“I am Emma, mother of 6, 3 boys and 3 girls. My passion for stones started when I was young. I used to pick every stone with colour and keep. I always thought the stones were painted. In 1999 I read from one of the local newspapers about a workshop that was to take place at one of the hotels in Blantyre for members of Gemstone Association of Malawi but I was not a member by then. I thought this was my chance to learn more about stones. My not being a member did not disturb me. On the first day of the workshop, I went to the hotel but was denied entry cause I wasn’t a member. I paid membership fee by the door which was K300 only. How did the 3 days help me? I learnt a lot of things like nobody paints the stones, each and every stone had a name, there were different uses for the stones, types of stones available in the country. I was very interested because this was the information I was looking for and what made me form the Malawi Women in Mining Association (MAWIMA).

After the three days, I asked myself questions, like why were there 3 women and more than 30 men at the workshop? Why did more women not attend and yet there were a lot of them in the sub-sector? I concluded that the name “Gemstone Association of Malawi” did not take on board those in other mining activities. What steps did I take to assist the women? I approached the then Director of Mines, Dr. Kalindekafe, and sold him the idea to form a Women’s association. I was given a go ahead and was assured support and guidance. I requested for contacts for women in mining who had valid licenses by then. I started following up the women introducing the idea to them. It was a very welcome idea to almost all the women in mining activities. I formed 3 regional associations and a national association. At the first General Assembly I was elected president of the association.

Apart from MAWIMA, I am also the president of Chichiri Mining Cooperative Society Limited. My mining activities: I have always bought and sold precious and semiprecious stones. I tried mining rose quartz in Mzimba but it was very far from where I stay so it was difficult to supervise the project. So I made up my mind to just be a dealer. I trade in the name of EM’s Investments which was registered with the Registrar of Companies in 2012. EM’s Investments adds value to the stones. I underwent gemstone cutting and polishing training for almost 4 times. But later on I realized that stones that are ideal for cutting and polishing are very expensive and scary. At the same time I noticed that low grade stones are plenty around the mine sites. The best thing to do would be to tumble the stones as well as making beads so to make finished products like jewellery. But I had no capacity to acquire the equipment. One major constraint is lack of equipment. I would love to own a tumbling machine, bead milling machine and an Ultrasonic Driller if possible. I would then employ so many women to work in the workshop more especially those that live with HIV and girls that drop out from school.”