A Collective Journey Towards Agenda 2030 – Grassroots Conversations in Malawi’s Senti Market

A Collective Journey Towards Agenda 2030 – Grassroots Conversations in Malawi’s Senti Market

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development envisages to ensure that “no one is left behind”. The achievement of all of the 17 global goals, is said to be a “collective journey” – not just the journey for the educated, the elite, the politicians or the diplomats to take; but a “collective journey” for the uneducated, the micro business owners, the poor, and those at the grassroots. The preamble to the SDGs, which can be found on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, acknowledges that “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge”.

On Monday, 16 October 2017, a public holiday in Malawi, The Global Communique sat down with 2 micro business women in Lilongwe, Malawi. This was the 4th segment of The Global Communique’s Grassroots Reporting. This Grassroots Reporting takes the reader to Senti Market, Lilongwe, Malawi. Below are excerpts (which have been mildly edited for brevity) from the two respective interviews:

Q: Good morning, can you please tell us your name, your age and what you do for a living?

Dorica: My name is Dorica and I am 39 years. I am a business woman. I sell second-hand clothes and socks.

                                                                       Ms. Dorica sits at her business location.

Lucy: My name is Lucy. I am 37 years old. I am married and I have 4 children. I sit here and sell tomatoes.

Q: How are your respective businesses doing?

Dorica: I am originally from Blantyre. I came to Lilongwe to do business. I have been in Lilongwe for 10 years and have been doing this business for 8 years. My business of selling second-hand goods is moving little by little.

                                                     The Global Communiqué’s Mary-Jean speaks with Ms. Dorica.

Lucy: Today, very few of these tomatoes were bought. I have to sell an entire basin of tomatoes; but today I have sold very few tomatoes, I still have this basin full of tomatoes left. The sales have been at a slow pace today. I have been selling tomatoes for 3 years. 3 years before I was not selling tomatoes, I was not doing anything – I was just relying on my husband.

Q: Lucy, why did you start your business of selling tomatoes 3 years ago?

Lucy: My husband’s income was not enough to sustain the family. So that was when I decided to start selling tomatoes.

Q: Is your husband still working today and when did you get married?

Lucy: I got married in 1997 and my husband is still working. He is a cleaner in one of the government buildings.

Q: Did you get the opportunity to attend school? If you did, what is each of your educational levels, respectively?

Dorica: I went to school, but only until Standard 8, that is the final year of primary school – just before secondary school.

Lucy: I attended school and I stopped schooling in Standard 7.

Q: What made you both stop schooling?

Dorica: My family did not have enough money to pay my school fees.

Lucy: Growing up, my family was very poor and they did not have enough money for me to continue with my schooling. I did not receive the support from my family to continue studying. I was the one paying for my schooling until Standard 7 – I was working and using the monies I was paid to pay for my schooling. It reached a point where I did not have enough time to both work and go to school, so I had to quit school. I am happy now that primary school in Malawi is free; it was not free when I was in school. Two of my children are enjoying free education, because two of them are in primary school. I am paying school fees for two of my children, the first and second born who are both in secondary school – one is in Form 1 and the other in Form 2.

                                 Ms. Lucy speaks with The Global Communiqué’s Mary-Jean at Ms. Lucy’s tomato selling site.

Q: So, Lucy, you favour free education?

Lucy: As a matter of fact, I prefer to pay for education, because anything that is free has a low standard.

Q: So, you want to pay money for your children’s education?

Lucy: It is not that I want to pay for education. I have just realized that anything free has a low standard and when you pay money, the thing has a higher standard. I favour quality education. I support my children to pursue their education. I did not receive the same kind of support from my family when I was growing up.                                                                         Ms. Lucy sits at her tomato selling spot.

Q: What motivates you in life?

Dorica: [Laughing] I am a proud Malawian – God made it this way. I am a Malawian and an African.

Lucy: I am motivated when my business does well. Today, I am not motivated. My business did not do well – I did not sell many tomatoes today and so I am not motivated and I am not happy.

Q: You are both in your late 30s what do you aspire to become? Where do you both want to see yourselves in life?

Dorica: I want to receive support for my business and grow my business. I wish international and local organizations would be interested in helping and supporting business women like me to upgrade and boost our businesses. Right now, my profits are so small it is very difficult to even grow this business beyond what it is now. There are some organizations like FINCA that try to cater for people like me. The problem is that my business is so small that after borrowing money from FINCA, repaying the money makes my business go down again because profits are very small from this business.

Lucy: I want to become a big business woman. At the moment, I am a small business woman. I want to sell clothes at a large scale. Right now, I go to the gardens and buy tomatoes from people there and come here to sell them. I also want my children to finish school and start working.


Ensuring that indeed no one is left behind in 2030, conversations with those at the bottom of the pyramid are imperative to be had. Such conversations give a human face to many of the development issues and policy discussions had at high level meetings. These two women, Dorica and Lucy, represent many women whose views may differ; but whose perspectives are fundamental, nonetheless, in the achievement of the 17 global goals and its 169 targets. From this discussion, with Dorica and Lucy, the next step is to understand ways to better improve financing methods and business support for micro-business women to empower women such as these.


Note: The interviews were conducted with the assistance of a translator. The images and the contents of the interview were done with the consent of the interviewees.
This article also appears on YourCommonwealth.

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