WOMEN IN BUSINESS
Across the world for decades, women have been striving to achieve equality and success. The title “Women in Business” would not look out of place on the cover of a glossy American magazine. But in the middle of Africa, such a title would be more than a mouthful to digest. – an uncommon concept for people to get their heads around. However, a title that is not impossible, just as Promised Land Foundation (PLF) have shown in Malawi and Zambia.
In Malawi alone approximately 42 percent of females are married before they are 18. Malawi is ranked 12th in the world for its incidences of “child brides”. This child bride situation has a snowball effect with most becoming pregnant and a astounding third due to non-consensual sex and violence. This undoubtedly effects their education and their future positions in society. For the unfortunate ones, adult life begins early with the women being forced to drop out of school to look after their new born children and husbands. Poorer education means lower income jobs. Even when education has been a gift and careers such as a teacher is achieved, their monthly salary is only on average 160 USD per month. The agriculture sector employs around 80 percent of the population across Malawi with men and land owners receiving higher salaries than their woman counterparts. The national minimum wage last recorded for this part of the world was 50000 Malawian Kwacha which is equal to 44 USD per MONTH! For the more privileged parts of the globe, 44 USD is casually spent on 1 item of clothing, or on a pizza. But, for the hard working Malawians on the national minimum wage like the women referred to here, their monthly salary has a mammoth void to fill. Can you imagine having 44 USD to pay rent, bills, education, medication, clothing, and food for a month? This salary can be the households only income for some of the women who have been sadly widowed or been lucky enough to escape an abusive relationship. In recent years Promised Land Foundation (PLF) and their partners have helped change the lives of victimized women who have suffered at the hands of abuse, lower paid salaries, and in the incidence of no salary at all.
The Foundation’s Founder Tim Peloquin has been on the ground in Africa numerous times over the years seeing and experiencing first hand what life is like for the forgotten ones. With a heart-felt compassion and ambition of installing hope and love of the Gospel, Tim and PLF have been helping and assisting seed capital for victimized women to start and sustain businesses. This donation has been a catalyst in changing their lives by allowing them to open their very own small businesses, but also escape the various abuses they have suffered during their lifetime. This generous gift has provided these women with the tools for sustainability and growth, and in turn becoming “Women in Business”. Three of the women blessed with this kindness and life transformation are Carol, Maria and Blessing.
This mother of 3, who lives in Zambia, has had an incredibly difficult life. She suffered abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, the man supposed to love and take care of her. After years of physical and mental abuse, and living in a life of control and fear, Carol bravely divorced him in 2015. Sadly, the era of freedom quickly became a time of immense hardship for Carol and her family. Due to an illness suffered by Carol, lay tough times ahead. Unable to work as instructed by her doctor and through excruciating pain, this mother of 3 had no money. With no other bread winner in the household, Carol and her children spent many times, days on end sometimes with no food. As the hunger would take over, the stress continued for this single mother of 3. To keep a roof over their heads, their place of safety, rent had to be paid. But as the rent due date would come and go, Carol had no way of getting the money. Unable to provide her children with the basic needs Carol was in a life of despair with just enough grip to hold on for a little longer. That was when she met Tim and PLF in 2017. In 2017, Tim travelled to Zambia to meet Mabel, Carol’s daughter. A child he would sponsor and support from that moment forward. This sponsorship changed the lives of this struggling family, with monthly donations for Mabel’s education and for food and bills. Changing the daily needs of a struggling family through donations and food on the table is one thing, but to generate a sustainability for this woman and her kids was another. To be able to give someone the opportunity and gift of changing their lives is beyond words. But Promised Land Foundation did just that. They provided a grant and guidance for Carol to open her very own business. A way of providing for her family and to build the foundations of future growth financially and personally. Providing methods of sustainability are key in Promised Land Foundations mission in Africa.
Carol invested some of the capital into her first business – a retailing business focused on the buying and selling of rice. A commodity welcomed in her community as food has become increasingly expensive in the region. The success of her small business has seen Carol produce a profit and recently she has invested into a second business selling blankets. A true business woman at heart. The profit has already made a change to the family’s life with her being able to afford to send another one of her children to private school. A change that will have lasting effects for this family’s growth. Not only that but paying the bills is now possible without sleepless nights and food is always on the table. Furthermore, the chronic condition that Carol suffers is now under control as she can afford the medication she requires to live a life pain free. It may not be all skyscrapers, yachts, and fast cars, but for Carol its more than that. It’s a blessed life.
Blessing is a 40-year-old mother of four. Sadly, Blessing is a real-life example of the harrowing “child bride” scandal happening in Malawi and Zambia. At the young age of 17, she was forced into a marriage and had to drop out of school. With no formal grades or further education, Blessing became a mother to four children and had to rely on her husband to provide for their family. A role that he had failed in time and time again. For weeks on end he would disappear without any explanation, leaving his wife and children with no food on the table and no money. Blessing and her children would be left in this desperate situation until he returned.
Her married life has not been filled with romance and love like young women dream of. Instead, the man she was forced to marry is abusive and her children have on many occasions had to witness the trauma their mum suffers at the hands of their father. Mental torture for these young individuals needing guidance and support in their tough life. For Blessing, she has suffered pain over and over again through her husband’s domestic violence. But the worst pain of all for this strong woman is knowing her innocent children have had to live a life in poverty and be witness to such abuse and all because of the marriage she was forced to be in.
When Blessing met Tim and Promised Land Foundation, she was given the gift of God. A financial donation to open her own business and a chance at being able to provide for her children without having to rely on her husband. Blessing opened her very own restaurant, a long time dream, with the donation and from that very moment, her life took a change for the better. The business allowed Blessing to take control of her and her children’s life and ensure that they have all the needs to live a healthier and fuller life. It’s been a gift that has also given her a position of strength in her relationship with her husband. The abuse has stopped as her husband knows that Blessing is financially stable and is in a position to leave him if she wants at any given moment. Hopefully this will turn things around in their relationship to a more positive light in the years to come.
This strong woman could have got up and left now that she is a “Women in Business”, but instead she decided to stay and work through their life together. A woman that has stayed true to the vows she took before God, even if at the time they were not the vows she wanted to take in the first instance. For Blessing, the future is looking brighter and with all her hard work making her restaurant a success, her and her family are on their own journey to sustainability.
At 23 years old, Grace is one of the youngest women that Promised Land Foundation has helped to become a woman in business. This young entrepreneur however didn’t have an easy start in life. Just after her mum gave birth to Grace, she heartbreakingly died. With no other family to look after her, no aunts or uncles, or even grandparents, Grace spent her younger years and adolescence being brought up by the catholic sisters of the orphanage that became her home.
Growing up an orphan child in Zambia, Grace at times felt like she was not loved. Her guardians looked after her well, but the maternal love only a mother can give was missing from her life. It was at the orphanage that Grace met a loving, caring man who would soon become her husband. As their relationship grew, they had 3 wonderful children together. Life was bliss in the earlier years of her marriage, but then something changed, her husband changed. The love of her life, the man who promised to spend forever with her stopped loving her. His attitude changed towards his wife and his children, and then in complete shock to Grace, he met another woman.
With his new found love and betrayal to his family he married the other woman. For Grace her life has been filled with abandonment. When her mother died and no other family member wanted to rescue her, she was lucky enough to have the support of the orphanage. Now as her marriage broke down, Grace had no one. This time round she was the backbone and support for 3 other people, her children. Struggling to work and provide for her children, Grace was at an all time low. It was not just the lack of food or household resources that Grace was unable to give, but also an education for the kids. Without an education, how could she offer them a future? In 2022 she was fortunate enough to find out about Healing Hearts Mission Zambia (HHMZ). Healing Hearts is an organization which Promised Land Foundation work closely with and help fund through its donations. Healing Hearts Mission Zambia has opened a Healing Hearts Academy (HHA). A school in the Mulenga Compound in which PLF send funding, resources, and materials to.
When Grace was offered a place at the academy for her daughter, she quickly accepted. Being a product of kindness through the help of others, Grace knew what this opportunity could mean for her child. Before her daughter attended the academy she was withdrawn. At a time when she should have been enjoying the adventures of childhood, she was a shadow struggling to express herself. Soon after enrolling and attending Healing Hearts Academy, Grace’s daughters’ life had drastically changed. That once quiet withdrawn child was now expressing herself confidently and sharing her days and learning with her mum. Her spiritual and academic being had been nurtured. Although the family were celebrating
the education and growth of Grace’s daughter, life at home was almost the opposite. With no money coming in, the family was hungry. Opening the cupboards presented Grace with an emptiness. The emptiness of the cupboards was a mirror to how she was feeling inside. It was then that she met Tim and PLF.
Promised Land Foundation was in Zambia on a mission when Tim met Grace. This meeting was to be one that would change Grace’s life. Already on their journey of offering women a chance at sustainable living, Promised Land Foundation offered Grace the gift of business capital. Handing over jewelry for Grace to use and make a business from was a catalyst in this young woman becoming an entrepreneur. Grace took the opportunity and worked hard. On the first grant of products, Grace made a profit. A profit that meant that Grace could continue in growing her business, but also instantly provide for her family.
Carol, Blessing, and Grace are just a few examples of the many women Promised Land Foundation have been working with to offer sustainability, a chance in life and the much needed help in escaping the extreme misfortunes of poverty and abuse. The donations to the Foundation are carefully divided to help as many people as possible. The donations do not just stop at providing business capital for women, but also used to fund better education for children and many more complex issues. All in all, the heart of the Foundation is to ensure sustainability in Africa whilst enriching the lives of the less fortunate with meaningful hope.
Written by – Kerry Harvey