Life has been tough for Stamere Thom, 60, a single mother of six who also takes care of six other orphaned grandchildren.
Thom comes from Mtolongo Village in Senior Chief Tengani in Nsanje. She lost her husband when her first born son, now in his early 40s, was in Standard Seven.
Following the death of her husband, the poor widow could not pay tuition fees for her children’s secondary school education.
“I have been living in destitution since my husband died. It has been extremely difficult for me to raise six children alone as a woman.
“My children failed to complete education due to lack of money for tuition fees,” she laments.
But now, thanks to government’s Social Cash Transfer Programme, Thom is all smiles as life has changed for the better.
Government, in collaboration with development partners, introduced the programme in 2015 to empower the poor and eliminate poverty. It is run with support from the European Union (EU) through a Germany Development Bank, KFW.
Nsanje is one of the districts in the country benefiting from the programme aimed at protecting and promoting the livelihoods and welfare of people like Thom.
Her household is one of the 5 917 in the district that are benefiting from the Social Cash Transfer Programme.
Malawi is regarded as one of the least developed countries. About 70 percent of its population, now estimated at close to 19 million, lives on less than $1.90 (about K1 400) a day.
For this reason, Thom, who has a huge responsibility to take care of six grandchildren, receives K8 000 per month from the Social Cash Transfer scheme.
Thom decided to start saving part of the money immediately she started receiving it. “The moment I started receiving the money, my priority was to save some cash and build a brick house roofed with corrugated iron sheets as I have been living dangerously in a dilapidated house which is a death trap.”
But Thom concedes that it was not easy to save, considering her economic status and the number of children under her care.
“I had to stand firm to fulfill the dream of owning a decent house,” she says.
Thom says she saved money enough to buy 24 iron sheets and pay people to mould bricks at K46 000.
“I also bought timber for roofing at K30 000 and paid another K30 000 to the one who roofed the house,” she says.
Thom wishes the Social Cash Transfer Programme started immediately after she lost her husband.
“Had it come earlier, all my children would have completed their education,” she says with a tinge of nostalgia in her voice.
Nevertheless, Thom is grateful to government and its development partners for enabling her realise the dream of owning a decent house.
“My life has been transformed. I am now able to take care of my family.
“Now, I am also a member of a village savings and loans [VSL] group which is helping to boost my savings,” says a visibly excited Thom.
Senior Chief Malemia says in the past three years, livelihoods of beneficiaries have visibly changed ever since the Social Cash Transfer Programme was launched in Nsanje District in 2015 to run up to 2019.
“Apart from changing the economic status of an ordinary villager, most of the beneficiaries have good shelter because they learned how to save part of the money and invest in small-scale businesses,” Malemia says.
Nsanje’s principal social welfare officer Kumbukeni Kauwa observes that the initiative is transforming people’s lives in line with its design to alleviate poverty, reduce malnutrition and improve school enrollment.
“Thom is just an example of many beneficiaries who are really doing well because of the initiative.
“Some beneficiaries can now afford to provide all school needs for their children to remain in school, thereby increasing enrolment,” Kauwa says. n