Thursday, 23 February 2012

Women in Unguja and Pemba Happily Making Money and Saving

Pemba — A popular Kiswahili proverb known by many Zanzibarians goes like this "Haba na haba hujaza kibaba" in other words drop by drop the vessel will get filled.

This wise saying has been vividly demonstrated by women in the rural areas of Unguja and Pemba and is calling on others to follow suit.

Women in Unguja South and Pemba North have for a long time never engaged themselves in income generating activities and they had little hope for any sort of economic improvement of their lives.

In 2008 Women Empowerment in Zanzibar (WEZA) initiative was introduced and their lives took a new turn bringing hope for the women.

Around 8742 women at their own individual pace saved between 200 and 1,000 shillings each week after receiving savings and financial training from the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA), Jozani Credit and Development Organisation (JOCDO) and Pemba Savings and Credit Association (PESACA). The project was co-financed by the European Union (EU), Government of Austria and Care Austria.

The training marked the beginning of a big take off and by 2011 the women collectively had saved a total of 693,790,000/=.

This was a big surprise not only to the Zanzibari population but to women themselves who could not believe they had the potential.

"How can we save 500 /- a week while at the same time we did not receive that amount of money for our family meals?" asked a section of women members in Kiungoni Shehia of Pemba North during the sensitisation meetings before the savings began.

Now the very same women save more than 2,500 shillings per week owing to the various business activities they are engaged in including the making of handicrafts and agro- business.

The general rule for acquiring a loan is that a member has to convince the group that she has something useful to do with the loan. Secondly she needs to have four sureties (wadhamini) from the group who sign contract which among others request them to take due responsibility in case the member fail to repay the loan.

In the case a member fails to repay the loan, her weekly shares are first taken away by the group in addition to that of her sureties. However, this has only appeared once at Jambiani in Unguja while Pemba it has never happened. Most of the members repay their loans in three months and if one fails giving reasonable grounds, the group gives her additional two weeks in which to settle the debt before further action is considered.

Mr. Omar Khamis, a Shehia leader of Kiungoni, Shehia in 2009 said WEZA changed the perception and status of his Shehia. Speaking to the project's representatives and the villagers, he said that before WEZA was established the women in his village were not involved in any business contrary and now every woman is struggling hard to earn an income and erase illiteracy.

Ms. Fatma Ali Haji (40) of the same Shehia narrated her experience while talking to Daily News recently. Fatma says her life has changed drastically from struggling to make ends meet to setting up business person while she save 15,000/= per week.

"WEZA taught us how to and utilise the resources around us. I now buy for basic items such as food and clothes for myself and my family," she said.

She sells coconuts and tailors clothes for women wiping out the old stereotyping of women staying indoors. She sells coconuts at Kiungoni and as far as Chake chake, Pemba South. An officer for Savings and Loans with Women Empowerment in Zanzibar (WEZA), Muhiddin Ramadan said on average members' savings stands between 1000/- and 5,000 each week. He said the saving shares were raised as a result of the increased income generating activities.

He says that the common business activities are locally made hand bags, spice based soaps, batik, rosella juice , liquid soaps and selling of fresh vegetables. As much as Zanzibar appreciates the achievement there are challenges which that need urgent redress. Mwanakhamis Mrisho, an officer from TAMWA mentioned the challenges as lack of reliable market of the finished products and low quality products to face stiff competition in the competitive market.

She attributed the challenges to financial constraints, lack of mobility and confidence calling for concerted efforts to improve the quality of women's products in order to be fully fledged entrepreneurs. She feels that the government in particular should put more emphasis in promoting women's products of these areas as well as introducing more women into the business world.

This will help the women fully utilise the Sunday market launched recently by the government at Mwembeshauri Grounds, Unguja Urban, which is albeit at its fragile stage. Most of the women currently do not have bank accounts as they consider still consider themselves poor. For the time being they are concentrating on expanding their businesses, building and or repairing their homes and taking their children to school.

Daily News

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