Memory grew up in the Mwanza district in southern Malawi, with her parents and four siblings. Her parents are subsistence farmers who depend on their crops for survival.
As the eldest child in her family, Memory faced many challenges in her daily life. She had to support her family with domestic chores such as farming, carrying water, cooking and cleaning, alongside her education efforts.
“Growing up in the village was not easy. My parents don’t have a job, so they depend on farming. When the season goes wrong, we suffer a lot and become food insecure. Sometimes we need to bathe without soap. Sometimes we need to walk without shoes,” Memory said.
When I was in primary school, I went to school barefooted because my parents didn’t have money to buy shoes for me. But I told myself I can’t stop going to school because this is the only way I can get a better life.
Economic opportunities for girls in Malawi are constrained by high levels of early school dropouts and women typically tend to work in lower paying jobs, or stay at home.
After being identified by local leaders in her village as a capable candidate for a vocational skills course, Memory was referred to a technical college near the city of Blantyre with support from CADECOM, Caritas Australia’s local partner in Malawi. Through the A+ program, CADECOM supported Memory with the provision of logistical support like tuition and boarding fees with funding from Caritas Australia.
Memory decided to pursue vocational training in carpentry to prove to her community that women are capable of working in a male-dominated industry.
“In my community, most people think that only men can be carpenters, so I want to prove to my community that women can do it as well,” Memory said.
After three years, Memory graduated with an advanced certificate in Carpentry and Joinery. With the skills acquired, she secured a job as a carpenter at one of the largest hydroelectric power companies in Malawi.
Memory’s dream is to open her own carpentry workshop in her village and help provide carpentry services to households in her community. As the only female carpenter in her village, she is also a role model and trailblazer for other young women who want to pursue a career in a male-dominated industry.
“In the future, I want to build a house for my parents because the one they are using now is in a bad condition. I also want to own my own workshop so I can help the community and employ others in the community,” Memory said.
“Being a female carpenter sets an example to others in my community. They see a woman can do what a man can do.”
Along with your generous support, this program is also supported by the Australian Government, through Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).