Violet Thokozani Machika

VioletViolet Thokozani Machika, empowering women in Malawi

“We dream of a nation where charity becomes more and more obsolete because more and more people have access [to equal opportunities.]”          —part of Chisomo Idea’s ethos

Violet Machika earned her diploma in law, but for now she is sharing her skills, knowledge, and experience as a mentor for Chisomo Idea, an NGO with headquarters in San Diego. The organization focuses on Violet’s native country, Malawi, Africa, which is among the seven poorest countries in the world. Malawi’s maternal death rates from childbirth are placed at the third highest on the planet, leaving a million orphans out of a population of seventeen million. Half the children are chronically malnourished, and forty-two percent are illiterate, according to Chisomo Idea’s reported statistics. Most people grow maize, but seventy-five percent of the population survives on $1.25 a day. As Violet works to alleviate the suffering around her, she finds fellowship and brotherly love among her people who are often described as resilient, loving, and kind, earning Malawi the tag, “the warm heart of Africa.”

Despite the positive attributes, however, two sources of social strife have proven especially disruptive. Underprivileged Malawians feel persecuted by an elite class, and that sense of discrimination creates additional obstacles, even to charity volunteers. From 2010 to 2013, Violet served as the secretary for the Parish youth and knew that the class division was a sensitive issue of major importance. The church’s charity agenda for the year called for volunteers to go to a nearby clinic and clean, but poorer members accused others of being “proud” and unwilling to associate with the underprivileged. The economically advantaged group argued that the others were “too conservative and failed to open up.” All sense of teamwork fell apart.

Violet knew she had to do something, especially since she was linked with the “proud” group. As a secretary, she stood and acknowledged her appreciation to everyone for placing hope and trust in her as one of their duly elected leaders. She further reminded them that helping the clinic should benefit its staff and those who depend on its services rather than divide the volunteers. She concluded by pointing out that we are all human beings, regardless of any economic status the world has chosen to confer, so the group needed to focus on the bigger picture, helping the sick, and spreading the Gospel rather than dividing themselves. After a time to reflect, the group realized the importance of working together for a greater cause.

Another serious contribution to social breakdown results from the subservience of women. Wives and mothers are responsible for putting food on the table, but with the intense poverty, their offerings are meager, and women often take the blame. Domestic violence has increased in incidence and severity. Violet tells of a woman whose husband recently slashed her hands and head with a knife in anger over an inadequate meal. So, Violet decided to help women, giving them grants to start small businesses and employing them in raising chickens, selling the eggs and meat. Sponsors donated outbuildings, and the Hansen Foundation donated startup funds, relying on Violet’s careful planning and management.

Violet believes HSI principles, experiences, and international contacts will assist her in whatever position she eventually settles on, whether in leadership training, in government, as an NGO employee, or perhaps using her law degree to negotiate conflict resolutions.