Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a day that calls our attention to what it means to advance women’s rights in the workforce, politics, and society. Through our work around the world, we meet strong women every day that inspire us. Women are seeking not only to feed their children but also give these children a better life than they knew. But we also are painfully aware that many women, no matter how hard they work, can never get ahead without a little assistance from their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Here’s one such story:
Matilda Nyasulu is 32 years old and mother of three daughters. She hails from a village in the Rumphi district in Malawi. Matilda has been married twice to men who did not financially support her family. She is currently single and caring for her two elderly parents as well as her daughters.
Matilda is dependent on her farming and piece work (a type of employment in which a worker is paid a fixed piece rate for each unit produced or action performed regardless of time) to make ends meet for her children. Her parents are unable to work.
Four years ago, her situation was dire. Matilda said, “I really struggled to take care of my children and my parents. It was very difficult to find food and clothes for them. At one point, my oldest daughter did not go to school because I could not provide her with writing materials. It was also very difficult for me to find money to buy fertilizer as I was always experiencing food shortages.”
Matilda said she also finds it difficult to find money for transport to a nearest health center 20 kilometers (about 12 1/2 miles) away from her home.
In 2010, her children’s school, the Betere Community Based Child Care Centre (CBCC), identified Matilda’s as one of the households that could benefit from what they call the “Pass-On Goat Initiative.” Feed the Children gave her two female goats. After a few months, each of the goats birthed two goats. The project required that Matilda take two goats and pass them on to another family, which she did.
After some time, the goats multiplied to six. In 2012, Matilda sold one goat for around $75. With the money, she bought school uniforms, a pair of shoes, and writing materials for her two school-aged children. She used the remaining amount to pay the school fees for both children. Without the proceeds of the goat sale, her daughters would have lacked the clothes and supplies required to attend school.
“Selling the goat helped me to send my children to school,’’ she said.
In 2013, she slaughtered another goat and sold part of the meat for around $94 . Matilda kept part of it, to feed her children and family for a few days. She exchanged the remaining portion for fertilizer for her two acres of maize garden. She is also using goat droppings as manure in her maize garden. This is a huge accomplishment and will assist her to feed her family on her own.
“This year I expect to harvest more maize than in the previous years, because for the first time I have applied enough fertilizer in my maize garden!’’ Matilda said.
Matilda is a strong mom. She is so glad to be independent, no longer burdened by the weight of supporting her children’s education. Furthermore, Matilda believes that the people in her community respect her because of the goats she is raising.
When we look at hunger and poverty around the world, it can look too big to solve. But stories like Matilda’s show us how simple it is when you focus on one family at a time. After all, her story transformed with just two goats!