Sister Immaculata's Sisal Project for Rural Women
The women of M'pekala with their sisal bags
M'pekala is a project run by a group of rural women in the remote Sekute area outside of Livingstone. Their goal is to produce their own sisal and use it and natural dyes to make handsome woven shoulder and hand bags of varying sizes. The name M'pekala, meaning "where I live", refers to the fact that these women are able to add to the prosperity of their community not only by doing traditional agricultural work, but also by fashioning and selling their products.
This project is the brainchild of Sister Immaculata Mulyei, a Franciscan nun who once lived in the region. She is well aware of the difficulty these woman face earning cash, being many hours away from the nearest town.
Sister Immaculata Mulyei
I met Sr. Immaculata Mulyei in 2002, on my first visit the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home in Livingstone. She is a small, trim and thoughtful woman, now in her mid-seventies, highly respected in the community, with a dry sense of humor and an abiding concern for rural women and their struggles. Modest and determined, she quietly searches for ways to accomplish her considerable goal: to help small groups of rural women sustain themselves by adapting their economic endeavors to the changing environment.
In the past she raised money to supply cows, goats and chickens to groups of women in Sekute. Rain used to be abundant there, but climate change has brought drought, and now watering the animals is difficult.
Sisal can be easily grown with little water, so the M'pekala bag making project circumvents the difficulties of drought, and can provide income even in adverse conditions.