Themicroloanfoundation's Blog

Emmie Kamchere, 52: Trainee at the MicroVentures Sewing and Knitting Training Centre
July 15, 2010, 2:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A visit from our volunteers Lottie and Yusef:

Emmie lives in a village 4km from Kasungu. Five times a week she makes the journey into town to attend a two hour sewing lesson at the Micro-ventures training centre. “When I can afford it, I take a peddle-bike taxi,” she tells me during my visit to the centre; “usually I walk”.

Emmie is a determined woman. When I ask her what motivates her to keep making the long journey she begins telling me about her family: “they are all proud of me; especially the girls.”

“You have daughters?” I ask her.

Grand-daughters!” she laughs back. “I want to be able to teach them to sew so that they can find success.”

The MicroVentures project relies on this spirit of teaching. Emmie’s adult life has been a struggle; she has had no income since she lost her catering job in Lilongwe fourteen years ago, and moved back North to live with family. But if she can complete her course, she will be able to help the most vulnerable members of her family break the pattern for women in Malawi.

Emmie hopes to start a clothing business, sourcing her own materials and selling her clothes to nearby villages. When I ask if she’s going to start up a family business, she smiles broadly:

“that would be an incredible thing. But first I have to finish my course.”

The course is structured to cover seven areas: machine work, pattern work, actual sewing, cutting, design, sewing skills, ironing and business skills. Emmie is two months into the three month course and as I watch her practicing she is clearly very comfortable on the machine. I ask her if she has sewn in the past:

“only by hand, never with a machine. I did all the sewing for my family, but now I will have skills to teach them.”

However, skills are not everything, once Emmie’s training is complete she will have access to a MicroVenture loan to spend on initial overheads. To prepare her for this transition, she is taught business skills in the last two weeks of her course.

Many of the women at the centre already demonstrate an understanding of business. “I have to purchase my own loom,” says Jin Ulalo, who is halfway through a knitting course: “I have a cheap source of materials, but without my own machine, it is not profitable.”

Women like Jin and Emmie are already planning the details of their future businesses, finding applications for their skills even as they learn them. However, Jin is also aware that the MicroLoan Foundation can’t give her everything she needs: “a machine is expensive. I will get help but it won’t be enough. I have to find a way to save.”

For Jin, saving is difficult. Like most of the villagers here, she relies on unstable forms of income, selling fish and tomatoes in an environment of fluctuating supply and demand. “I have moved to Kasungu to attend this course,” says Jin. “I am lucky because I have a relative here. It was worth moving for the chance of owning a loom.”

MicroLoan can’t do everything for women like Emmie and Jin, but their determination coupled with the opportunity MicroLoan is giving them means they are on track to create earnings not just for themselves, but for future generations.


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