News / Africa

Malawian Women Share their Life Stories

Lameck Masina
In Malawi, an American organization, VoiceFlame, is leading an effort to make the voices of women heard -- through writing their own stories.  The group seeks to empower girls and women by supporting education, writing and other forms of creative expression.

Chief Executive Officer for the organization, Mary Tuchscherer, said she got the idea during her first visit to the country six years ago.
 
“I travelled to Malawi for the first time in 2007," she said, "and one of the first things I learned is that it’s not common for women to write here, and there were very few, if any, women published authors. I realized that since I teach writing, I could bring something back to the women if they were interested in telling their stories as a way of empowering them and helping them understand that their [lives] matter and that other people [around] the world want to hear about their stories.”
 
She began asking women if they would be interested in telling their stories or learning to write them.

Malawian women attend a writing workshop in Blantyre (Photo Courtesy: M. Tuchscherer)Malawian women attend a writing workshop in Blantyre (Photo Courtesy: M. Tuchscherer)
x
Malawian women attend a writing workshop in Blantyre (Photo Courtesy: M. Tuchscherer)
Malawian women attend a writing workshop in Blantyre (Photo Courtesy: M. Tuchscherer)
“And they said ‘yes.' So before I left Malawi I made a commitment to come back in 18 months, and I would bring eight women from North America with me, and we would all write together,”  said Tuchscherer.
 
She said on her second trip, over 100 women participated in the writing workshop where they exchanged stories and learned  to shared experiences as women, mothers and grandmothers.  The were encouraged to write on any issue they deemed comfortable to share with friends. Many of them discussed household issues and motherhood. 
 
Sue McCollum, the Chief Operating Officer for VoiceFlame,  said the resulting material is now available to readers everywhere.
 
“We have published one book ‘Nda Ku Ona’ [‘I See You With My Heart’] an anthology of women’s stories,"  she explained.  "We are [also] beginning something new on our website called ‘She Writes, She Speaks,’ and we are going to invite Malawian women to send us stories that they have written and we will [put them] on our website.  We want to educate through this. Our vision is to see women in Malawi writing and empowering each other and offering strength to each other."
 
McCollum says the organization has so far trained 11 Malawian women from various professional backgrounds as local trainers in an effort to keep the project running smoothly.
 
They also help write the accounts of women who are not literate.  
 
Cheu Mita, a journalist with the country’s daily The Nation, is one of the trainers. She said the effort is helping women open up and even turn into good news sources.

Local trainer Cheu Mita (left) and Mary Tuchscherer coaching women magazine vendors in Blantyre. (Photo Courtesy M. Tuchscherer)Local trainer Cheu Mita (left) and Mary Tuchscherer coaching women magazine vendors in Blantyre. (Photo Courtesy M. Tuchscherer)
x
Local trainer Cheu Mita (left) and Mary Tuchscherer coaching women magazine vendors in Blantyre. (Photo Courtesy M. Tuchscherer)
Local trainer Cheu Mita (left) and Mary Tuchscherer coaching women magazine vendors in Blantyre. (Photo Courtesy M. Tuchscherer)
“Usually when we go out even as journalists we are not able to get the stories of the women,"  she said.  "In our societies and culture, we make women sit in the back so we go to the men, and they always give us stories. It’s high time that we start looking at women and try to make them give us more information”.

She said if the initiative spreads, it will help to bring women together, allow them to socialize and to tell stories. 
 
Mphatso Kaipa is one of the young women who attended the writing sessions.
 
“It was exciting," she said, "to have an opportunity to express openly what is in the heart and letting them out for others to hear. I wasn’t thinking myself of being a writer, but now I have confidence that I can write and am writing “
 
Founded in 2004 by in the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States, VoiceFlame has so far reached over 1,000 women and girls in Malawi.  By 2016, it plans to reach out specifically to 4,000 women writers and another 40, 000 women who will potentially read the articles, and learn from them.

Listen to report on writing project in Malawi
Listen to report on writing project in Malawi i
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid