A Day With The Tisungane Women's Group
Executive Director's Note
The Tisungane Women's Group is the baby organisation of SURCOD (Sustainable Rural Community Development Organisation) that is one of the 20 groups we established as the Chididi Women Groups Savings and Capital Building Project, for which we are being supported by VOLKAT VISION, our partner in this project.
The following is a report of our recent visit with them.
The Mchancha Village Headman Speaks
“We welcome you, Mr. January Mvula, Executive Director, together with all the volunteers from SURCOD we work with in all development activities.
We are quite happy that SURCOD is doing a wonderful work here in Chididi, particularly in my village, Mchacha.
I was born over six decades ago, I have never seen such a powerful gathering of women like the one that is before us today. These women have astonished me – contributing money with an objective of improving their families.
This is a very brilliant idea, indeed, and we hope this will assist in the eradication of poverty in my village.
Being the village headman of this village, I am supporting this initiative and I will make sure that I am encouraging the women – as well as their husbands, to support the initiative.
You can see we have a lot of fruits, which we are not benefiting much from, through the concept of middle men – who keep on lobbying us when we try to sell them at Nsanje Boma (District Headquarters) Market. I hope with the inception of this project – together with SURCOD, I hope our eyes will open up.”
Chief Greeted With Joy and Applause
These were the words as uttered by the Group Village Headman Mchacha during noon hours of the meeting day, as it is the tradition of Chididi to welcome visitors with the words from the Chief.
The chief was often interrupted during his speech by the clapping of hands and undulations by the women. Their (women) joy compensated my fatigue as I was seated in an old wooden chair that seemed older than me.
Their welcome, songs, and wonderful local dancing antics made me forget the pangs of a three hour journey through dry streams and mountains.
Mrs. Fane Gastone, Chairperson of the Tisungane Group, Speaks
Mai (Mrs.) Fane Gastone, Chairperson of Tisungane Group, spoke.
She was nicely dressed in an old-fashioned, clean, multi-coloured, dress that our modern ladies today cannot dream of owning.
All protocols are observed, she began...
“We are all born today. Yes we are born today,” she emphasized, “because of the renewal of our minds.”
“I feel on behalf of all women here and those that are elsewhere, that the past is gone; look, all things are made new.
You know, women were regarded as children manufacturers and kitchen queens.
This is what we grew up with. This made us weak and insecure.
But today, with the coming of SURCOD, our organisation, the story is different.
We have begun to understand ourselves so that we can also contribute to the development of our families as well as to the development of our villages -- or even beyond, as leaders.
Because of this self-understanding, obstacles standing our way will soon develop wings.
Our guests and all people that are here: it is my belief that sooner we will parade with men alongside each other, sharing ideas to develop our families as well as our nation, since as SURCOD women's groups, we are learning a lot of things as we meet every week with the volunteers who enlighten us with various development topics.
When we meet, we discuss a number of issues starting from home management, family planning, gender, savings, businesses, environmental issues, and not forgetting family development as our core mission to eradicate poverty in our homes.
We have managed to contribute and save MWK/Malawi Kwacha 6800 ($46.26) in our group for only two months, and we are very sure that by the end of this year we will save over MK40800 ($277.55).
All this has come along under the wings of SURCOD, which is promoting the saving spirit and women's leadership amongst us – the rural women in Chididi, as it is building our capacity in entrepreneurship in our groups, which we democratically formed.
We elected our leaders democratically, but SURCOD only guided us on good leadership. We drafted our by-laws to guide us through, and we were developing them together as women groups and endorsed them to show that we are conforming to them.”
Laying Out The Facts
She proceeded by giving details of their principles.
“We meet every fortnight at here under the Kachere tree to discuss savings and capital building with a SURCOD representative, where they train us in various business concepts, savings skils, and capital building.
The main focus is alleviating poverty; keeping money to build capital for a tangible investment, which we are still thinking of as Chididi women.
But, mind you, we value very much our fruits that we have here which we always sell at a robbed price at Nsanje Boma.
We do not end here.”
This small statement rejuvenated my attention even more. I expected her to err because she was speaking out of her head without a supporting document in her palm.
I was mistaken because I was captivated afterwards.
“Our guests, there are outcroppings standing our way to attaining better living standards, as every human being. We have agreed as women that all blocks that seem to impinge on our goals should be dealt with.
We know we lack required technical and financial muscles to carry the load. But where our muscles can do, we will surely do as what we are already doing through our savings group.
But sometimes, we might face problems and blocks, which we believe you will be able to provide to us the skills, as our mother organisation.
These blocks include HIV/AIDS, food security, education, gender disparities, governance, environment and other rising issues.“
As she was unfolding these facts, there was an eruption of hands and beating of drums. Dancing ensued that made us all join – surpassing the joy of the speaker.
But while I joined in the dancing, my brain was searching for better dose to ease or cure the ailments of these women, especially outcroppings, on their way to better living standards.
There was this at the back of my mind while I was displaying my modern dancing antics.
At this point, the speaker continued...
“I have to congratulate the Executive Director of SURCOD and his staff and the volunteers.
Many were telling us lies. We were told you will take our money and keep them elsewhere by unknown people.
After we had elected our leaders, morale grew bigger and improved for the better. The money is kept by us, which is giving us hope that no foul play is made.
There is high interaction amongst us.”
She further extended her thanks to all men that are behind them.
“Men, our husbands, are part and parcel of this project. Had they been aggressive, there wouldn’t be a steady number of women during meetings, and gradually the monetary contributions would dwindle.
I urge them to continue supporting us by allowing their wives to use household resources to raise money to contribute to this project.
Household resources include land, farm produce, children, etc.”
SURCOD's Executive Director Speaks
At that end, I was asked to present my speech.
Mine was a simple message, urging them to go forward, regardless of their small capacity to deal with other issues.
On behalf of SURCOD, I thanked all of them and even laboured them to carry my congratulations to their spouses.
Noticing that their economy is largely agriculturally-based, I urged them to avoid wanton cutting down of trees, as this promotes excess erosion.
As for the worries they mentioned, I promised to handle them where possible – as our capacity allows us, because leaving them untouched is like torching the already existing efforts.
A Fruitful Gathering
At the end of the gathering, everybody was asked to wait.
Then we were led to a certain place where we encircled a large natural tree. Suddenly, things started trickling in: food, water, and fruits.
This forum created a chance to talk one-to-one on issues that were forgotten and not mentioned in the speeches.
As we were feasting, the chairperson warned us that we should not expect the same during their ordinary meetings. There is no eating in ordinary meetings.
January Watchman Mvula, Executive Director
Sustainable Rural Community Development Organization [SURCOD] Malawi,
P. O. Box 45,
Chididi, Nsanje, Malawi.