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Winrock International

Women Join Forces to Reduce Child Labor

PROJECT NAME: Achieving Reduction of Child Labor in Support of Education (ARISE)
SYNOPSIS: ARISE raises awareness about child labor and helps improve family livelihoods so that children can pursue an education. The program also works with government officials to strengthen and enforce laws preventing child labor.
YEARS ACTIVE: 2019-2021
FUNDER: Japan Tobacco International

Dorothy Maniford of Chituku Village, Malawi, lost her husband in 2008, and since then she’s been raising five children on her own. It hasn’t been easy, but her life improved when she became part of the Women’s Agribusiness Group (WAG) of the Achieving Reduction of Child Labor in Support of Education (ARISE) project, implemented by Winrock.

At first glance, the WAG’s work may seem tangential to reducing the child labor that plagues this small African nation. But actually, it has much to do with it. In fact, everything ARISE does is aimed at getting the estimated 38 percent of Malawian children who are not in school back in school.

The women of Chituku Village’s WAG have discovered that the region’s red soil makes excellent cookstoves. So, after training from ARISE, they learned how to harvest and season the clay, how to knead and pack it into molds with paddles that hollow out the interior of the stoves, how to smooth and fire the stoves in kilns. Not only do the stoves improve the women’s lives by cooking more efficiently and cleanly (they reduce smoke and save on firewood and the time spent collecting it), but the money the women make selling them pays school fees and creates new businesses that employ others.

Cookstoves have helped Maniford educate her children — two are in secondary school, a significant achievement, and the other three are in primary school. “I have seen a lot of change in my household because of the cookstove business. My children can go to school without difficulties,” says Maniford, who before ARISE was piecing together a living by working for hire in the fields.

Maniford and other women in Chituku are not just making cookstoves; they’re shaping lives. “We believe that communities have the solutions to the problem of child labor,” says Dalitso Beloyi, ARISE project director. “What we do is to connect communities with the solutions.”

Chituku’s solutions have been nothing short of transformative. In just over a year, WAG members made 7,000 cookstoves, which allowed them to build new homes, purchase livestock — and buy uniforms and pay school fees for their own children as well as those of needy children in the village. Their efforts have made a tangible difference in the community.

Like the anti-child-labor clubs, community-based child-care centers, village savings and loans and other initiatives of the ARISE project, the WAG groups have one goal: to support children.

Education gives children hope. “Etiness wants … to get a job in the police service, and Bertha wants to be a medical doctor when she completes school,” Maniford says. “I am very proud of my children, because I know they are making their future — and also making mine.”