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Retail therapy in Malawi

Mary Thole (28) from Malawi has a shrewd eye for buying clothes. When she displays her second-hand clothes on a mat outside her home, she’s soon surrounded by an eager audience.

For Mary, ‘retail therapy’ has a deeper meaning having helped her to begin again after her marriage unfortunately ended due to persistent abuse. “The ten years of my marriage were very violent and abusive,” she recalls. When her marriage broke up she had to leave home with her four children because she lived in her husband’s village and was no longer welcome.

Retail therapy in Malawi

Top: Mary Thole, from Lole village, Chikwawa, Malawi, with her daughers Prisca and Thokozani. Bottom:  friends give Mary some help displaying her clothes. Photos: Alan Whelan.


Mary couldn’t provide for her family until she joined a women’s group funded by Trócaire through the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi. The women, many of whom had experienced the same problems as Mary, were trained in setting up a savings and loans scheme where they could borrow to start their own businesses.

This was how Mary started her clothes business and, although life is still tough, her children are in school and she feels there is hope for the future.

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