Growing up, Jacqueline Nantawa, now 20, always dreamed of finishing her education. She comes from the area of Group Village Headman Sowani in Machinga, a southern district of Malawi.
“I wanted to get educated and help my community, I wanted to really study hard and become a teacher or a nurse,” says Ms. Nantawa.
Unfortunately, that dream was shattered when she became pregnant while she was still a Form 2 student at a local community secondary school. Jacqueline dropped out of school due to pressure from her parents and peers, and because she felt like settling down with her baby’s father would be the best thing to do. However, the child’s father, a young businessman, abandoned her and refused to support her or the child.
“Life was hard. The man who impregnated me never saw fit to take care of me and the baby. I was left alone to fend for myself,” says Ms. Nantawa. “I could not afford basic amenities and I regretted having gotten into an affair with a man in the first place.”
Ms. Nantawa was finding it hard to make ends meet when she was identified by community organizations working with the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi-CADECOM under the Spotlight Initiative. She was chosen to undergo women’s economic empowerment activities taking place in her area.
Ms. Nantawa and other women and girls were assigned to a local artisan who taught them the basics of tailoring. They were then enrolled in a two-week tailoring course at Andiamo Technical College, a skills training centre.
“The day I learned that I was among the women and girls to undergo tailoring training was one of the best days of my life. I knew with the skills learned, I would be able to support my child,” says Ms. Nantawa.
She now runs a tailoring group business with other women and girls in her area. She is also a member of the village savings and loans (VSL) group, where she and other women are able to save and borrow money as a revolving fund. This helped Jacqueline and other women and girls in her area to start small scale businesses. The VSL group was set up by volunteers in collaboration with the Community Victim Support Unit, which identifies and assists survivors of gender-based violence.
So far, Spotlight Initiative has supported 2,024 gender-based violence survivors to undergo vocational training and other economic empowerment activities. Additionally, 11,239 women and girls have received US$120,000 to kickstart businesses.
“I am now self-reliant; I can take care of myself and the baby and am able to save a little. I dream of going back to school when I can save more money,” says Ms. Nantawa.