As a result of our programs, Malawian women, who once thought themselves worthless, learn to collaborate to become entrepreneurs, teachers, and business owners. They develop the capacity to make a difference in their families and communities.
To accomplish our goals in Malawi, VoiceFlame focuses on linking people in one of the poorest countries in the world with people in one of the wealthiest through six key programs. One of those programs is:
Building relationships through other forms of creative communication such as quilting, sewing, and oral storytelling. These are collaborative projects that create opportunities to communicate across social, economic and political barriers.
In 2011, village women in Malawi worked with glue, scissors, needle, and thread to decorate fabric squares for the first time in their lives. Ten thousand miles away, Coralee Johnson of Hazen, North Dakota, received those squares and stitched them into wall hangings. Although these women from different worlds have never met or spoken, Coralee had an understanding of their plight. Across an 8 x 8 inch square, their hands and hearts touched, and stitch-by-stitch, Coralee wove their stories into her own. The quilts will tour Malawi with VoiceFlame on our next learning journey. Creative projects like these build global awareness and link women across diverse cultures.
On each of VoiceFlame’s learning journeys thus far, North American women gathered in a circle with elderly Malawian women to share life experiences. In the tradition of oral story telling, the women were asked to weave a story around a simple prompt. The first year, our theme was “hands and feet.” Communicating through an interpreter, Malawian women told stories of walking barefoot to the well to get water for their family, suffering with cracked heels, pulling chiggers out from between their toes and using their hands to grind maize or rock a baby or wash laundry on a river rock. One by one, the women stood proudly in the circle. They talked easily in their native dialect, gestured freely, laughed and cried. As we women from another country and culture listened raptly to each one, the Malawian women knew their voices were being heard and that their stories mattered.VoiceFlame will continue offering oral storytelling as a way to include non-English speaking women in the “connecting through story” program.