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Heidi joins Women’s Partnership Challenge

The Orbis Women’s Challenges lead to deep and tangible social impact and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals

Heidi Brennan, partner in Lodders’ Construction and Engineering team, is visiting Malawi in Africa this April as part of a group of eight UK businesswomen working in the construction and property sector.

Their mission is to share skills and expertise with Malawian female entrepreneurs and contribute to sustainable business growth in the area.

Run by Orbis Expeditions, the trip provides opportunities for two-way sharing, learning and development for both UK and Malawian participants, contributing to female empowerment and supporting Sustainable Development Goal 5, which is to achieve gender equality.

The UK group will work with a group of Malawian female entrepreneurs on skill sharing exercises and to learn about the opportunities and the challenges they face. They will then work together to design and deliver development-focused workshops in a local secondary school to help inspire and teach the next generation of girls.

Image depicts: A Women's Partnership Challenge session in a classroom in Malawi

The participants will also have some time to explore Malawi, experience the adventure of hiking Mulanje mountain, and take part in a wildlife safari.

Lodders’ Heidi Brennan says: “The Women’s Partnership Challenge provides a unique opportunity for sharing skills, insights, and advice on running a business and standing out in typically male dominated industries. I am excited to learn more about the innovative businesses being set up in Malawi and seeing sustainable development in action. On return to the UK, I hope to maintain links with the inspirational women we meet, to enable ongoing partnerships and mentoring.”

Rachel Bell, group leader and director at Stride Treglown Architecture, adds: “Since my first trip in 2019, Malawi keeps drawing me back. It is the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ after all. I was inspired to return and continue the work with local businesswomen and the secondary school. The beauty of these workshops is they are interactive, and we learn from each other. It’s empowering for us all and supportive in sharing stories, laughter and often tears. The range of businesses is vast, from catering, manufacturing, artists to farmers but we shared so many common experiences.”

Why Malawi?

Malawi’s people are largely dependent on the aid industry and there is a huge lack of skills support for small-to-medium businesses. Driving tourism to Malawi directly supports the local economy and provides employment and Orbis Expeditions are taking that one step further, through building long-term partnerships between UK and Malawian businesspeople; mutually beneficial relationships which help to develop the skills of all involved.

Orbis has been working with the Malawian Female Entrepreneurs group since 2018, and as a direct result of the skills sharing programme, members of the Malawian women’s group are reporting significant improvements in their marketing, branding, finance, innovation, and networking skills. Most importantly of all, sales have risen, with one farmer, Endrina Maxwell, recording a 60% sales increase since her involvement with Orbis.

Image depicts two workshop participants talking

Higher incomes for Malawian women have a significant ripple effect, meaning they are better able to support their families, send their children to school, and afford better healthcare for themselves and those around them. Female empowerment in business also helps to reduce gender inequalities in Malawi, where traditionally men have tended to be in control of finances within the family structure.

In short, the Orbis Women’s Challenges lead to deep and tangible social impact and contribute to a whole range of the Sustainable Development Goals, vastly improving quality of life for many in one of the world’s poorest countries.

To find out more about the challenge, click here.

Heidi is grateful to have received sponsorship and support for the trip from businesses and contacts in the property and construction industry – if you would like to donate to support Heidi’s mission, please visit the JustGiving page here.

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