What is Luso la Manja?
Luso la Manja is a women’s sewing group located in Chifira Village, Malawi (a country the size of Indiana) in Southern Africa. There are ten women who came together to start the business in 2003 and they have been sewing together ever since. Luso la Manja translates to “the crafts of our hands”. Since they began 12 years ago, Peace Corps Volunteers have been involved with marketing and selling their products in Malawi. When I completed my Peace Corps service in April 2013, I purchased 200 bags from the women to sell in the U.S. hoping to help grow their international market.
What kind of products does Luso la Manja produce?
Luso produces some really amazing bags, gifts, and clothing. Malawians use these brightly-colored wax fabrics called chitenje for everything – to carry babies, to protect their hands from hot pans, to cover-up and protect clothing from dirt or spills – it’s a necessity. Well, this beautiful, intricately-patterned fabric is sold at markets by 1×2 meter lengths. The women from Luso la Manja select brightly colored chitenje to sew into bags and other items. Right now, their most popular item is the shoulder bag, but they also sell messenger bags, drawstring bags, wallets, change purses, skirts, shirts, aprons, pot holders, dolls, computer cases, and tote bags. They are always looking for interesting and new styles and they are open to suggestions and improvements on their current inventory.
Are these items both men and women will want?
<Yes, the patterns and styles are gender-neutral and honestly, everyone should have one of these unique bags!
Where does the money from the sales go?
Proceeds go to the women to support their families and orphans in the community. Many of the women are supporting extended family members or have taken in vulnerable children. Money goes toward sending their children to school and feeding additional dinner guests. Recently the women started a nursery school with some of the funds and they are saving money to build a store-front in their village. Currently they sew the products at the home of Beatrice Zindondo (the founder) and their products are sold at small shops around Malawi, but they would love to have the ability to make and sell their own products in a shop of their own.
We heard that there is some exciting new changes happening at Luso la Manja, would you like to tell us about that?
Recently I was approached by the organization BuildOn to start a partnership with Luso la Manja products. High schools in the U.S. will buy the bags from Luso la Manja and then sell the bags in the United States and then their profits will go toward building schools in Malawi. It is an awesome opportunity for high school students in the U.S. to learn about Malawi while fundraising for schools to be built for fellow students. We just piloted this project last week with four high schools and if it is a success, Luso la Manja will be able to benefit villages across Malawi.
Does Luso la Manja plan to work with other companies in the future?
The women are excited for any opportunity that helps sell their products. I have been approached by several vendors and other selling opportunities. Right now I am serving as the liaison between buyers in the U.S. and the Luso ladies in Malawi, but I am hoping they can grow and develop and become self-sufficient.
Well that is very exciting!!! We here at Travel and Treats love your products, can you tell our readers where they can find Luso la Mania items?
You can shop on etsy: