University Student project gives women in Malawi a voice and the chance at a life changing employment

Offering women the chance to learn conversational English is a lifeline for some in Malawi; something University of Northampton International Development Student, Emma Leering realised when volunteering in  the African country, Malawi in 2014.

Student Emma spent 12 months as a primary school teacher in Malawi teaching in a rural primary school, when she first came up with the idea of supporting the village women to learn English: “While I was a volunteer teacher in the Bolera Palms School, I soon realised that supporting the children to have the best possible life chances was only one small part of the way I could help the people of Malawi.

United Amayi members

“Very early on in the volunteering trip, it became clear that I could work not only with the children in the primary school, but also their mothers. The children’s mothers lacked basic education skills to help them into established local employment and within in the emerging tourist trade in the area, but where these women lacked academic skills, they had astounding motivation and passion to learn English language skills.

“The village chief agreed that a women’s school could be set up in the community centre for two afternoons a week – such a positive change for the women able to attend. Every year 20 women attend classes to learn and improve their conversational English language skills.

Emma-Leering sharing a meal at United Amayi

After a year, Emma returned to the University of Northampton to start her studies, leaving the women’s school under the charge of Patuma, who had been teaching the women alongside Emma, and Stelia one of the first women to be taught at the school, in charge. The school, now in its third year, continues to thrive and expand.

Since she first launched her venture now called, United Amayi, the venture has given 60 women in the Bolera region of Malawi the opportunity to learn conversational English. These women have now gone on to get employment and create sustainable income for them and their families; with women now selling their own farm produces and working within local hotel resorts.

Emma’s now working with the University of Northampton’s Changemaker Hub team to develop her business plan and secure sustainable funding to safeguard the future of the women’s school, and the women it helps. Talking about the future, Emma said: “The help of the University’s Changemaker Hub team has been invaluable; they’ve helped me take my social enterprise idea, from an idea running on a basic business model, to an expanding venture, with a clear plan for the future. I’m so excited to see how the venture and the women can grow together over the next few years.