Happy Woman’s Day in Mozambique
by Isaac Iglesias, KF10, Mozambique
Unlike much of the rest of the world, Mozambique did not hold any holiday for Easter. However, April 7th was a national holiday to celebrate the day of the Mozambican woman. In spite of having the 11th lowest Human Development Index in the world, Mozambique does not score poorly in women’s rights when compared to its peers. Every year on this day, events are held across the country to celebrate what has been achieved already in terms of gender equality, but also to remind Mozambicans that there is still a long way to go.
I would like to celebrate and tell you about the average Mozambican woman. Unfortunately, I have not been here long enough nor seen enough to write about her. On the other hand, after many interviews, I do feel qualified to introduce you to the average Mozambican woman who wishes to raise herself out of poverty and applies for a loan through Kiva. It is a very small subgroup of the population, but possibly key to woman’s emancipation.
The average Mozambican woman who applies for a loan through Kiva is unmarried. She lives with her partner, and they have had some sort of African ceremony but never formalised the situation legally. She did not have an easy childhood. She did get the chance to go to school but could not finish beyond the equivalent of 4th or 5th grade. The war, an ill parent, economical difficulties or most like a pregnancy forced her to stop studying. She now wishes she had studied further, but at the time the normal thing was to stop when she did. She has strong health – otherwise she would not have made it to adulthood, like some of her siblings. However, it is not unusual that she suffers from the aftereffects of poliomyelitis or some other disease from her childhood. She had her first child in her teens and has had at least six children. Most of them now go to school, as she would proudly state, so she needs to work hard to sustain them.
She has always worked hard anyway. Not only has she found time to raise some of her younger siblings and all of her children with the help of female relatives, but she has also worked as a maid and of course in the field growing tomatoes and potatoes. She was born further north in Mozambique but moved south, closer to the capital, in search of a better life. She has traveled to neighbouring South Africa and Swaziland a couple of times but never anywhere else and, frankly, she does not like the fact that they speak English in those countries. She already speaks Portuguese and the local languages, and that is complicated enough. Aside from her duties raising children and her regular occupation as a maid, she has a small business. She sells clothes or food products or vegetables on the street to get some pocket money. She wishes she could live on just her business and not depend on a tiny salary. If she had some extra money, she could buy more products in the city and then sell them in the village for a profit. Maybe if the business went well, she could earn enough money to have her own shop. With her own shop, she could make enough money to buy her own car and she would not have to carry all the goods by public transport. She could even hire an employee and stop working so hard for once in her life. If she made enough money, her younger daughter who seems so smart could go to university… But where to get some money?
She has heard from a female friend what a micro loan is. Someone across the world is willing to lend her some money and the opportunity to get herself out of poverty in exchange for some information about how she is doing with her loan. She does not know the exact people who are lending her money and has absolutely no understanding of what the internet is or how it works. But it is helping many of her friends to have more money and better lives, so it must be a good thing.
Hluvuku-Adsema, our MFI in Mozambique, has a social area aside the microfinance one and works hard for women’s rights. The directors of the branches in Boane and Catembe, where most loan come from are women, as are many of the loan officers.