Washboards Provide Financial Independence for Widows

Hartnell College

When a woman's husband dies in Malawi, Africa, all of his assets including his home, land and savings are given to the husband's family. Widows are left with nothing but the responsibility of taking care of their children and themselves. To help empower women in such circumstances, the Enactus team at Hartnell College partnered with Ruth's Shawl, an organization that supports education and resources to break this cycle of poverty and despair. To boost the organization's efforts to help these women survive, the team developed the idea for a business featuring a product the women constructed. Being mindful of the limited tools and materials, and learning the women washed their clothes by hand, the team felt washboards could be a viable solution. The Enactus students set about the task of developing a washboard the widows could reproduce and develop into a sustainable business. More than 150 washboard kits have been developed and each is designed to be easily and inexpensively reproduced using indigenous materials. Each widow participating in the project receives five washboard kits; one to keep for herself and four to sell. The benefits of this project are two-fold; it is helping to make the task of doing laundry in primitive conditions easier and it is giving the women the opportunity to develop their own business and improve their financial situations.