With new business skills, caregivers of vulnerable Tanzanian children provide for their families

May 21, 2018

Leila Mkere beams as she speaks. The 36-year-old is pleased with herself, and rightly so. She runs two successful businesses, selling charcoal and vegetables. The income goes a long way in providing a good life for her two girls, ages 4 and 8.

It’s been a journey to get here, requiring new skills and a new mindset.

In the beginning, all Leila had were questions. How would she establish and run her small business? What about financial management and record keeping? Where would she find a market for her products?

She found all the answers she needed through a three-week, life-changing business course, which she took part in with 49 others through the Kizazi Kipya project. All who participated are caregivers of children who are orphans or otherwise vulnerable.

Funded by PEPFAR and USAID and implemented by Pact, Kizazi Kipya, or “New Generation,” works to improve the lives of vulnerable Tanzania children, particularly those affected by HIV. One way Kizazi Kipya does this is by helping caregivers improve their livelihoods.

A local Pact partner, the civil society organization HACOCA, enrolled Leila and her girls into Kizazi Kipya. Leila, who lives in the central Tanzania region of Morogoro, soon joined a village savings and lending group to help her save money, access credit and gain skills to run a small business.

Leila Mkere

HACOCA also identifies other, complementary opportunities to improve caregiver’s household economic capacity through public-private partnerships in their communities. That’s how Leila and the other caregivers got the chance to take part in the business course, offered by the youth-led effort Reach Up. Reach Up equips small entrepreneurs with knowledge about modern tools for improving their businesses and sales. The course covered topics including turning passion into opportunity, using digital platforms such as phones, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, and an introduction to the use of computers and email.

A month after the course, 13 of the 49 caregivers had already established small businesses, from food vending and retail shops to sales of produce and charcoal. This has boosted their incomes, which has helped them better provide food, health care, education, clothing and shelter for their children.

“I made a big mistake with my first business,” Leila says now. “I didn’t think big enough and limited my accomplishments by focusing on a small geographic area and targeting small sales.

“From now on, when I set my goals, I ensure they are large.”