As I have shared in my previous blog posts, the needs of the women that I have been working with over the past 8 weeks are enormous! They need assistance not only in their business ventures, but also their personal lives. Since I started working with Projects Abroad in May, we have been diligently planning and preparing for the networking event that we hosted in late June. A networking event is something that Projects Abroad does quarterly in which they bring all of the women together from all of the groups in order to collaborate and educate them on certain matters. This event is essential to the development of our women because it gives them the skills they need to further develop their businesses and their personal everyday lives.
This first speaker that we had for this event was from a local NGO called AISE. AISE empowers people to design & build their own creations that improve lives & are affordable. This organization that is located in the heart of Arusha has been working on developing more efficient products since 2011. In recent years they have focused a lot on using a simple mechanism like a bicycle to be the energy source to make items functional. One of the best products that they created for farming was a bicycle maze Sheller. This contraption attaches to any normal Tanzanian bicycle and improves efficiency in maze farming.
Since most of our women do not focus solely on farming, Marco(Manager of Partnerships) spoke on how simple everyday items can be recycled to be used as practical tools, which will help in the daily lives of these women. The first product he showed was a bicycle powered juice blender. This product definitely took the attention of our women because they had never seen anything like it in their lives. With less that 5000 shillings (roughly $2.50) they can create a juice blender that doesn’t need electricity to run. By finding more productive ways of doing such tasks, these women have a lot more time to focus on other things like growing their businesses. The women loved the enthusiasm that Marco brought because he showed them that it really does not take a lot of money to do such simple things.
Next, we got the creative engines of our women running! We had one of the women present on different techniques in which she uses to make jewelry and scarves. She showed them how to make bracelets and scarves out of trash bags and other recyclable materials. Showing everyone how to make things out of recyclable materials really made people interested in the art of creating things such as jewelry because the starting capital is nearly nothing. All you need is a few trash bags and a lot of time.
In my opinion, the biggest issue that these women face from having a very successful business to one that is barely scraping by, is that they are too afraid to branch out and be creative. Most women who we work with are simply doing the same thing as 20 other people who live in the same area as them, so the competition is fierce and almost impossible to compete in. One of the women shared with me that for every 100 juice boxes she sells she makes approximately 1000TSH. That’s equivalent to a little over 43 cents. There is no way for her to compete in the market because if she increases the price by even 1TSH she will not have any customers. This is why this networking event is so important. With all of the different presentations that we are providing for this daylong extravaganza, we are hoping that these women will come away with different ideas and thoughts on how they can differentiate their products from everyone else. It’s really not a difficult task. It can be as simple as finding a new pattern or a new flavor of something that no one else sells, but most women are too afraid to step out and take a leap of faith in hopes that they will still make a profit. I think that it is the fear of failure, which holds most of them back from expanding their businesses.
Another issue that we felt needed addressed to the whole group was time management. Because of their culture, Tanzanians don’t really have a concept of time. To be honest I kind of like the easiness of life and not having to worry about a schedule every second of the day, but there are times when time management is necessary. One of the biggest issues we have had over these past few months has been attendance. A lot of groups have a less than 50 percent attendance rate, which makes it really difficult for our team to train and educate these women. The inconsistent attendance rates have been an obstacle since the beginning, which we hope to change because it will provide better efficiency in our training programs.
Overall the women had a lot of fun, while learning a lot and expanding their minds. As a team, we are hoping that we can take some of these women’s businesses to the next step, which will eventually lead to sustainability.
Until Next Time,