Month: July 2015

Child care

This is how Buwea leaders/new moms Jesca Jonathan and Polina Beda work: their babies worn or ALWAYS nearby, soaking in all the mamaawesomeness happening around them.
Babies Jenifa and Ivan are still nursing, but by the time they reach six months old, Buwea hopes to be piloting a new child care center that could bring in revenue for the organization while also helping its members continue in the workforce. Please let us know if you’d like to contribute your time or talents or resources to making this goal happen. You’ll notice that childcare is often this next absolutely crucial step of social enterprise in developing areas where women are breaking through serious employment barriers. 


Women and Water

Blog Post by Elaine Talarski
This morning, leaders of the Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association, Regina, Rachel and Jesca came to our hotel for a meeting with us and with our friend from Kenya, Rose Wamalwa.

Rose, who directs a grassroots women’s water group in Kenya, arrived late last night. She will meet with us over these next few days to talk about potential future collaborations. She shared part of her story with us: she was born and grew up in a rural center of Kenya.

During her years of growing up, she saw a need to work with women. She observed that women were dependent on their husbands and that a woman’s role was to stay home and be there to care for the needs of her husband and family. In Kenya, that meant hard labor like getting water every day, farming your own food, and lots of daily chores.

She married in 2003. After five years of marriage, she had the opportunity to return to school. In 2009, she started working with women and became involved with the Global Women’s Water Initiative, a WGC and BUWEA partner focused on sustainable solutions for the water and sanitation woes of women.

Rose’s organization, known as WE-CAN, became a registered nongovernmental organization in 2012, and there are around 150 women involved in the group.
Rose became acquainted with BUWEA through trainings regionally on the techniques around sanitation and water. Some of the women she works with have small businesses such as tailoring, selling secondhand clothes and farming. In 2014, Rose was in San Antonio for a few months on a national fellowship working with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. Now, WGC and WE-CAN are exploring potential partnerships and immersion trip opportunities.
Rose cited many challenged about working with women in Kenya, including:

*Food insecurity

Land generally belongs to men and husbands. Women are often given a small portion of men’s land to grow food on for the family or sell.

Women are on a lower level than men and this position is internalized by many women, who then have low self-esteem.

Government does offer small loans but women are restricted from receiving them because they do not have a title to land.

*Malnutrition and cultural factors
Kenya has very high mortality. Also, some women may exchange sex for food to feed themselves and their families. Although it’s restricted by the government, alcohol brewed using local materials and methods is used by men. Overall, women need alternative ways to earn income.

Rose says she’s interested in helping empower women to break the cycle of poverty through training and transformation. Partnering with BUWEA and WGC, she says, could really help her organization gain momentum and make a difference.

Regina explained to Rose about how members of BUWEA around Bukoba can access a BUWEA bank account to put money in and access it when needed. Each member has a passbook to record money in the account and to track withdrawals for payment of loans.

Selling the soy idea

  The diets of Tanzanian children, like many in the developing world, are sorely lacking in protein and essential amino acids. The deficiencies affect everything –  from growth to learning. Dr. Neeta Singh of UIW, in partnership with WGC, has made it a main mission to try and change that here in the Kagera region.  That’s why she is always looking for opportunities to champion the idea of adding soy to Tanzanian diets. Soy is a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids needed for human growth.

During this trip, Neeta has been working with the Hekima Girls Secondary School conducting health profiles of students to ascertain any needs for improved nutrition. There may be more connections to be had, she believes, between Hekima and the WGC-supported Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association (BUWEA), which runs a farming and milling cooperative centering on soybeans, soy flour and soy milk. BUWEA sells its products around the region, benefitting its 580 members living in some of the area’s poorest villages.

So when Neeta and Elaine happened to strike up a conversation the other day with a German man in the Bukoba town bank, it’s no surprise that it ended in yet another potential connection on the soy front. Today, with BUWEA leaders Regina and Jesca, we visited the German man – Ralf Wasner – at the orphanage and school he now helps run in Tanzania as an administrator and accountant.

He showed us around and we met Headmaster Emmanuel Tibaija, who invited us to return in a few days with samples of the soy products – a soy muffin, soy yogurt, soy milk – that their Kemundo Children’s Home and School might consider using to help supplement students’ and children’s diets. 

The campus began in 1990 as an orphanage sponsored by Nehemiah Gateway, an international non-profit headquartered in Germany. In 2000, the primary school was built and now serves a mix of the orphans, local day schoolers, and area boarders – all totaling 474 students. It’s truly an amazing place: it includes 17 houses where designated employee “mums and dads” live with the children who have been orphaned. Overall, the operation supports children ranging from age 3 to 25. We are so excited about the possibility of seeing the idea of improving kids’ nutrition through soy in schools gaining steam here!

After the visit, we had a chance to visit the teeming Kemundo market to see some of the BUWEA members who run home based agricultural businesses. By the time we arrived, they had almost sold out of all their (huge!) avocados, sugar cane, and sweet potatoes!

Now, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival by bus today of friend Rose Wamalwa, from Kenya. She directs a grassroots women and water network called WE-CAN near Kisumu, Kenya, and she is in talks with WGC about collaborating and hosting WGC immersion trips. She is also a regional coordinator for the rock star organization known as The Global Women’s Water Initiative, which has helped train BUWEA members on how to construct rainwater harvesters and how to maintain sanitation in their local communities. We first met Rose face-to-face when she came to San Antonio as part of a national program that placed her as an ambassador intern with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. We cannot wait to see her again and talk about even more potential connections!

Rose Wamalwa, Photo courtesy GWWI

A Gratifying Day

Blog Post by
Jonathan Hardy
  Our very first day of leisure, since our journey launched last week, commenced with a visit to Regina’s home so that we could enjoy the privilege of meeting her husband, Sebastian. Limited by multiple strokes and subsequent partial paralysis, Mr. Majailiwa proved to be a most welcoming host. The love between them, nurtured over 43 years of marriage and the raising of seven children, was quite palpable. The highlight of our brief discussion was his staunch support of his wife’s tireless work in initiating and building the Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association, BUWEA. Kudos to this couple who have overcome obstacles known to few Americans. They continue to inspire us all.

Our next pause in the excursion was to drop off Neeta at the BUWEA office so she could do some training with Jesca and Polina about grant writing and future strategic planning (Guess it wasn’t a day of leisure for all four of us!).

We then proceeded to the beach, led by our able tour director, Regina, who also happens to function as the venerable leader of BUWEA. We were greeted there by Methodear Kiroyera, who manages several beachside enterprises owned by her sister (replicas of Tanzanian homes of yesteryear, which can be rented for overnight stays; a bar and party house; a tour company; and a gift shop). 

 After we purchased several items from the gift shop, Ms. Kiroyera escorted us to the Kagera Museum, where she serves as curator. We learned along the way that she once lived in Europe for several years. Nevertheless, her pride in, and affection for, her homeland (where she said she “belongs”) was evident as she described the history behind the art, photographs and artifacts housed in the museum. 

After her fascinating museum tour, a brief stop at a fishing village on the shores of Lake Victoria provided another glimpse of local culture – this time from a contemporary perspective.

Our final stop on today’s enjoyable journey – the Bukoba Market. There, we were delighted to find gorgeous Tanzanian fabric for purchase that satisfied our desires. Taking our purchases to a seamstress at the BUWEA office for dressmaking exposed us to additional beautiful fabric for sale, which, of course, led to more purchases. We were thrilled to add that to our bounty by supporting BUWEA women entrepreneurs.

All in all, a most gratifying day.

Trainings on nutrition, health, and Internet technologies 

Today during a training with Neeta and Elaine the leaders of Buwea opened up about their top health concerns living here in east Africa, where access to good medical care is severely limited. They shared that they don’t have quality information about what types of vitamins and foods available locally can contribute to true health. 

They also mentioned that their school-age daughters often miss a week of school when they are menstruating because they can’t afford feminine hygiene products. Together, WGC, Buwea, and UIW professor Neeta Singh have now decided to create a guide about Bukoba area health resources and information. 


Meanwhile, WGC volunteer Jonathan Hardy was able to expound on his popular grief and loss talk with village leaders and WGC Associate Director Nicole Foy continued trainings on Internet technology in the main Buwea office. 

  We ended with a stroll through the marketplace. Such a busy day!


Soy nugget production with the Buwea Bakery

The women entrepreneurs of Buwea have been so successful with their soy milk, flour, and yogurt products that they were looking to expand their offerings. Soy offers better nutrition and protein then the starchy cassava flour staple. Today, Dr. Neeta of UIW, known by the women as “Mama Soya,” and Elaine helped the women try out a soy protein meatless nugget.  Elaine, a retired nurse, expounded on nutrition concepts in another seminar.

Meanwhile Nicole and Jonathan were at Hekima today where Nicole conducted writing workshops for the older girls. They were so receptive and creative! One of their favorite exercises was when Nicole asked them to punctuate the following sentence to change its meaning:

“A women without her man is worth nothing.”


“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”


Learning from each other


 Elaine and Nicole traveled about 40 miles by very bumpy van from town to the remote small town of Kemondo, where we did some trainings on business and marketing. This was the first workshop so far this trip that men also attended! They said they were supportive of their wives working but some other of the women – when asked to list risks they might encounter in beginning or expanding a business – said their husbands saw their interests in outside work as a threat. This is a common refrain that Buwea leaders hear, yet they have a way of responding respectfully and continuing to be encouraging about a woman recognizing their own inherent worth.

Neeta worked today with the Hekima school girls on a study she is conducting about their nutrition and energy expenditures. She’s taking the height and weight of approximately 25 girls now. 

After our work, everyone gathered at Hekima for an amazing afternoon meal outdoors hosted by the school teachers and the indomitable headmistress Sr. Esther. She was so happy and effusive to show us the completed Hekima guest house designed by the husband of WGC Board Chair Carolin Sinkfeld!!! 

 After the meal, we danced and played games and received gifts. They are teaching us always-busy Americans about the value of truly appreciating friends by spending relaxed quality time together!


Expanding income, improving lives

Some of the most striking successes of the BUWEA group in Tanzania involve the women of remote villages in the Kagera region. By partnering with WGC-sponsored BUWEA, they undergo training in business, nutrition and marketing concepts aimed at growing their small home businesses such as animal husbandry, tailoring, baking, etc. the extra money means the ability to pay school fees for their children, who otherwise would not be educated. During this immersion trip, volunteers have been conducting village trainings about pricing, branding, and cost competition. Responding to a need voiced by the women for instruction and counseling on handling the deaths of friends and family members, WGC volunteer Jonathan Hardy, a San Antonio social worker, has been giving grief and loss seminars in several villages.  


So many similarities 

Nicole and Neeta visited the WGC education partner Hekima Girls Secondary School today. We met with Headmistress Sister Esther about a nutrition study regarding the students’ diets and also with teachers from around the Kagera region about strategies for slow learners and effective parent / child communication. The teachers’ top issues? Their school day is squeezed for time, they are teaching kids who still need foundational work in language acquisition (they teach and test in English yet kids speak Swahili conversationally) and the government has rigid rules on testing and curriculum. Hmmmm somewhere we have heard these things before ;)…… #hekima #bukoba #wgc #girlsempowerment