Mzuzu Women's Community Centre & Outreach Services
The vision is to enable the women of Mzuzu to become agents for change within difficult to reach areas, generating a cycle of female empowerment through education and support, via a community centre based in Mzuzu town. As well as offering a safe, positive setting for social engagement and learning we aim to reduce poverty through a business grant project, fight HIV through awareness and education and empower women through addressing and tackling gender inequality issues.
With the closing down of some well known international aid organisations that deployed UK volunteers to the Mzuzu area, and with no community centre currently present or active in the area we feel there is a considerable gap open for opportunity, enrichment and empowerment potential for local people especially focusing on the reduction in poverty, HIV related issues and gender inequality.
Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, faces ongoing issues particularly surrounding poverty, HIV & AIDS and gender inequality. Evidence shows that when women are disadvantaged, so are their communities. The feminisation of poverty in Malawi continues to be a problem as more female-headed households constitute the poor: they have more dependants, lower income capacity, few assets and resources. Incidences of HIV greatly alter such household structures as it's often the women that care for ill family members and orphans.
Women have a significant lack of knowledge, as a result of a lack of education, of their rights leaving them unable to effectively participate in their communities and suffer dimished potential and lack of opportunity.
Gender-based violence towards women is a common problem in Malawi, occuring in homes, communities and work places, leaving them vulnerable. Incidences of wife beating, sexual assault and harassment, girl-child defilement, marital rape, incest, femicide and widowhood rites are not uncommon. In some cases, traditional practices result in sexual abuse and violence. In some areas of Malawi women are blamed if their unmarried daughters become pregnant and both are sometimes beaten to death. Sexual abuse in schools and prostitution are also ongoing issues, the latter is a choice some women are forced to make in order to earn a living.
Gender inequality is a key factor in the higher rates of HIV & AIDS amongst women than men. Women aged 15 – 30 are most at risk and 4 – 6 times more likely to contract the virus than men. Cultural practices often prevent women from negotiating safe sex practices, such as condom use, as it's been reported that women found carrying condoms are considered promiscious or prostitutes. A lack of respect for women's sexual and reproductive rights increase their vulnerabality to HIV & AIDS whilst a lack of education leaves them with little to no access to information or adequate healthcare services.
Often girls are withdrawn from school to help other women in the household take care of ill family members which in turn denies them their rights to equal education and employment opportunities thus increasing their low socio-economic status.
Even the laws are biased against women as they face discrimination and oppression regarding inheritence and abortion laws.
The target areas (those that are considered difficult to reach and most in need of support and education) have been identified by Malawian volunteers working in the field.
Local NGOs (including REHAAT-INITIATIVE, Girls Rising Malawi and Tovwirane) are willing to offer their support and assistance to the project and share their knowledge and resources to enable its success.
A small group of women based in Cumbria are willing to fundraise and raise awareness for the project from the UK (see below: UK group partnership).
There is a group of Malawians that are also prepared to volunteer their time and skills to the project, such as translating, local knowledge and previous experience on similar projects.
We are seeking to raise/obtain general funding of at least £5000, this will enable us to register as a charity and therefore apply for further grants instead of relying on public donations alone. The forementioned figure will, in the meantime, be used to fund the project on the ground.
(An up to date breakdown of overall project costs can be provided upon request, it is currently not included in the project plan as we are still in the negotiating stages of setting up the project and many details regarding costs are subject to change).
There is an initial target of £2500 specifically for the business grant fund is required to award 50 individuals a business grant of 50,000MK each within the first 12 months.
The ultimate goal is to:
- reduce poverty through practical and financial support and opportunity, fight HIV through education and awareness and empower women through addressing and tackling gender inequality issues through awareness and education
set up a community centre for the women of Mzuzu and their familes including a range of recreational and educational activities
empower Mzuzu women as peer educators and agents for change to be in a position to empower other women in less fortunate surrounding areas, creating an ongoing cycle of female empowerment, education and equality
award business grants alongside training and support to HIV+ individuals and/or those living below the poverty line
The Community Centre
To provide local women with a safe, positive place to meet, learn, relax, have fun, seek support and assistance on a variety of issues that affect their lives, such as HIV & AIDS, poverty, women's rights and gender inequality, without judgement, expectation or discrimination of any kind.
- where possible offer general assistance with paperwork such as job applications
provide longstanding drop in services offering respite and refreshments 6 days a week
provide free, confidential and unbaised information on the following issues: HIV & AIDS, poverty/socio-economy, women's rights & gender inequality, sexual reproductive health
deliver educational and awareness based sessions on the forementioned issues with a core emphasis on female empowerment
offer informal yet confidential friendly talking-based support, i.e. “coming in for a chat”
free weekly creative activities for centre users and their children such as jewellery making, creative writing i.e. poetry, painting/drawing etc
- development of positive relationships between centre users and the community forming a successful support network
increase in knowledge and awareness on the following issues: HIV & AIDS, poverty, socio-economy, women's rights & the law, gender inequality, sexual reproductive health
increase in centre users personal development including confidence building, empowerment, creative freedom, emotional and psychological well-being
decrease in mis-informed 'knowledge' and stigma surrounding the forementioned issues
UK Group Partnership
The intention is to establish a parntership between a group of women in the Cumbria area and the group of Mzuzu women using the centre. The purpose of the UK group is to support the centre and its users in the following ways:
- connecting with centre users through social media such as video and an electronic penpal system to develop positive international relationships and support
raising awareness of issues surrounding HIV & AIDS, women's rights & gender inequality, poverty & socio-economy, sexual reproductive health, female empowerment
delivery literacy sessions to illiterate individuals wishing to improve their potential employment and educational prospects
fundraising generating activities to ensure the centres future & development
- the above peers to deliver educational sessions and workshops on the forementioned issues to difficult to reach areas including (but not limited to): Choma, Nkholongo, Chigwere, Chimbongondo, Zolozolo, Masasa, Ching'ambo.
train women of Mzuzu to become peer educators and agents for change in the following areas: HIV & AIDS, gender inequality including female empowerment and women's rights, sexual reproductive health
deliver literacy sessions to those who require or request such to improve empoyment and educational prospects and potential
- provide free, confidential, un-biased factually accurate information on HIV & AIDS specifically prevention, sexual reproductive health, gender inequality & women's rights, female empowerment
baseline surveys will determine heirachy of needs to be addressed
each area managed by a representative Mzuzu peer educator in partnership with a village representative to ensure effective delivery of education, support etc
Mzuzu peer educators to reach out to, deliver sessions and train women of forementioned difficult to reach areas
- the formation of positive, supportive relationships between Mzuzu and target areas
decrease in gender based discrimination within the target areas, including violence, stigma and lack of equality and opportunity
increase in knowledge and awareness of the forementioned issues
women and girls of target areas empowerment and personal development
After the successful trial of awarding 11 flood victims living as refugees in a disaster camp in Mzuzu a business grant of 50,000MK each alongside compulsory training sessions and support, we would like to expand the business grant project to reach unemployed young adults, particuarly women and HIV+ positive individuals enabling them to become self-sufficient and live above the poverty line long-term.
The trial was supported and commended by the local council including the mayor and local NGO Tovwirane with whom the trail was run whilst covered by local press. All 11 recepients are running successful businesses and have been able to move out of the camp, rent new homes and support their families again.
(More information on the trial availible upon request).
- ongoing monitoring and support throughout the intial 12 month period including advice and practical support if/when required.
potential beneficiaries to complete an informal application form including business proposal ideas
compulsory training sessions on setting up, managing and maintaining a successful self-employment business
awarding of business grants assisted by the town council and/or mayor as done previously
- increase in self-employed individuals and businesses
addressing the need for employment within Malawi
overall reduction in poverty across Mzuzu and surrounding rural areas as well as reducing the number of cases of individual rpoverty and unemployment
addressing lack of employment opportunities
We are exploring the possibility of employing the peer educators in addition to a small number of local Mzuzu women to run the community centre on a daily basis on an above average wage, to co-inside with our value of promoting and enabling equal opportunities for female employment. This would not only empower the individual women but also reduce poverty and increase their socio-economic status within their immediate community and provide an opportunity to support their children's upbringing and education etc.
We would also like to explore the possibility of training male peer educators on women's rights and the target issues as we believe gender inequality is not just a women's issue or 'problem', it must be addressed by both sexes. In some cases, education on gender inequality delivered by a male-female duo to other males, would be more effective than just a single female educator and would show a clear message of male based support leading by example.
The following is a brief summary of the anticipated/average minimum monthly costs to start-up and run the community centre for its first 12 months.
(We would like to explore the possibility of offering a small stipend to peer educators to promote earned income, equality and empowerment).
- stipend for 1 full time volunteer £48
rent of office space/building, £35
transportation of peer educators £15
centre refreshments £10
educational resources/materials £10
creative activities resources/materials £10
Average anticipated cost for first year: £1600
Any additional funds obtained will be either used to enhance the already established services or set aside for future developments and included in any relevent reports for the purpose of transparency.
We expect to become established and ready to begin within 3 months of receiving the required funds.
- month 3, continue advertising, open centre to public towards end of month 3, begin training and education of peer educators
month 1, source & secure office space (2 rooms, 1 large, central to Mzuzu town)
month 2, prepare office space, obtain educational/activity resources, advertise opening, recruit peer educators
From month 4 onwards we expect to be fully functioning and delivering on all of the objectives and outcomes detailed in the project plan.
Monitoring & Evaluation
- monthly income & expenditure reports
monthly progress reports sent to funders/donors
visual media: collecting qualitative data such as photographs and videos, informal interviews/case studies
sharing of the above qualitative data on social media as evidence of proper use of donations and project progress
recording quantitative data such as attendance registers, activity turn outs, KAP surveys/opinon polls etc
Hetti Sansom, UK, founder/director of Mzuzu Aid
Chisomo Mhango, Malawi
Princess Kaphuka, Malawi, teacher
Local NGO REHAAT-INITIATIVE
Local NGO Tovwirane
Local NGO 'Girls Rising Malawi'
UK individual financial donors
public donations through fundraising events