Sam Simmons, Restless Development’s Communications Manager, recounts meeting Mwila. After receiving training from Restless Development, Mwila set up her own business and now helps other young people in her community do the same.
Standing firm in the middle of a market in rural Zambia is Mwila. A man passing on a bike heckles her, but Mwila doesn’t seem to care. She laughs it off.
As we pass through the market, Mwila seems confident and assured. She is about to introduce me to a 26-year-old restaurateur, Beatrice, who she supported to start her business.
Mwila isn’t a business strategist or a management consultant. She is a young person, who, with a little bit of training, set up her own business and is now using her experience to multiply decent livelihoods for young people in her community.
This is a common theme of our work: young leaders multiplying change. Mubanga, a Restless Development volunteer, trained Mwila, who is now supporting Beatrice.
“From what I [Mwila] have learnt from Restless, there are so many ways to help young people take care of themselves. It is important so that they become leaders.”
‘The training transformed me’
Mwila’s business sells fritters using loans from the all-women’s Community Savings Group that she helps run.
“We meet twice a week. On Wednesdays, we meet for savings. Here, people borrow and save money.”
“I make about 75 fritters per week and one costs a single kwacha. I have a table at the market, that’s where I put the bucket of fritters.”
Mwila learned her business skills from a Restless Development volunteer called Mubanga, who came to her community to form the savings group and give women training.
“Lack of capital for women is preventing them from starting businesses. The other challenge is the lack of information to make informed financial decisions.
“I joined the savings group and Mubanga started coming to teach us about savings, businesses and investments.
“The training I received from Restless Development has transformed me. I learnt that even when I just have 50 kwacha (roughly £2.50), I can start a business and earn a profit, make a budget and support my family.
“I now have better skills in managing my business and I can make better informed financial decisions.”
The training Mwila received is part of our project ‘Tusunge Lubono – Let’s Grow our Wealth’ – implemented by Restless Development in partnership with the Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSDZ) with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The project is driven by young volunteers aged between 18-25 who educate other young people in financial literacy in the rural and peri-urban communities in Kasama, Mongu and Kabwe, and help them set up youth savings groups.
Mwila hasn’t always been focused on business. Once she was a promising Athlete.
“Growing up, I loved playing netball and doing athletics, running in particular. My best childhood memory was when I was selected to represent my country in Australia in an athletics competition. I used to run 100 metres.”
“I had a very supportive family. My parents were so caring. Unfortunately, things changed when my father died. We struggled to take care of ourselves.
“When I reached Grade 11, I became pregnant. This forced me to drop out of school.”
Now, Mwila’s financial independence granted by her business means she can help pay for her children’s education so that they don’t have to drop out of school.
“Through my business, I am able to support my family, for example if my children need some school requirements like books.
“I have a vision of expanding my business. I’m hoping that the profit I’m making from selling fritters will help me venture into the business of selling maize [corn that forms the basis of a staple dish in Zambia, Nshima].”
Young leaders multiply change
“Through engaging with young people, I became a leader and prevented certain things that may happen to them.
“In our county there are high levels of unemployment so young people must identify opportunities and create businesses for themselves.
“For example, in this community we have introduced a youth savings group so that young people can set up their own businesses.”
Beatrice is a member of the youth community savings group formed by Mwila and other members of their group.
“I had a child when I was writing my grade 12, so I joined the youth community savings group, which helped me start my restaurant business. I wanted to learn how to save money.
“My restaurant has been running for six months. We prepare different types of food such as Nshima, chips and tea for breakfast. It is making a profit.”
“[Using the profit] I want to go back to school and rewrite maths and science, then do nursing or join the police service. I support [my family] by getting things like soap, sugar and supporting my two year old son.”
Eventually, Beatrice will use the profits from her business to pay for her son’s school fees when he is old enough to attend.