‘The Rise of a Muslim Woman,’ Interview with Asiyatu Lipenga

Photo: Sister Asiyatu Lipenga in her Shop- Limbe

Welcome to our first edition of ‘The Rise of a Muslim Woman’ program here on Malawi Muslim Official Website. In today’s program we are chatting with the former Nation Bank officer sister Asiyatu Lipenga who is also Muslim Women Organisation regional coordinator for the south at the same time, a business woman.

In this program, we will be chatting with different Muslim women who have succeeded in business or other sectors. If you want to join the program just email our editor and we will arrange the trip. But remember, all these are completely FREE because our aim is to promote Muslim Women in Malawi.

Sister Asiyatu Lipenga, welcome to our program, The Rise of a Muslim Woman here on Malawi Muslim Official Website.

Thank you! I also appreciate your presence.

First of all, who is Sister Asiyatu Lipenga?

Bimillah Rahman Raheem. Asiyatu Lipenga is a third daughter in the family of 10. I am 57 years old and am a National Bank retired officer after working for 35 years. I come from Mtwiche village, T/A Malamia in Zomba District.

Why did you quit your job and start your own business and where did you get the money?

Well. I thought the time was up for me to work at national Bank and it was also time for me to quit the job and start my own business.

As I said I was working with National Bank of Malawi, I had accumulated the money which I used as my capital. And also I take other goods on credit from other manufacturing companies because they have no doubt in me since we new each other when I was working with National Bank. So, briefly that’s how I started.

We understand that apart from being a business woman, you are also Muslim Women Organisation Regional Coordinator for the south, chairlady for Blantyre district and a member of national executive. How do you mange all of these posts?

Very difficult indeed but also very easy because Allah guides me. I divide my time because when I was working with National Bank, I learned that as a manager you have to divide your time. But also through National Bank trainings, I learned that management must delegate. So as one of the managers of MWO, I do delegate some job to my fellow sisters whom I know that they will deliver the way I want because throughout the years, I have also trained them to be likewise what I do. So it is now not difficult as they can carryout a meeting even without me.

So how can you differentiate between being self-employed and being employed by someone?

In fact it is good to be employed by someone because you have got a safe mind as you don’t have much stress. When you knock off from your duties-you are free.

So whenever, you are self-employed, you are never a free person because you have to think how to manage, how to go forward and how to secure your business. You can imagine how many shops for our Asian community are in this town.  You have really sleepless nights to plan and to manage these. So it’s not easy but one thing I will tell you is that you are never questioned by anybody. You simply act yourself what you are doing and you are never annoyed by anybody. You just annoy yourself that you don’t do well. That’s the difference.

So what have you achieved so far?

Not much. Fortunately, I managed to source a car and a house when I was working with National Bank of Malawi. I am still staying in my house and using my car but what I can say I have managed to source [right now] is the peace of mind. Because I don’t turn around and “say am not working here, who is looking at me”-but inside me, I tell myself that I have to work. So that alone is an achievement, the rest inshallah Allah will provide.

What was the challenge ever happened to you since you started your business?

The problem with this business is that the price is bad. Because you find that you sell the goods at a cheaper price depending on the market although you bought them at a higher price. So, in business [sector], that is dangerous because at the end of the day you are losing out money and you find that your stock is depreciating since you are selling it a lower price.

Another problem that I see in Malawi is colourback. People think that only those with red skin are going to give them something with higher quality than a black skin one. So when you are running this business where there are different people of different colours, you have got a problem as it is difficult to convince people.

I can have the same item at a lower price and someone with red skin will have the same item at a higher price but they would rather go and buy that item with a higher price. So it is really difficult.

But Sister Lipenga, we receive a lot of reports that women who are doing business tends to undermine their husbands especially those who are not working. Are you in the same boat?

It is very unfortunate that these things should come in because as a Muslim who comes from a strong root, I can’t do that. Let’s take example of Khadija [the wife to prophet Muhammad (S.A.W)] who was the first lady to embrace Islam. She was a business woman but she never loathed her husband and infact, the prophet was younger that her. But she managed to direct her business and at the same time directing her husband.

So husband is a partner in development. Unfortunately, am not with my husband but even though when he was alive, we managed to get through together along.

There are other women out there who dreams to be business entrepreneurs one day but they fail due to lack of money. What message can you give them?

First as Muslim Women Organisation, we would love to source a fund where we could lend our fellow Muslim women to start small businesses. Not a big business because even me I didn’t start like this and actually people were coming here and laughing at us. But now today they come here and they don’t even have a place to put a chair. That’s how we start!

We could establish player groups whereby when this group gets the money, they pay back and we give it to another group. But I mean only those who want to do business because there are other women who when they see other friends receiving money, they think is free for all. So they would rush, get the money and disappear. That is where the problem is. That’s why MWO is not serious to source the revolving fund from lending institutions.

But as I am talking now, I know there are other women who are already in business. We would be in a position to do that no matter how small or big it is because we could share it according to the level of the business.

Sometimes other people come here and say “I want to borrow MK10, 000.00.” when I ask them why you can’t go to the lending institutions like Finca they say “the conditions are difficult.” So I ask them that you want the money which has no conditions attached to it. There is no money you can borrow without conditions attached to it [because] even me when I want to go and borrow the money at my [former] employer, National Bank-they will give me conditions attached to it.

So women tries to run away form those lending institutions and want to get the money from a sister or a brother which is not on. As I am talking now, if we had a funding from somewhere, I am ready to lead the revolving fund.

Thank you very much sister for sharing your time with us

Jazakallah khair.

NB:Once again if you want to appear on this page just email or call us on +265 999 891 023 and we will arrange the meeting inshallah. All these, are free!

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