My mind is in family mode today; my sister gave birth this morning to a baby girl! It’s thrilling for me to know this miracle of life is happening right now.
When I was in Malawi, I witnessed some complex family dynamics. I saw three women walking to town with their small babies held to their backs with wraps of cloth. Later, I saw toddlers running and playing with kids a bit older than themselves. While taking a bus to another town, we passed women carrying suitcases and water jugs on their heads, and as I went for a walk, I saw women balancing wraps of wood as they trotted down the hillside. Women’s lives are very full.
Men’s lives are full too. Since wage labor (with regular hours and pay) is so rare, most men are resourcefully piecing bits of work together. Maybe they travel to buy fish from one place and sell it further inland, other days they might plant or harvest crops (letting their kids help with the water pump!), and still they might repair bikes or shoes for a bit more cash for their family.
There is a common refrain that men leave to get drunk all day, leaving the women to care for children and make money for the family. And while this is certainly true in some families (as also is the case here in the US), it’s also true that rural men have a big challenge in constantly seeking new opportunities to make money. It’s not as easy as shaping up and getting a steady job since there are so few jobs like that to be had.
Realizing that both men and women have big barriers to providing for their families in Malawi is one reason that some of our Small Business Fund Coordinators focus on family groups for the $150 small business grants. This is an opportunity for both men and women to start something that can sustain the family. It is a chance for both to contribute their skills to a joint project. Both can work to provide for their children in ways they could only hope to do before.
The family business can be a catalyst for families – families of all shapes, sizes, and forms – to come together, spend time together, and learn to cooperate and communicate. And the local Small Business Fund Coordinators are there in the community to encourage this family cooperation – for the improvement of all members.
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