Chats with my brother are always ‘interesting’:
Hey Alex. Next October, would you mind looking after Millie for 9 days or so? You know, October 2018?
My brother Alex, responds with
Errr, yep. Why?
I take a deep breath, because he’s the first person I’ve really told. And well. It makes it real.
Because I’m off to Malawi.
Two seconds later,
Ha, ha, ha, ha. I can’t wait until you tell Mum. Can I be there?
And he was right.
Last night I broke the news to Mum and the resulting look of mild panic was closely followed by a zillion questions about mosquito nets, inoculations and even Ebola came up. She might be an accountant who is typically seen to be risk adverse, but she also rides a Harley-Davidson in her spare time. Mum’s will always worry though, right?
But it was a little bit more real now I’d broken the news. The reality of having my application accepted for the trip was starting to sink in.
OMG!!! It’s actually happening.
In October 2018, I’m heading off for a 9-day expedition with a small group of female entrepreneurs to Malawi. Eeeeek.
My Journey to Malawi: Women’s Entrepreneurship
I guess I should probably get the most obvious question out of the way as I’ve been asked a few times already today
Where is Malawi?
A landlocked country in southeastern Africa, Malawi has a population of £16.7m (UN 2014). With a life expectancy of just 61 years and average income of $314.5 per annum, Malawi is also rated as Africa’s happiest country!
While researching Malawi, I’ve been mesmerised by the stark contrast of the mountains and the clear waters of Lake Malawi. Known for both its beach resorts and national park, I’m sure I’ve lost several hours in Google pouring over amazing wildlife and cultural photography.
But what about women in Malawi? Isn’t that what the trips all about?
Women Entrepreneurship in Malawi
The latest UNICEF overview “The situation of women and children in Malawi” reports that:
“Women are a major force in the Malawi’s socio-economic activities. Although they make up 52 percent of the population, serious gender disparities still exist in terms of access to, and control of productive resources and opportunities for participation in the country’s development. Around 67 percent of women are literate compared to 77 percent of men, according to MICS 2006. There may be gender parity in primary education but more girls than boys drop out because of social values and behaviour that do not support girls’ education”.
But there seems to be hope.
There are so many great examples of women helping empower other women in Malawi. Trinitas Kunashe is one of those who’s story is shared by Orbis Expeditions, the group organising the expedition:
Trinitas Kunashe: Founder of Tina Pads. Tina Pads exists to support adolescent girls in Malawi to stay in school by delivering reproductive health education and reusable sanitary pads. Rsuaele pads are offered through community-based distribution models. The pads last at least two years, providing a method to keep girls in school at a cost that is affordable to low-income families.
The more I read about Malawian women in business, the more I’m inspired. They are trying to excel in both education and entrepreneurship, despite the lack of support available to them. They clearly need help and support navigating a myriad of cultural norms and bias towards males along with complex corporate and political systems.
[bctt tweet=”Behind every successful woman, is a tribe of other successful women who have her back. ” username=”Millies_Huts”]
What does a Women’s Entrepreneurship trip involve?
Along with 19 other Female Entrepreneur’s, the aim of the expedition is to provide a chance to get some practical learning and also gain an understanding of the challenges of rural Malawian culture.
Over the 9 days we will take part in:
- Female Entrepreneurs Forum with a group of inspirational female Malawian entrepreneurs;
- Skill Sharing Event with local female-run businesses and the village banking group;
- Village Homestay with Malawian family;
- A Wildlife Safari;
- 3 days spent in the village working with a group of secondary school girls and their families;
The expedition is self-financed though I’m hoping to think of some ways to add extra value to the local community while out visiting. So many people have said that this trip will be life-changing. I’m not quite convinced about the strength of that statement but I do know that I have not done anything like it and hope to build inspirational relationships while there.
Why and Why Now?
So you may know that I spent several years working in the NHS.
I left my industry based role as I was deflated with just paying bonuses and pushing for sales. I wanted to be part of something that meant…. something.
I don’t believe in commercialism at is extreme. I believe in fairness and equality. I’m not sure why those values drive what I do so strongly but it was reinforced throughout my time working in the corporate world.
I was also active in the gender equality debate and programmes throughout my career. Well, I had to be.
As a Finance Graduate, when I walked into a meeting in 2002 where I was the only 20-something female in a room of 40-something males, alarms had sounded. This continued to be the norm throughout, though over time, my own teams become dominated by females. Did you know that 70%+ of the NHS finance workforce is female, where just 32% of Finance Directors are female (2015)?
I hear stories of gender inequality all too often in 2017 and I have too many stories of my own, throughout my 15 years as an accountant. I’m not bitter about those experiences but I did learn from them and used that to support other young females. I spent a LOT of time working with other organisations truly understanding what the real equality issues were. I’d found another way to ‘give back’.[bctt tweet=”We’ve come a long way, but there’s still work to do #standwithwomen” username=”Millies_Huts”]
Working for myself, it’s been so much more difficult to work out how to ‘give back’ outside of that corporate structure. I was clear that having previously been a Chief Finance Officer on a public governing body, that I wasn’t keen to rush into being a Charity Trustee or Non-Executive Director. But I also knew that with start-up businesses and plans to expand, my time for hands-on work in a charity would be limited.
Rightly or wrongly, I decided to let those thoughts continue and wait it out. I hoped that time would help me work out the best approach.
And then it happened
You know know those times that things just seem to build up and then be so in your face that you feels like you just have to do it?? This has been one of them!
For one reason or another I’ve been looking so much more into how I can put charitable giving at the heart of Millie’s Beach Huts and move away from our traditional gifting a set number of beach hut days each year. That desire led me to Alisoun MacKenzie and her fab book Give to Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities and Social Causes (The Compassionate Business Series), who I was introduced to via the Content Marketing Academy.
Various conversations started to happen with individuals which spurred me to look more into what is available to support female entrepreneurs and those in business. I’m still researching but my desire to ‘do’ something in this space seems to be gaining a momentum all on it’s own.
And then I stumbled across this opportunity on Twitter. (Yeah, you know the place that no-one’s hanging out. Well I am ;0))
Having spotted the opportunity and dug a little deeper, I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I couldn’t help but think that this was the chance to look at the issues from another perspective. What if? I know there is so much work to do here in the UK to support and empower women but lets’ face facts. It’s only 9 days out of my life and doing something is better than doing nothing. Isn’t it? My thoughts turned slowly turned into “Why not?”.
So I applied.
So it’s official. Kate emailed back and confirmed that I’m in and I really can’t wait to #bepartofsomething. I’m sure over the next 15 months, I’ll be back blogging about ‘My Journey to Malawi’.
I’d love to hear from you if you have embarked upon a trip overseas or are planning to! I’m feeling more than new to the whole experience and all helps, tips and advice would be appreciated.
However, I entirely understand that not everyone is in the position to disappear for 9 days to Malawi nor is this particular issue at the top of their list. (If you are interested in securing one of the last spots on this trip – head over to http://www.responsiblesafaricompany.com or email Kate: email@example.com).
But what I would ask is that you take 3.14 minutes out of your day to watch the below video.
Caroline McKenna of Social Good HQ shared this with me earlier this week and well… I’ll let it speak for itself. Maybe you could make one small change to the words that you use, to make a difference.[bctt tweet=”Let’s make #LikeAGirl mean amazing things.” username=”Millies_Huts”]