In 2010, the name Millennium Talent Project built by Ngunese wonder woman, Leimara Malachi (former Port Vila Deputy Lady Mayor), raged like wild fire through grassroot communities in and round Port Vila.
Mothers quickly joined up to help their husbands fund extensions to their homes, buy water tanks, buy family refrigerators, deposit 12 months of school fees and buy school uniforms.
The project’s popularity quickly became a dream come true for families who could not get a loan from any commercial bank due to strict personal loan policies.
The project soared over the hills to rural North Efate across pristine Havana Harbour to Nguna, Leimara Malachi’s island.
But the owner started receiving requests from members asking for refunds of their membership fees in 2015.
Asked what happened, she blames “unfaithfulness” to comply with the borrowing policies of the Project.
“Some members did not grasp the importance of signed policies and as soon as they signed the agreement and we delivered on their requests, they simply threw their commitment to the wind,” she shrugs.
“I meet them in the street and they behave as if they do not know me at all.”
She assigned debt collectors to visit members with little success.
But Leimara Malachi is a fighter and she confirms having refunded 90% of member’s funds and is working on completing the remaining balance of approximately Vt300,000 shortly. She thanks her husband for his commitment to the Project.
She has approximately 300 diehard members who insist on her to focus on the project’s achievements.
She wants to share her experience with potential business minded mothers.
“If any mama wants to set up something similar to Millennium Talent, make sure you ask each member for her birth certificate to identify her legally because some women are tricky, they will change their names from the ones they give you and insist they do not know the person when you ask them to commit to their borrowings,” she says.
“To avoid placing yourself in a tight situation, look at your household expenses and know that you can still commit yourself elsewhere before you join another project.”
She encourages women to stick together and not be afraid to offer a helping hand to empower another woman to become a leader in the community.
She says this is one way of empowering women to challenge Vanuatu’s traditionally male dominated society.