Maria Phiri works as a freelance area mechanic in the District of Kasungu in Central Malawi, where she fixes and repairs a range of community water points and provides ongoing servicing for a fixed annual fee. Her skills are in demand throughout her area, so much so that she currently works with 89 different communities.
Maria wasn’t always a pump mechanic. She used to be a volunteer midwife, sitting on her village’s health committee. But the average functionality rate for rural community water points in Malawi is around 60% and Maria was appalled by the impact this was having on the mothers and babies that she worked with. As clean water became scarcer, mothers were forced to wash new-born babies in dirty water, which is one of the factors contributing to Malawi’s dreadfully high rate of infant mortality.
Maria knew things could and should be better so, in 2014, she enrolled on one of Pump Aid’s specialist entrepreneur training courses; on which she learned technical skills in how to repair a variety of water pumps. She also received business training on how to set up and run her own pump maintenance business. Since then, Maria’s business has gone from strength to strength and in just six years, Maria has delivered clean, safe water to more than 15,000 people.
“I enjoy the feeling I get from knowing I’m maintaining access to safe water, which is preventing people from getting ill so frequently. I also like the fact that I am improving the life of my family.”
Working as a pump mechanic has seen Maria’s family income increase by more than 400%, which has helped her make improvements to the family home and cover living and medical expenses for herself, her husband and her four children. One of her first business investments was to buy a bicycle, so she could expand into more areas and now she is saving up for a motorbike.
Maria continues to make investments to help her family and create additional income streams. Most recently she bought a solar-powered mobile phone charger which she allows other people to use for a small fee.
Maria’s journey from dependency to self-sufficiency is tangible proof that people in Malawi neither need nor want to be dependent on aid. They simply need the opportunity to thrive and want a hand-up, not a hand-out.
As a Water Can partner, Pump Aid’s support of local businesses, which treat communities as customers not beneficiaries, is not just a more effective way of delivering aid it is also a more sustainable one. The small businesses that Pump Aid has helped create in Malawi will continue to serve their communities for years to come, securing water, health and prosperity for future generations and inspiring more women and girls to seize the opportunities that entrepreneurship can bring.
At Water Can we work with hard-to-reach communities across the world to enable and empower women like Maria.
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