Meet Elbe, a hard-working Malawian mother of five who owns and runs a successful Mini Shop in Lilongwe. Elbe is a woman of courage, strength, and grace. She lost her husband in 2000, shortly after giving birth to her youngest son. Becoming a widow at such a young age forced her to raise four children and a newborn on her own.
In Malawi, as well as many other counties in the Global South, widows are typically disrespected and disowned by both the men and women within their communities. Many widows in Malawi, like Elbe, struggle to meet the basic needs of their family. Malawi has been named one of the poorest countries in the Global South, with over 70% of the population living in rural areas. Most widows not only are left to take care of their own children, but also their grandchildren and other orphans who live within their villages. Because of this, many widows are not able to send their children to school because the fees are too high. Most of these women are barely able to provide food for their family.
Elbe was a neighbor to the Acacia Staff while we lived in Malawi and quickly became our friend. Over the course of three months, we discovered that Elbe is a selfless woman who sacrificed everything and fought for her children. Her heart is filled with courage and kindness. Instead of allowing herself to be a victim of her culture, she broke the cycle of poverty and was able to send four out of five of her children to school. She recognized the value and importance of education and refused to deprive her children of this fundamental right.
Elbe continues to support herself and her family through her Mini Shop, which is built into her property. She cares deeply for her neighbors and customers, stocking whatever they need in her store. On one of our last days in Lilongwe, Elbe invited us into her house and shared her story over freshly cooked pumpkin. While describing her journey, she said, “It was hard, so hard. But I had to do it. I sent my children to school.” Seventeen years later, her youngest son is in the midst of finishing secondary school and has intentions of proceeding to university or college. One of her daughters is currently working in Dubai as a hotel manager while another lives in South Africa with her husband and children. Elbe influenced her children through her determination and perseverance. By lifting herself and her children out of poverty, she was able to conquer the impossible.
Elbe has shown us how to be both loving and assertive. She has taught us how to be compassionate and strong. She is a rare spirit who uplifts everyone around her. She is an Acacia Woman.