It was inspirational, humbling and exciting to meet the wonderful women of the Dodo lending group in their village of Maliera, just a kilometre of two from the Mozambican border in Malawi.
This group of 25 has been particularly successful in paying their loans back on time with their businesses flourishing. Mum and I visited in late December 2014 and presented each of the women with a chitenje, or sarong, to say thanks for making us feel so welcome and for sharing their stories. There are many support and networking groups for business people in existence, however I choose to align myself with the Dodo women … they’re strong, resilient, care for their families and community, and get things done. And they love to dance … that’s what Dodo means! 🙂
Dorothy Costa is the proud chair of the group. “I am very proud of our group and like to encourage the members and also encourage other women to come and join Dodo,” she said.
The mother of four had a small grocery shop before she received her first loan. “My business was then small but now I’ve been able to expand and I have increased my profit,” she said. “I have been able to buy a house with my profits and am building another, something I could not have done without the support of the loans.”
Dorothy said her lifestyle had changed significantly in the past five years. “I have learned that it’s important to be in business because you can then take care of your daily needs,” she said. “I used to have to beg my husband for money but now he comes to me and I can give him some. I am very proud of what I’ve been able to achieve.”
Standing in front her shiny green bicycle, Lucy Mponda looks very proud. The 45-year-old has gone through six loan cycles to establish and expand her second-hand clothing business and she has had much success.
“Before my loan, my business didn’t have the support of any capital so I was not able to make a profit,” she said. “But now I have improved life for my family and I have no problems feeding my family anymore.”
The recent widower has also managed to build two houses with savings and profits from her business.
“They have iron sheets and rafters,” she explains proudly. “I plan to rent one of the houses but at the moment my son who recently married is staying in one with his family until he builds his own.”
One of the youngest members of the Dodo group is Estery Chikamono who is 22 and married with two children. With the help of several Microloan Foundation loans to expand her business (she sells two types of fish at her local market) she has managed to buy two houses: one for her own family and one for her mum.
“Yes,” she agreed shyly, “my mother is very proud of me.” Estery is pictured here on the left with my darling mum, Ingrid. She continued: “I have been able to buy a new house with 38 iron sheets for my family and I have built a house for my mother with 24 iron sheets. I have big plans for my house because it is not finished yet…it needs cement floors and plastering.
“I have learned that with a loan and starting your own business, you can improve your welfare. Some women may be afraid but I encourage them. Women who are just staying at home should come and get a loan and build a business so they are able to improve their family life. When you get a loan and do your own business, you can pay it back and save and with the savings you are able to do more things.”
Estery said she was a proud member of the Dodo group. “If a member is sick and has to go to hospital, for example, then the other members will cover her repayments.”
For more information about Microloan Foundation Australia and to meet other women assisted by their small loans, visit their website.