Empowering young women entrepreneurs in Tanzania

Young women entrepreneurs in Tanzania gain skills in entrepreneurship, marketing accounting and cross-border trade through the UN Joint Programme on Youth Employment, implemented by UN Women, International Labor Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations from 2013 - 2015. Their incomes have increased, along with their confidence, and they are now generating employment opportunities for other youth.

Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mary Mtaki with her mother at their Tunduma store, Tanzania.    Photo: UN Women Tanzania/Deepika Nath
Mary Mtaki with her mother at their Tunduma store, Tanzania. Photo: UN Women Tanzania/Deepika Nath

It is before sunrise in Tunduma, a small town south of Mbeya, along the Tanzania – Zambia border, and Mary Mtaki, 22, is busy filing receipts from the day before at her rice shop in the local market. She carefully tallies each sale and expense and makes additions and deductions to her account register before opening shop.

Some 980 kilometers north of Tunduma in Kasulu, a small town along the Tanzania – Burundi border, Swaumu Ahmady Hussein, 23, is also getting ready for a long day of tailoring garments and dresses. She gathers her four assistants, all in their 20s, to organize the orders for the day.

Both women are part of the United Nations Joint Programme on Youth Employment, under which UN Women Tanzania, Tanzania Women’s Chamber of Commerce (TWCC) and Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO) train and empower young women in entrepreneurship, business formalization, cross-border trade, marketing and accounts management. Both women are also the youth chairpersons of their respective communities, training and empowering other young women and men.

“I never kept track of my money before,” says Mtaki. “But the trainings showed me how every sale, every purchase, every Shilling has to be accounted. This is how we know about our profits and when to cut back on spending.” Mtaki is a wholesale and retail seller of Sumbawanga rice, the most sought-after variety in Tanzania and across the border in Zambia. Mtaki has attended six training sessions facilitated by UN Women and has reported a three-fold increase in her overall savings. 

“The biggest change we saw was in Mary’s confidence level,” says her mother, Rose Kabuje Mtaki, “and the customers have noticed the difference.” Mtaki was one of the few TWCC members selected to represent the region at the yearly Saba Saba International Trade Fair in Dar es Salaam this year.

Swaumu Hussein adds finishing touches to an evening gown at her tailoring shop in Kasulu, Tanzania. Photo: UN Women Tanzania/Deepika Nath
Swaumu Hussein adds finishing touches to an evening gown at her tailoring shop in Kasulu, Tanzania. Photo: UN Women Tanzania/Deepika Nath

“Even with a Diploma in Business and Finance,” says Swaumu Ahmady Hussein from behind her sewing machine, “I was struggling to find a good job. So I decided to start my own business.” With the trainings on entrepreneurship and business formalization, Hussein has been able to open her own shop in Kasulu’s main market, where she designs and tailors custom-made wedding and evening gowns for women. Her shop is popular with the locals and customers vouch for her designs. Hussein’s monthly income has doubled since attending the trainings and she has also become an employer for other young women in the area.

“Working for Swaumu has made me financially independent,” says Naema Mfagasi, Hussein’s assistant, who specializes in embroidery and embellishments. “Within six months, I was able to buy land to build my family house,” she adds, beaming with pride. Mfagasi wants to join Hussein for the next round of entrepreneurship trainings in Kigoma.