Social cash transfer: Regina Konderwani, head of household at age 16
Beneficiary: Regina Konderwani, head of household at age 16
Social cash transfer assistance: 1,800 kwacha per month ($13)
Lilongwe, December 2007 - Deepani Jinadasa. At 16, Regina has more responsibilities than many adults twice her age. While most adolescents are focused on school, friends, and a few chores around the house, Regina has much more on her mind. She is the head of a family of five, taking care of her four sisters all by herself.
Regina’s father died in 2002. Two years later, her mother found a new husband from a nearby village. The children, however, were excluded from the union and abandoned by their mother.
Regina assumed responsibility of taking care of her four sisters, ages 4 to 14. The mother has not returned since she remarried.
With no source of income, life became difficult for Regina. The sisters were left with the house their father built before he died. It is a dark house with small windows, dirt floors, and a thatch roof that leaks when it rains.
When they sleep, all five sisters huddle together under a single mosquito net on a mat in the tiny bedroom. At night, Regina brings three chickens and two goats inside the house for fear of robbery.
“The droppings that the animals leave behind in the house make things unpleasant and dirty.”
Every morning Regina prepares porridge for the family. She wakes up very early to collect wood, make a fire, and make sure her siblings have had a bath before going to school.
Before becoming a beneficiary of the social cash transfer scheme, the young girls often went to sleep on an empty stomach. When there was no food in the house, the girls were unable to go to school.
Regina was the one hugging the little ones when they cried, “When is mummy coming home?”
During the past year, life has changed for the better. Regina’s impoverished child-headed household became a beneficiary of the social cash transfer scheme. When Regina and her sisters grow up, they will have the potential to break the cycle of poverty.
“What is important to me is not so much the money, but the fact that my sisters and I can now plan for our own future.”
Ever since she has become a beneficiary, Regina regularly attends Mbwinga Primary School.
“Regina is now able to mix freely with others and is openly a happier child,” says her teacher, Juvencio Iwalani.
Regina decided to build a new house for her family. She used money from the cash transfer to purchase moulded bricks, and her fellow villagers will assist in building the new structure.
“My sisters and I will stay in the new house, and the animals can live safely in the old one.”
When asked about their plans for the future, Regina says she wants to become a nurse. “Malawi has a shortage of nurses and I want to help,” says the child head of household.