Winning Women Essex

September 16, 2015 by Rosemary

Winning Women Essex

Back in October 2014 I launched a business group for women in Leigh-on-sea. It’s called Winning Women Essex. We meet at Leigh Community Centre.

We also have a sister group in a small town called Mpongwe in rural Zambia. I heard about these ladies through Hildah Mulenga who comes from Zambia but has lived in Southend for 20 years. Hildah’s son, Brian or Mumba which was his African name, was killed in Eastern Avenue some fifteen years ago. He was thirteen years old and was riding his bike.

The family fell apart. Hildah never went out and she tells us even combing her hair was too much. She started a charity, The Mumba Children’s Project, to give herself a new focus.

I met Hildah in March 2014 at a business group. She was asking us for anything that we would normally throw away to send to Mpongwe. My friend Vera and her neighbour sent wool and knitting needles and in August we received photos on Facebook of these ladies, sitting on the ground, under a tree, choosing their wool and knitting needles. Just that day I had committed to running Winning Women Essex and was looking for a sister group in a developing country to collaborate with. These were my girls and the bond was formed. Every time one of our members pays me to attend an event. £1 goes to our sister group. This is the first regular money that the charity has received to date.

When our Winning Women group launched in October, we sent £100 to our women, via Hildah.

With this £100, the women bought a dozen chickens and three goats, two of whom were pregnant so they soon had five goats! They also bought maize seed to plant once the rains came.

Hildah’s mother gave the women some of her land to garden and even before the women received their first money, they had a plan. They had decided that once their maize was harvested, they would sell the grain and use the money to take turns to have a loan. They would make their own bricks in the village and use the loan to rebuild their mud huts into brick houses.

The rains came late and violently just before Christmas. Harsh hail storms demolished their huts and Hildah’s mother shared her brick house for two days until they built themselves temporary homes from grass. It was impossible to rebuild properly until the rainy season was over.

The women prepared the land and planted the maize and weeded and watered by hand, drawing water one pot at a time from the well. The maize grew tall and strong, despite poor weather and two weeks ago, we heard those women had worked so hard and harvested an amazing five hundred kilos of maize!

A fifth of the maize has been kept to feed the children in the school. The rest is to be sold back to a government organisation, at a fair trade price so the women can buy more seed, grow more vegetables to eat and sell and start their house building.

On 1 September four of us are travelling to Mpongwe. I will be teaching our women some reflexology so they can care for each other better when health care is lacking. We also have a project making a wall mosaic mural on the school. All our projects are about creating legacy so these hard working people can have more ways of supporting themselves. I am sure though that we have so much more to learn from these resourceful people than they have from us.

I will be blogging while I’m away so if you would like to follow our journey, you can find my blog at


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