Fiery reds, soothing greens, and dazzling yellows are all colors ablaze with life and women into the fabric of our diverse cultures. What do we do when we arrive to the gritty grays of a noisy New York Neighborhood? Our culture should be proudly worn on our sleeve and shared. We must find agency through our culture not shame. In this series, Ellen Chilemba, Director of Tiwale*, can be seen standing proudly and confidently among the ruins of old New York with Malawian dyed fabrics. This series was inspired by my transition from the lively streets of Miami to the erratic rat race of New York City while attempting to stay connected to my mother country of Nicaragua.
The fabric used in the shoot is a product of Tiwale CBO. Tiwale is a community based organization situated in Ntsiriza, Malwai. Malawi is the world’s poortest country by GNI per capita with over 70% of the population living on less than a dollar per day. Many families cannot afford to finance their children’s education when they reach the secondary school level where there is a required fee. Girls at this stage (12 years) are even less likely to continue school.
According to the World Bank, in an average Malawian classroom size of 75, 33 are girls and 42 are boys. Most girls may be married off early in exchange for dowry, payment from the husband’s family. With the infrequency of social mobility in Malwai, herdaughter and her daughter’s daughter often face the same fate: early marriage and insufficient schooling. Over time this vicious cycle has created a substantial population of women who are undereducated, jobless, and facing extreme poverty. Tiwale empowers women in Ntsiriza by providing economic opportunities such as micro-loans, vocational skills training, and education grants. Tiwale is currently in construction of a local learning center for women.
*30% of the sales on photo prints will be donated to Tiwale CBO. For inquiries contact email@example.com