WOMEN BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING – Entrepreneurship in rural Tanzania

by ACT

  • Posted on May 19, 2016

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ACTIVE is the ACT international volunteering experience. We send out young people and skilled professional volunteers who are passionate about Africa on short term volunteering experience to support our projects and use their skills and experience in poverty alleviation. Since 2008 about sixty volunteers have gone out to support ACT projects in Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Zambia. More recently an ACT volunteer spent three months in Tanzania on the UK government’s ICS scheme (International Citizenship Service) working as part of a team based in a rural village providing business education to young entrepreneurs starting off a business in dairy farming.

UntitledPrior to their arrival in Lulanzi, a small village off the main road from Njombe town in Njombe region, southern part of Tanzania, they really didn’t see much in the way of dairy farming – despite many villagers owning livestock. As in many other parts of Tanzania, farming is the main source of employment in Lulanzi. But due to the ever changing weather conditions in this part of Tanzania, farming is difficult. Crops are often severely damaged by storms and excess rainfall during the rainy season from March to May. In the hot season and dry season from June to September they die out due to lack of rain. It is because of this that dairy farming has been investigated and is considered to be more sustainable. It is far less weather-dependent, meaning that farmers are able to generate and maintain stable regular income.

The mixed group of British and Tanzanian volunteers taught classes to prospective young entrepreneurs and helped them to develop their business ideas. The goal was to provide them with skills on how to start and operate a business and also to source funding to support their projects. At the end of their training the budding entrepreneurs were able to pitch for a small loan from a fund set up with DFID funding and managed through the ICS programme. Five trainee entrepreneurs were successful out of the group of thirty. All five were female and all young mothers, among a group which was mainly male. Gender inequality is sadly still ever present even in the Western world. It is also present in Lulanzi village. It’s great that the women with little education were able to pick up basic business principles quickly and present a strong case for their businesses. It was both pleasing and encouraging and demonstrates that if given the opportunity they are able to break that glass ceiling in a society where in rural areas gender equality is not yet there.

With funding in place, the five female entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to make a difference and to impact the economy of Lulanzi. It is hoped that as there business grows they may be able to provide employment opportunities, particularly for other women. All being well their dairy businesses will increase milk and cheese consumption in the village and provide benefits in the form of calcium, and other vitamins and nutrients, particularly to children who previously had no access to dairy products. The entrepreneurs will be able to generate stable income and will be better placed to send their children to school, a basic human right which is currently not afforded to all children in this village. In Tanzania education is still not free, as parents are still expected to make contributions for school upkeep, buy uniforms for the children and other school provisions.

Educating disadvantaged children and orphans and empowering widows is at the core of the work ACT is doing in Africa. Read more.

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