Well, road maintenance could be considered a men’s field. Women are often invisible in this field because tradition expects them to be in the kitchen, cooking.
Trends, however, are beginning to change. More women have proved to be better on what is said to be men’s job.
Rosemary Chaseta of Kangomowa Road maintenance club of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwadzama in Nkhotakota District is one such woman who has braced the odds and proved to be an achiever—a potent symbol that road maintenance field is no longer for men only.
Chaseta together with 13 other members of her club maintains a 13-kilometer road in the district which is funded by the Roads Fund Administration (RFA) under a programme called Community Roads Maintainance Programme (CRMP).
She is managing a road project which has uplifted her family without relying on her husband.
“It is time women took the lead in fields as road maintenance. Gone are the days when we thought only men could do the road work. We are showing the example that women can also do it. It is possible,” she said.
Chaseta says CRMP has helped reduce her poverty levels as she no longer has to ask her husband for household expenses.
“I have managed to pay school fees for my children at the same buy iron sheets for my house and also help my husband in acquiring farm inputs without difficulty,” she said.
CRMP is an RFA programme aimed at providing rural people with access to markets of their produce.
The programme achieves this through provision good road networks which are key in changing the livelihood of the rural masses.
Through her leadership at Kangamowo, Chaseta has managed to make her group to be business-minded by venturing into farm business of various crops like maize and ground nuts.
“We are thinking of venturing into goat farming as a club and we are saving towards that. We encourage group members to save little for the business because at the end we will share the profit,” she said.
In Kasungu and Salima districts where CRMP is operating, many women have transformed their homes and have since vowed to continue the good work to make their villages passable to ease transportation of agricultural produce and also mobility to nearest health facilities.
Twenty-seven-year old Janet Malenga of Chisamaliro club is another woman who says without CRMP her family could have been in shambles.
“My husband is a subsistence farmer. We have nine children and caring for them is not that easy with the current economic status.
I thank CRMP for including me in this area. It has helped me help my husband financially,” said Malenga of Nakudzu Village in T/A Mwanza in Salima.
Malenga added that with the money received from the programme, she has helped in the construction of their new house which now has iron sheets and, again, is sending her children to school without difficulties.
In September 2015, RFA announced a takeover of the Rural Infrastructure Development Programme (Ridp) in 11 districts of the country to help more vulnerable people in the rural areas especially women. These are women who, for years, have been left out in developmental activities.
RFA administration and public relations officer Masauko Mngwaluko told Malawi News Agency (Mana) that they encourage inclusion of women in their programmes because women have proved to be hard workers at the same time good managers.
“We promote the component of gender equality in our programmes, especially in road maintenance, and women are doing extremely well and we are happy that their lives are being economically enhanced,” he said.
The programme was previously funded by the European Union (EU) under the Income Generating Public Works Programme (IGPWP) and then changed to Ridp.
IGPWP phased out in June 2011 and was managed under the Ridp until September 2015.
Currently, RFA is paying K10 850 a month to participants