to be in this region a decade ago.

Seated on the grass outside her home and playing with her children is Lacelo Chawantha, 32 years old. Lacelo is married to Laston Silia Chawantha, and together they have two children, a boy and girl. Unlike many of the girls who grew up in her village, Lacelo was fortune enough to be able to attend school through form four at Santhe Secondary School.

As Lacelo’s children greeted me, she smiled, saying, “I am very excited to share my story on sanitary pad production. I have been waiting to tell my story someday, and this is the day.”

“The day I joined VSLA group my life changed,” Lacelo shared, as she started narrating her story. “When I finished form four there was nothing I could do with my life other than getting married, because I came out of school without acquiring any real skills for survival. So, I got married and became a housewife to my husband, whose occupation is farming. He’s not a large scale farmer, but a mere village farmer,” she shared.

“Through a CARE-initiated Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), I was able to learn about sanitary pad production and the concept of women’s empowerment. I took the training on income generation activities very seriously, for we were facing challenges financially as my husband’s income was not enough to feed us all,” Lacelo continued.

Through various CARE VSLA education programs, women receive training that equips them with various skills, such as how to use savings from a VSLA to invest in small business opportunities, with the goal of boosting their household income. For many women, this means being able to support their children, particularly girl children, and increase their access to education.

“I learned how to cut, sew, and sell locally-made sanitary pads to women in my community, and now, I sell about 30 sanitary pads per month at $0.53 each. I am happy that many women and girls in my community are using sanitary pads that I sew,” Lacelo stated, happily.

Lacelo’s small business is not only helping her support her family, but is also having a positive impact on her community. She shared, “In the past most of my fellow women did not have access to proper sanitary pads; they could not afford to buy sanitary pads from the shops because the prices are unreasonable. Now, with the coming of my locally-made pads it’s accessible to all.”