Educate a Woman
Many Mozambicans struggle every day to acquire the necessities of life: food, shelter, health care. Forty percent of the population is malnourished, and two-thirds are food insecure, without nutritious food on a regular basis. Eighty percent of the population farms, but the family consumes most, if not all, of the crop, leaving little to be sold for income — which is why 75 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day. Eighty percent of the labor force has no vocational training and are unprepared to work in salaried jobs. With only 40 percent of the population able to access basic health care, and only 47 percent with access to safe drinking water, life expectancy is 48 years. The country ranks 165 of 169 nations in the World Bank’s human development index.
In an indisputably hard place, Mozambican women stand next to a rock. Mozambican women without vocational skills face even more challenges. The United Methodist Church of Mozambique reaches out to women, children, youth and families in need with a cadre of programs, financed in part by United Methodist Women Mission Giving in 2011 and 2012.
Tinga-Tinga Women and Youth Vocational Training School opened in 2006 in rural Gaza Province. The 40-person residential program emphasizes services for girls and young women. Women can live on the campus with their children as they study micro-enterprise, computer science, gardening, various trades and a home economic curriculum that includes cooking and nutrition, family care and sewing.
When they graduate, their lives are changed. They begin small businesses or find salaried employment. And their self-esteem and sense of empowerment grows along with their economic status.
Not all of the women are ready for vocational training when they enter the Tinga-Tinga program and must begin with literacy classes. The female literacy rate in Mozambique is about 56 percent, although it is higher in urban areas (70.1 percent) and lower in rural areas (31.3 percent).
Literacy instruction, especially for women, is a major priority for Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, Africa’s first woman bishop overseeing the Mozambique Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church. However, a major stumbling block to literacy and vocational training is the lack of adequately prepared instructors. Bishop Nhanala has challenged The United Methodist Church in Mozambique to address this issue by training theology school graduates, female pastors and other church members to serve as literacy coordinators.
A school in the neighborhood is a major development for the entire community. Local teens who once had to walk more than an hour to reach the nearest school can now take Tinga-Tinga’s remedial literacy and traditional academic classes.
Tinga-Tinga is part of a network of services provided by The United Methodist Church of Mozambique. For example, in Cambine, the Vocational Education School provides training in masonry, carpentry, sewing and auto mechanics. Numerous other centers are spread throughout the country. And rather than reinventing the wheel, when possible, The United Methodist Church of Mozambique also sponsors students to attend secular vocational training programs in fields other than those that are at taught at Tinga-Tinga, Cambine and its other centers.
A hand up
“The problems that I faced continue for all of Mozambique,” said Ester Aida Carlos, who was trained in a secular institution through a United Methodist Church of Mozambique program. “Illiteracy and lack of training affect both sexes, but it’s twice as tough for a woman to overcome these.”
When her husband, a United Meth-odist pastor, died in 2005, she didn’t have an income with which to pay rent. The church gave her affordable housing. Now, she is saving to buy her own house.
“I’m going to get the house,” Ms. Carlos said. “Anytime I can put away a little money, I do. Someday, it will happen. I will be so proud of myself.”
The changes in Ms. Carlos’ life, that have created this new-felt self-reliance were spurred by her training in hospitality.
With her husband’s death, Ms. Carlos knew that she had to develop an income stream. She told her pastor that she wanted to go to the capital, Maputo, for a six-month course to learn the hospitality industry in a sectarian training center. She had to have a way to support her children.
“I wanted to go to Maputo to learn something, and the church gave me the money, “ she said. “When I returned to my home in Chicuque in 2005, the church hired me as director of the guest house.”
Managing the facility is a huge responsibility. There are 20 beds in the guesthouse, and Ms. Carlos serves three meals per day.
Ms. Carlos, 44, has risen from the poverty of her childhood. She was born in Cambine, about 20 miles from Chicuque, where the guesthouse is located and where she now lives. She is one of five children, two of whom are female. Her parents, now deceased, were both teachers and United Methodists.
“We were poor, but we never were hungry,” she said. “Sometimes it was very close, but we never went hungry.”
Ms. Carlos is a fighter. Against all odds, she graduated from secondary school when she was 25. At that time, one percent of Mozambican girls who entered secondary school graduated. She also married and started her own family at 25, which is a more traditional path. But her desire to have an income independent of her husband persisted.
“When I was married, I did nothing but stay at home as a housewife,” she said. “Of course, there were many things that I had to do as a pastor’s wife, but I was bored. I wanted so much more for myself, but I didn’t have any skills that I could use to earn money.”
Since her husband’s death, Ms. Carlos’ income has provided for her four children, aged 11 to 24. Two of her children live with her while the older two, who are in their 20s, moved to Maputo to study for the university entrance examination.
“I will be very happy to continue working at the guesthouse for the rest of my life” she said. “I have been fortunate to have a very special opportunity. It gives me a lot of responsibility and satisfaction. And, I have guests from all over world. I learn so much from the guests. Some of us remain in contact even after they have returned to their countries.”
Ms. Carlos also continues to dream. She plans to open a shop in the market, a business she can run while managing the guesthouse. Her other dream is to see her 24-year-old daughter finish university and get a good job.
“She’ll do it,” Ms. Carlos said. “I was determined, and I made it. She will do the same.”
Richard Lord is a freelance photojournalist who lives in Ivy, Va. Mr. Lord is a frequent contributor to response.