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Social cash transfer: Esimy Lenardi single mother of 10 children

© UNICEF/Gaelle Sevenier/2007
Esimy Lenardi and three of her children.

Head of household: Esimy Lenardi single mother of 10 children

Social cash transfer assistance: 3,200 kwacha per month ($23)

Lilongwe, December 2007 - Gaelle Sevenier. Esimy Lenardi has given birth seventeen times. Seven times she was struck by grief with the loss of a child, five of them dying before the age of 5. To add to her grief, Esimy also lost her husband during a terrible famine in Malawi. Today, with the help of the social cash transfer, Esimy Lenardi does not need to struggle to survive anymore.

In 2002, the country suffered a famine. Erratic weather had ruined the region's crops, and thousands of people died of starvation. Esimy’s husband was one of them.

“As a result of starvation, almost all the members of my family were suffering from malnutrition” tells Esimy. “We had only one meal per day, and every time it was very little. We were sharing using a small cup. Sometimes we had no food at all. My husband and two of my children did not survive.”

 “My husband and I were married 29 years. We had 17 children together. He was a loving man…”

Life was even harder after Esimy became the only bread winner and caretaker of such a big family. After some months, the roof of the house fell apart. Some of the children had to sleep in a very tiny room and others went to stay in neighbours’ homes. Esimy could not manage to pay for her children’s school related costs.

Esimy remembers well in August 2006, when the chief of her village called all members of the community together for a meeting. “It was explained that the pilot cash transfer project was meant to assist the ultra poor with money. We were given the targeting criteria during the meeting.”   
 “With the money from the social cash transfer, I managed to build a new house, since the first fell down in 2003.” 
Lenardi’s household was registered by a committee that was elected by the community. The family met the criteria to apply for a cash transfer. “It was still not sure that we would be selected,” explains the single mother. “There was a special meeting for approval. Then we had to wait for two weeks. I was so happy when we received our first transfer.”

After years of starvation, the first thing Esimy bought for her family was the ingredients to cook a celebratory meal. “I managed to buy some meat as a celebration. Before, we only ate meat once a year on Christmas Day.”

 “With the first cash transfer, I cooked beef with tomatoes and onions. Every one was full. All the children were so happy.”

Today, at the age of 58, the widow is still caring for six of her youngest children. By saving every month part of the 3,200 Kwacha (23$) given by the scheme, she has built a new brick house. “I feel very happy about my new house,” says Esimy. “Now the children sleep in my own house, not at neighbour’s places anymore.”

For the Lenardi family, the opportunities that the cash transfer has brought are many-fold. Esimy is thankful that the scheme has helped alleviate some of the pressures of being a single mother with a big family in a poor, rural village. 

The mother makes sure that every one of her children goes to school. She has bought clothes and shoes for the children and now she is planning to buy fertilizer for the garden.





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The direct impact of Social Cash Transfer on the lives of ultra poor families in Malawi


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