Funny Mbewe: Grocery Store Owner and member of the Chikondano Credit Group

Our two newest volunteers Lottie Heales and Yusef Salehi are currently in Malawi asking women around the country just how MicroLoan has made a difference for their families. This is their first installment

Like many of the industrious women in the Chikondano Credit Group Funny Mbewe has enjoyed a lot of success in her retail business since the start of her first loan cycle with the MicroLoan Foundation.

Previously Funny and her husband, Emmanuel were workers on the local tobacco farm that surrounds their village, but this job could not provide them with a sustainable income. The local landowner paid them only annually and they lost out if the crop failed that year, regardless of how much work they had done. Funny and the rest of the workers were left to bear all of the risk of their employer’s financial endeavours; when we asked her about the relationship between the workers and the farm owner Funny replied “there is no relationship, only working”.

Because of this, Funny and Emmanuel need additional income. Emmanuel started riding a peddle-bike taxi – this is a physically demanding job and Emmanuel feels that, as he gets older, it will become a less and less viable way to feed his young family. Because of this the family has opened a grocery store, but with very little stock and no ability to expand, the family has found it difficult.

Since taking out the loan of MK10,000 (£43) Funny has been able to buy new stock and expand her business. Their Grocery is now the biggest in the area selling everything from food and stationary to pain medication. Emmanuel is in no doubt that, without the loan, the Grocery store would have had to close, as they would not have been able to grow it to a sustainable business.

While at the Chikondano Group meeting some women cannot attend because of a measles outbreak in the area. Sickness is a real problem in Malawi and can lead to people facing serious financial problems. This is why Microloan encourages people to save when they might not otherwise. Funny and the other women in her group often save more than the minimum amount recommended by the Microloan Foundation (with some saving double the recommendation). In this way the women are helping to guarantee their own financial security and that of their families.

Funny tells us that her husband is very encouraging of the loan. He is grateful that their business is improving and that he can scale back the physically stressful bike-taxi business. Funny is able to take a more active role in the business dealings of her family. Previously, like many women she knows, she had no input into the family’s financial welfare but microloan, by lending to women, gave her a role in her family’s financial success. Her Loan Officer Luciana tells us: “We are trying to empower women. It gives women more power in the relationship and the husbands are supportive because it helps the whole family”.

There is also a growing supportive network within the Credit Groups themselves. Funny tells us that the women encourage one another and this has been an important element of ensuring that everyone in the group can keep up with their repayments and remain eligible for future loan cycles. The microloan system provides not just help for individuals but for whole communities.

Funny tells us that the Microloan Foundation has made a remarkable difference to her life and she looks forward to making even more progress with her next loan cycle: “Come back when I have my next loan and I will have even more stock than before. My Grocery store will be better than ever.”