Inspire Malawians Out of Poverty

by Opportunity International
Mary Jackson, her husband Humphreys and son.
Mary Jackson, her husband Humphreys and son.

Mary, 25, was orphaned at five years old, and had to drop out of school after sixth grade because there was no one to pay her school fees (education is free only through sixth grade in Malawi). She started doing what she called “casual labor” — project work like cleaning and sewing — until she was married at 15 years old. She and her husband Humphreys have three boys aged eight, six and three. They live in a very poor rural village a half-hour away from Opportunity’s bank branch in Mulanje, which in turn is an hour away from Blantyre.

Mary and her husband started a used clothing business six years ago but it didn’t produce enough income to meet their needs. The family struggled to put three meals on the table, and lived with relatives because they couldn’t afford a home of their own. Then Mary heard about Opportunity International on the radio and from other Opportunity clients, and applied for her first Trust Group loan of 30,000 kwacha (US$200) to buy more used clothing to sell in the market. She was able to repay her loan within five months.

She is now on her fifth loan of 30,000 kwacha. Today, she purchases new clothing in Blantyre, loads it onto a bicycle and then crosses the border with an employee to sell it in Mozambique where there is less competition. She has also diversified into selling her home-grown maize and produce in the Mathambi Trading Center, and rents out 10 two-bedroom homes that she owns.

- Written by Opportunity employee Cynthis Greenwood

To learn more about Mary's inspirational story visit


Grace Msowoya, Opportunity client
Grace Msowoya, Opportunity client

In Blantyre, Malawi, dozens of women sell potatoes in the marketplace. But Grace Msowoya and her business partner Betty Louhana stand out. Frustrated by their small profit margins, they became the first women to take the bold move of becoming distributors themselves. Every two weeks, they withdraw money from their Opportunity savings to rent a truck. They hire a driver and spend several days on the road to get potatoes directly from farmers, which they then sell to other vendors.

Before Grace became an Opportunity International client in 2007, she kept her hard-earned money hidden in her home. Now, she and Betty are earning interest on nearly $2,000 in a joint savings account. With her biometric-enabled card she can safely deposit and easily access her money at the Opportunity banking kiosk, just 100 meters from her business.
Grace and Betty’s courage has paid off. They have dramatically increased profits and redefined the place of women in the local market. And Grace has already made great strides in a short time as an Opportunity client. She has earned enough money to move her family from two small rooms to a two bedroom home, and all three of her children attend school.
For more information on Opportunity International's "Banking on Women" Campaign, and how others are reacting, visit:


In recent news, Opportunity Malawi is partnering with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to provide access to microfinance services, including agricultural loans, to over 25,000 people living in poverty through 2011.

The $350,000 grant from IFAD’s Rural Livelihoods Support Program will help combat hunger and poverty in three rural districts in southern Malawi. In addition, IFAD has granted $234,000 to Opportunity Malawi to provide remittance services through cell phones and satellite branches in rural areas.

Opportunity Malawi CEO Aleksandr-Alain Kalanda said, “Supporting the people-to-people money flow to rural areas is vital in the development of this country.”



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Organization Information

Opportunity International

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Ally Lynch
Oak Brook, Illinois United States

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