Maria Luna is a 45 year-old single mother who hardly provided for family until she joined a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) which YONECO established for women at Chinamwali Township in Zomba.
Luna was a house wife and only relied on her husband to fend for the family. She felt very safe. However, things took a wrong turn after the demise of her husband 6 years ago. Her children needed school fees, food, clothes and she was also supposed to pay
utility bills every month.
Life became unbearable. Maria started selling tomatoes. However, the business had a very modest capital and many people around her were also in the same business. As such, the returns were not good but this was the only survival tool she had. The financial hurdles which engulfed the family became very unbearable and Maria’s children were sent back from school because of tuition fees balances. Earlier in 2017, Luna was approached by one of her friends who convinced her to join the VSLA group, which she said was the dawn of her new life.
“I was facing so many financial problems. However, after joining the VSLA group, things begun to fall into place. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life,” she said.
Maria managed to save and injected more capital into her tomato business which flourished to become a reliable vegetable shop in her neighbourhood. To Maria, this was not a final destination. After saving enough, Maria finally ventured into textile business. In her shop, Maria sells cloth wrappers as well as designing and tailoring clothes for both women and men. Currently, Maria has employed three tailors.
“It has always been my dream to be an employer someday, I owe it all to YONECO, it is a dream come true. I am very grateful to give back to the society by creating employment opportunities for others. This has worked for me and it can work for anybody. I am just encouraging all women to use every possible opportunity to boost their economic status,” she said.
In his remarks, Chinamwali Youth Drop-in-Centre Manager, Happiness Chanunkha, said that YONECO realised that some young people who frequent the centre come from needy families. Chanunkha added that such problems creep into the lives of the young people so much that the young people end up dropping out of school, as well as adopting other delinquent behaviours as a way of escaping reality. This is what compelled YONECO to further engage parents through economic empowerment initiatives like the VSLAs as well as facilitating the establishment of Parenting Circles.