A charity in Malawi known as the Culture Awakening
Society is running a project that uses the profits from the sale of a monthly
magazine to create employment. The magazine, called "The Big Issue," is sold only
by homeless people and slum dwellers.
The headlines in a recent edition promoted
Malawi's efforts to fight AIDS. It included a story of a 14-year-old boy who is
taking care of two siblings. Their parents had died of AIDS. In the same
edition is an article on the push to have women gain half the seats in
parliament and a profile of musician Lucius Banda.
founder and chairman of the project, Dr. John Chikago, says the concept was
hatched in 2000 in Japan, where he was working as Malawi's ambassador. "I
used to buy the magazine in Japan but what fascinated me is that it was sold by
only old people. When I enquired about it, I was told that we can establish
similar project in Malawi," he said, and there they decided to focus on the
250 vendors have been recruited so far. They get half the profit from each
issue they sell. The
editor of the magazine, Philip Pemba, told VOA that they are trained in
business management skills."They
sign a vendor code of conduct outlining the strict rules to which they must
adhere while selling the magazine, including no begging, no drinking, no
swearing and no harassment of the public," he says.
The vendors are issued an official
identity card which they must display when selling the magazine.
Big Issue Malawi is affiliated with the anti-poverty group, International
Network of Street Papers in Scotland. The group is providing the Culture Awakening Society with strategic
support, including training, consultancy, and access to funding.
network has more than 100 street papers in over 40 countries. Malawi has become
the sixth country in Africa to introduce the magazine. Others include South
Africa, Kenya, Zambia and Ethiopia. The Government of Scotland is supporting
the project with a three-year grant of over 132,000 US dollars.