Mayamiko brings Malawi to a Kensington roof garden

Posted on July 26, 2011


MAYAMIKO Trust is a UK registered charity since 2008 which was developed by Mayamiko Chairperson, Paola Masperi and the Late Hon Minister Kate Kainja Kaluluma, who had been Minister for Education in Malawi and at the time was  Minister of Women and Child Development. The aim of them setting up the trust was a need and a want to support women in  developing communities as research shows that empowering women has significant positive effects not only on themselves and their children, but to their extended community and society in general. They believed that education, skills training and sustainable livelihood would be key to women’ empowerment. Mayamiko started a training program for underprivileged women such as single mothers and carers of HIV orphans to teach sewing and tailoring skills. The ladies gain a recognized vocational training certificate and Mayamiko’s objective is to offer them sustainable
employment through the production of fashion for the export market.

Mayamiko focus is on Malawi where they are based. Malawi is cotton rich and so it was a natural decision to work with local textiles. After Kate passed away in late 2007, Mayamiko was set up by Paola and four other trustees who had spent time working and living in Malawi and other African countries. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, unemployment is a huge problem and for many families every day is a struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table. A stable and secure income can make all the difference and help families and individuals out of poverty. Mayamiko strives to provide this for its workshop employees who receive a fair wage, training, free education and child care.

Their cotton program supports groups of women and vulnerable individuals in Malawi, it provides them with sustainable employment and so adds value to cotton which is the third biggest crop in the country and the fourth biggest export commodity but it accounts only for 2% of the total export value (according to Malawi Trade Statistics, 2006). The project aims to source some of the precious cotton grown in Malawi, help the women use it locally by manufacturing a simple range of products for women, men and babies using “ethical” organic cotton, which would appeal to a western audience and give it added value for the internal market and for export. For this they are supported by designers and textile experts in the creation of these pieces.

Mayamiko Cotton Project factory plan - image Mayamiko

By training their employees and providing free education in literacy, maths and life skills they give them transferable skills that will help them in many aspects of life. A large focus of the project is on training women to make and produce clothing from start to finish and encouraging them to start their own businesses, maximising the spread of benefits of the project throughout the community. For example, 6 women trained by the project were able, with the help of a 50% contribution from Mayamiko, to buy their own sewing machines to start their own business. This means they will be better able to support their children independently. The project works primarily with women as it is commonly believed and proven that income generated by women is much more likely to be reinvested in the family and the education of the children.

Mayamiko Image - tailor Angela at her home with her children and her sewing machine

 Mayamiko believe strongly in using locally and fairly produced fabrics and cotton and strive to do this as much as possible. However although cotton is grown and exported from Malawi, it has hardly any of the infrastructure for processing and weaving it locally, there is only one spinning mill in the whole country! The Fairtrade Foundation are in the process of developing and establishing Fairtrade standards for Malawian cotton, but as soon as they have Mayamiko is committed to using only Fairtrade sources. Local and ethical sourcing is very important in order to capture the upward linkages and spillover effects of an industry such as the fashion industry, it means that benefits from the increase in business and income are spread deeper into the country’s economy and therefore helps more people. Overall Mayamiko is a charity and run as a not-for-profit business, all the profits from their clothing ranges are reinvested into the project to help it grow and prosper.

On the 15th of October an exciting collaboration between Mayamiko, Slaves of the Extraordinary (SOTE) and designers including Mia Nisbet, Bestow Elan and Fair+True will bring a fun and exciting fundraising event in Kensington Roof Gardens. There will be champagne, canapés, performances, live music, a fashion show, a ‘text’ raffle and a silent auction. The auction will feature pieces designed and donated by the designers as well as other companies, all with a focus on sustainable and ethical creativity. Tickets will be on sale shortly.

The proceeds from this event will go to Mayamiko as they aim to alleviate poverty through sustainable development, job creation and raising awareness of HIV/AIDS. Central to the project is the workshop and training centre where the local women are trained and produced gorgeous clothing, bags and accessories. Mayamiko recently produced the FAIR+true collection available from FashionConscience ( ) a collection of bright summer dresses and skirts and is working on the A/W samples at the moment, an exciting more directional line featuring checks, oversized and asymmetrical styles and more tailored pieces.

Mayamiko & Fair+True - image

They are also working on a new collection for Fashion by Mia that combines recycled fabrics with African textiles and will be showcased at the event in October as well as their own childrenswear collection.

Mayamiko-Trust - childrenswear

All in all, Mayamiko is an incredibly important project for both its employees and students but also the Malawian and African Fashion industry. There is a Chichewa saying “Phukusi la moyo sasungilana” which translates roughly to “do not let another keep the valuables of your life”. Mayamiko believe in helping people to take control of their own destinies through trade not aid. Where aid can often lead to dependency and increased control of the donor over the recipient, trade allows those involved more freedom and choice.

AFG encourage you to make it down to the fashion show in October and give Mayamiko and their collaborating partners all the support you can.

Author: Imogen Butler

Posted in: Fashion