The women of Namiyango
By – Namiyango is a small suburb outside Malawis commercial capitol, Blantyre. The local organisation CECOWDA (Centre for Conflict Management and Women Development Affairs) gives support to local women who for different reasons have found them selves in difficult situations. The women on the images are in different ways active in the organisation, they support each other, in group sessions or more private talks. They have started a piggery to get some economical support. Most of them have lost their husbands and most of them married before they finished their education, and now have to support their kids by them selves, trying not to let them make the same mistakes as they think they did. The patterns are from the womens favorite Chitenjes, traditional clothing worn in most of the country. Vilhelm Stokstad
Elizabeth Chilambes first husband passed away in 1978, they had one child together. She remarried however and now have 7 children with her new husband. One of their daughters has epilepsy. When she was 13 she was found to be pregnant, 3 or 4 years later she was found pregnant again. She lost the second child but now have a son that she does not know is hers. No one knows how the girl got pregnant but they assume someone took advantage of her. Elizabeth maintains that her main concern is her daughter and grandson because there is no one else to care for them. Her daughter cannot go to school because the teachers won’t care for her adequately if something happens, which means Elizabeth would have to go with her.
Chuma Malekano put her three children to bed and sat down with her friend outside for a chat. As Chuma got caught up in conversation she within minutes realized that her home was on fire. She ran inside to rescue her children. She managed to wake up her eldest and bring him to safety then rushed back in to get the others. She was only able to get her 8 month old, her 2 and a half year old perished at the scene. Chuma and her family were taken to the hospital to treat their badly burned bodies. Her 8 month old passed away at the hospital after a couple of days.
Chuma was not able to attend the funeral because she was hospitalized for a year because of the severity of the burns she and her son, Ford Sauti experienced. Ford’s legs have been completely burned up to the hips, but he is able to walk. Chumas husband disappeared while she was hospitalized. She explains that he ran away from the responsibilities that he was now faced with and she has not seen him since.
Ellen Joilosi was ten years old when she started attending school. She explains that her parents didn’t like her very much because she was so troublesome. When she was in standard seven she dropped out of school, she took the money set to be used for her school fees and moved from Thyolo to Nymiango away from her parents. She worked as a maid for a man 15 years her senior, they ended up getting married. She thought that by getting married she would enjoy luxuries. Her husband sadly passed due to cancer in 2003. She now lives alone with nine of her ten children. She says the main challenge now are school fees, and she really hopes her children will be well educated but is finding this difficult with the shortage of money after her husband passed.
After Mary Buluya’s father died her mother decided to get remarried. Her mother told Mary that her new husband wouldn’t support her children so Mary at 17 years old was forced into marriage.
After she gave birth to twins she decided she would make an effort to go back to school, but she was still lacking the money. Her husband was verbally, physically and emotionally abusive, she wanted to leave him but needed the financial support he provided. Mary has raised her children almost entirely independently of their mostly absent father. She has nine children, five girls and four boys. She is doing small businesses, selling vegetables on the streets. She forced her children to stay in school to graduate before getting married, especially her daughters. She has explained her story to them in hopes that they will continue their education.
Rachel Kumakanga got married when she was 18 years old when she found out that she was pregnant. She dropped out of school and could no longer continue her education. After 33 years of marriage, her husband passed away due to liver failure caused by heavy drinking. Since his passing she has not been able to continue her business as a tailor because he was providing her with materials and she has not been making enough money to buy these materials herself. Rachel expects her daughters to go further with their education to avoid the hardships she’s had to face. If not she fears that they will suffer in the future as a result.
Annie Ndulamanja lost hur husband about 12 years ago. After about three to four years Annie began feeling ill and a year ago she decided to get tested for HIV and was tested positive. It wasn’t until then that she realized her husband had passed away due to HIV but he never disclosed this to her.
Mary Ngomba was misled to believe that marriage would solve all of her problems. She believed when people told her that getting married would provide her a life where she could access food and a home. She decided to get married after she dropped out of school in form two. Mary quickly realized that because she did not have a higher education she had limited opportunities to accessing more money. Her husbands salary alone doesn't come far when supporting their five children. Which of one has epilepsy, which increases the economic strains of the family further. Mary now dreams of becoming a teacher. She is hopeful that the opportunity to go back to school will arise and she can create a better life for her and her family economically.
Shortly after Felistar Kalima got married in 1970, she had three children all born with physical disabilities. At the age of seven her last born child passed away. The family originally lived together in Lilongwe but Felistar moved with her children to Bangwe to escape abuse from her husband. She recalls him telling the children that they are useless. He provides very little support to the family but occasionally brings food. The travel to and from the hospital is about 15-20 kilometers which is too far of a walk. Taking the mini bus is double the price when the children join because of their wheelchairs.
Loyce Madilasi met her husband when she was still going to school in 1994, they got married shortly after. They now have 5 children. Her husbands alcoholism constrains the households finances and his job as a mini-bus conductor does not provide much income for the family. She is trying to stay positive about her situation by keeping her children in school.
Stelia Bishop has never been to a formal education centre, she has never attended school. At young age she was forced into marriage. She tried to refuse but her father was stern and told her that no matter what that was who she was going to marry. Her new husband was visually impaired. Stelia now cares for her father who is now also visually impaired, her husband and her 19 year old son, who have epilepsy. She has a total of eight children. To support the family Steilia tries to go into the community to do laundry or wash vegetables for people who are willing to pay her.
Nelli Kaunda is 14 years old. She lost her father to malaria at age 8. Shortly after her mother remarried her new stepfather started abusing her and her mother. She dropped out of school and tried to support herself and her brother by working mostly in bars and hotels. After about two years she could move in with her uncle and get support to go back to school.
At the age of three Clemintina Makwalo developed side effects of malaria. Her legs began to bow and she could no longer walk without support. Clemintina’s father passed away in 1993 from a car accident and her mother from meningitis. She has 9 sisters and is the first born. In her early 20s Clemintina became a mother to a boy and a girl. During the pregnancy, the father’s parents told him he could not marry her because of her disability. She explains that he disappeared shortly after. She has been able to secure a job working at the Malawi Weaving Factory for People Living with Physical Disabilities. However, her income is the only one contributing to the household because all of her sisters are still in school.