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“The workshop changed me from nothing to something” - The opportunities and challenges of being a female business owner in Tanzania

Gloria and Selecia have achieved what they once thought was impossible and are proud owners of their own business in Mwanza, Tanzania. They explain how their ICS journey helped them get where they are today. 

Selecia: "Ignore the voices saying you can’t do it because you’re a woman” 

Whilst owning her own business was always a pipe dream, Selecia felt she lacked the confidence and skills to pursue this goal. But today, she is financially independent, generates an income for her family and has hired five employees to support her work.

Woman standing outside in Tanzania
Selecia now earns money for herself.

How did she do it? 

As a woman in the rural region of Mwanza, Tanzania, Selecia was dependent on men and was often discouraged to pursue her own career or financial autonomy. This all changed, however, following her participation in a youth workshop.  

Invited to take part through the ICS National Youth Engagement Network in Tanzania, which is one the ICS Innovation Projects that brings together ICS returned volunteers with the community youth, Selecia built skills including business partnerships, finance and how to access government grants.  

“The workshop changed me from nothing to something. I own a business now. I generate an income that helps my family and other community members,” she said. 

“I learnt how to start a new business, marketing and product branding, how to keep records, how to apply credits and develop business partnership, as well as build on my communication, leadership and negotiation skills”.  

Ambitions for growth

Currently, Selecia’s business focuses on the production and selling of vegetables and watermelons on rented land. Whilst she always had the ambition, the workshop allowed Selecia to gain the self-confidence to help herself and others in the community.  

“I no longer depend on a man or my family. I can now afford to buy all my basic needs, including health services.” 
Selecia

“NYEN helped me to start something that I wanted for a long time but didn’t know how to go through with. According to our traditions, I was not supposed to run a business without a man’s approval. The workshop proved these traditions wrong and built my capacity in entrepreneurship, marketing and financial management,” she added. 

“I no longer depend on a man or my family. I can now afford to buy all my basic needs, including health services.” 

And she can afford a lot more. Since establishing her own business, Selecia has seen her livelihood improve three-fold and now owns a TV, radio and bike, and now has plans to buy land and expand her farm.  

 

What advice would Selecia give to women who hope to take a similar route?

“You must not let your idea go in vain, but make it happen. Commit to the idea, seek as much technical information as possible and ignore the voices discouraging you and saying you cannot do it just because you are a woman.” 

Gloria - “I’m very passionate about my shop and it gives me a good income” 

ICS  team leader Gloria volunteered in Zanzibar back in 2017, where she worked on a project delivering employability and entrepreneurial skills to students.  

As part of her work as team leader, Gloria felt it was important to tackle issues surrounding gender inequality in business and led a community action day that educated the community on the importance of providing education to women.  

group stood together inside classroom
The full group for the NYEN workshop in Tanzania.

“The perception in the community is that females don’t have a big role, they just need to get married and have children. The aim of the Community Action Day was to ensure that females get to see how it is important to be educated. If you educate a woman, you’re educating someone who has an important role in the community,” she said.  

"If you educate a woman, you’re educating someone who has an important role in the community."
Gloria

Taking matters into her own hands 

When Gloria finished her work as a team leader, she also received training with NYEN and was able to open a shop, where she sells cosmetics, lotions and hair oils to local women. And she hasn’t stopped here. As well as running her shop, Gloria plays a big role in the local community by talking to teachers, children and parents about the importance in educating girls. 

Woman stood with man and child in a shop.
Gloria in her shop with two customers.

Inspiring the next generation  

Through spreading the skills and knowledge learnt through ICS and the NYEN workshop, Gloria hopes to inspire and educate the next generation of young women in the community to become more business minded - particularly important in a country where almost a third of girls are married before their 18th birthdays.  

“As women, we should not say: I don’t have capital, I don’t have this, I don’t have that, I cannot run a business. We just have to think of small things that we can do in our community and how this can lead to an opportunity. You must just see how you can effectively utilise the resources around you.” 
 

Interested in the National Youth Engagement Network?

Check out some more information about the work return volunteers have been carrying out and how you can get involved.

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