Tiwale Community Based Organization Women’s Center for Education and Entrepreneurship

Ellen Chilemba founded Tiwale community based organization, a youth-led initiative that works with Malawian women in poor communities to support them in starting sustainable ventures as well as provide school grants so as to encourage the return to secondary education.


The main objective of Tiwale was to mobilize unemployed women with little education in Ntsiriza community to start businesses and return to school. The project also sought to enhance the skills of the women in the community by introducing vocational skills training programs. The project’s goal is social and economic emancipation of Malawian women.


Ms Chilemba trained a team of five youths ranging between 15 and 19 in a business education and leadership program. She and this team then moved into Ntsisirza community and mobilized 150 women sharing their business education curriculum and also initiating a micro-loan program that aided 40 women to start businesses. Ellen also collaborated with a local artist and secured supplies that allowed the artist to train 30 women to learn how to tie-dye fabric that was later sold to secure land in the community to build a school and and workshop space for women. Ellen also sourced sponsors that are currently supporting seven women in their return to secondary school.


Most community development initiatives are foreign-led or driven. Ms Chilemba’s initiative is unique for being a Malawian led and youth-led project. Further to that, the vocational skills training program that teaches women how to tie-dye fabric is a new initiative in Malawi. Malawi is a large exporter of cotton but yet imports almost all its printed textiles, the project promotes local production.


Ms Chilemba has initiated an initiative that has helped 40 women start businesses through micro-loans, another 30 women become expert tie-dyers and another 7 have earned education grants and returned to secondary school. The program has grown and become a registered community based organization. Her initiative has also bought land and they are building a school with already sourced donations of books and learning materials from World Vision.


One challenge has been the need to expand to be more sustainable but also how to spend on expansion for sustainability while still supporting current activities. This challenge has been where Tiwale has had opportunities to collaborate with various organizations and set up more vocational skills training hubs, secure donations of books, sewing machines or other skills development equipment but the organization lacked a space to install this as the organization has been a mobile organization. Her project is currently building an education and workshop space for this challenge.


The main lesson learnt is that the most successful projects were those that were initiatives of the community member, those that Ms Chilemba and her team just support rather than developed. For instance, the fabrics tie-dyeing initiative where women learn from a fellow participant how to dye fabric that is later sold was an initiative from the community and has become the biggest income source for the organization.