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Alanna Wallace

Planeterra supports communities most in need as projects pivot to help tackle COVID-19 crisis

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Planeterra’s Turn Travel into Impact from Home Campaign Press Release

Non-profit launches ‘Turn Travel into Impact from Home’ campaign

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, halting the global tourism industry, local communities who rely on tourism for income are being severely impacted. Working with some of the most impoverished communities in the world, Planeterra Foundation is releasing emergency grants to those most in need across their 85 projects, which supports the livelihoods of 65,000 individuals globally. 

Calling on travellers and organizations around the world to offer their support, Planeterra has launched the ‘Turn Travel into Impact from Home’ campaign, with the goal of raising CAD$50,000 to help communities in immediate need. The campaign has already raised $15,000 in the past two weeks, allowing the non-profit to transfer grants to six of their partners to help support basic community needs, including food and medicine. 

Among the first to receive funding is the AidChild Leadership Institute (ALI) in Uganda, which sees 50% of their operating budgets generated by their tourism initiatives, including a cafe and guesthouse rooms. The grant was allocated immediately to provide food for the 67  HIV-positive orphans in their care.

“We are still able to continue to feed and support the children and students in our care, thanks to this invaluable, adaptable, and compassionate partnership with Planeterra,” explains ALI founder, Dr. Nathaniel Dunigan. 

Despite facing hardship, many communities are demonstrating kindness and resilience, with project members utilising their skills to offer support and services to others during the crisis. In China, the Jia Community Restaurant, which supports rural women and children by providing meaningful job opportunities, has transformed into a delivery and distribution centre for masks and thermometers for nearby villages, while in Zambia the team at Tribal Textiles, which supports local artisans outside South Luangwa National Park, are using their workshop to sew 1,500 masks for local healthcare workers. 

President of Planeterra Jamie Sweeting, says that fragile communities need the support now more than ever to ensure they are protected and can continue to offer life changing experiences when travellers return in the future.

“Our global team is working overtime to support our projects, with grants to purchase food and medicine already going out to communities in Morocco, Belize, and Botswana. We’re encouraged by projects that are helping one another and their communities, and we hope this fund will provide some relief and help to ensure jobs and organizations remain intact for when travellers inevitably return,” Sweeting continues. 

To donate, please visit https://planeterra.org/covid-19/.

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About Planeterra 

Planeterra is committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. It is a non-profit organization created in 2003 by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip and was started with the purpose of connecting underserved communities to opportunities in the travel industry. Planeterra helps local organizations and communities use tourism as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, protect their natural environments, and celebrate their culture. For more information please visit www.planeterra.org

Media Enquiries

For media enquiries, please reach out to:

Alanna Wallace

Program & Communications Manager

awallace@planeterra.org

 

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Introducing: 10 New Planeterra Projects

Planeterra is excited to introduce you to some of the amazing partnerships that we have established over the last year. From the small island nation of the Maldives to the ancient city of Jerusalem, these new partnerships spread across the entire globe. Click through to read more about each project below:

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Athens, Greece
Non-profit empowering and employing people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion.

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Medellin, Colombia
A women-run restaurant and artisan initiative benefitting 2,800 women.

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Ranohira, Madagascar
A tree planting initiative combatting deforestation and environmental degradation.

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Kerala, India
An organization promoting women’s empowerment through livelihood training.

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Borneo, Sandakan, Malaysia
A community tourism enterprise empowering a community and protecting the environment.

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Male, Maldives
Dedicated to reducing plastic waste in our oceans.

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D’kar, Botswana
Indigenous-owned lodge benefitting more than 2,000 San people in D’kar.

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Whitsundays, Australia
A conservation initiative promoting marine rehabilitation through coral reef restoration.

 

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Jerusalem, Israel
A community centre focused on providing support to children and vocational skills to marginalized women.

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Borneo, Kundasang, Malaysia
A homestay preserving and sharing their unique culture through community tourism.

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From the Field – The Lusumpuko Women’s Club

The 20 women of the Lusumpuko Women’s Club chose this name with the hope that they would be able to lift themselves and their communities out of the harsh realities brought on by the economic situation in Zimbabwe. The ladies founded the chicken rearing co-operative as a way to create income for their households, and to help and inspire other, younger ladies to do the same.

“It’s our dream to help more women in our community,” says Lusumpuko president Linda Makarutse, and Merlyn Mpofu, Lusumpuko’s secretary, chimes in: “The problem now is some of our age group and youth, they are not educated enough to get a job in the tourism industry. There is a need for hospitality training classes, and opportunities for women and youth here in Victoria Falls.”

With this in mind, Planeterra began supporting the co-operative in 2017, and the ladies of Lusumpuko got to receive basic business training. The co-operative also received a grant to help kick-start a meal service in the tourist town of Victoria Falls. This investment helped them purchase much-needed catering equipment, such as pots, a gas cooker, and serving utensils. They also got the chance to empower a different women’s co-operative by purchasing uniforms made from locally sourced chitenge fabric. The launch of their new catering business helped Lusumpuko increase their combined income of about $600 USD to more than four times as much per month, thus significantly improving their quality of life and enabling them to provide for their children while supporting other members of the community.

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The meal service is a hearty buffet of traditional Zimbabwean food, as well as an enjoyable experience observing the preparation by the co-operative members. Travellers going through Victoria Falls have the opportunity to enjoy an array of home-cooked Zimbabwean delicacies. This has not only been financially beneficial for the ladies, but emotionally fulfilling for them as well. Most of the ladies will admit to finding a sense of purpose and validation as they can now depend on themselves to take care of their households.

Members of the co-operative used to do odd jobs in the community, like selling floor polish, providing cleaning services, or selling crafts across the border into Zambia or Botswana. Now, they have weekly work using their skills, practicing English, and interacting with international travellers, while many have dreams to one day expand the co-operative to provide other tourism services, like transport.

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First G Adventures travellers visit Native Grill

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It’s hard to miss the flags and signs of the Native Grill, a family-owned business along Route 89, nestled on Navajo Nation’s western side. It’s lunchtime on a Tuesday and the food truck, with the caption “Navajo Soul Food,” is busy with customers wanting to taste the authentic Navajo cuisine of frybread taco, dumpling stew and grilled local lamb. The kitchen is busy, as the family’s grandmother cooks frybreads for the pending G Adventures group of 12 who are about to arrive.

Her daughter Alfreida, who’s from the area, started the family food truck in 2013 by attending the Tuba City Fair, and operated in that town until a Burger King opened and forced them out some time later. Undeterred, Alfreida and her family carried on.

“There were days where we made no sales, but we stuck it out,” says Alfreida. “I’d be up prepping at 4:30 in the morning, but as time went along I figured things out.” Eventually, she gained her business license in 2016 and set up just south of the town of Cameron.

This area of Navajo Nation is in particular need of entrepreneurs like Alfreida, as it was under the Bennett Freeze between 1966 and 2009, which outlawed any infrastructure development. This meant houses couldn’t be built, water and gas lines couldn’t be laid, and roads couldn’t be mended, to name just a few of the ways the area’s development was stifled. Still today, it’s estimated that almost 60% of houses in the area do not have electricity, and the majority do not have potable water.

Planeterra partnered with Indigenous business incubator DineHozho, who have helped oversee a grant earmarked for improvements to the Native Grill. Today’s visitors are enjoying new picnic tables, a hand-washing station, and a brand new shade structure which will be especially handy during the hot desert summers. Native Grill’s operations have also been assisted by upgrades to their solar and generator systems.

As the group of G Adventures travellers arrive, they line up at the window to confirm their order for Navajo Tacos, and decide which toppings they’d like on their frybread, as three generations of Alfreida’s family work together in unison in the kitchen.

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It may be these four running the Native Grill this afternoon, but to them, the entire community is considered family, and they assist as many people as they can.

“We do what we can at a local level to help the elderly, and during Christmas and Thanksgiving we do turkey baskets and deliver it to people that live off the main road like 15-20 miles away, all the way at the base of the mountain,” explains Alfreida.

With more income from regular G Adventures groups (somewhere between 15-24 customers will be visiting twice a week during the summer months), Native Grill will be able to assist the community even more, not to mention grow the business. Although the food is delicious and the group enjoys their meal under the shade, the highlight of the afternoon is the family coming out to introduce themselves to the travellers, who eagerly ask questions in an effort to learn more about what it’s like to live on Navajo Nation. In the end, this is so much more of a meal stop – it’s an opportunity to learn about the resilience and entrepreneurship of the Diné (more commonly known as the Navajo) and how travellers should make an effort to stop at the small businesses that dot the roadsides if they’d like to learn more and give back to this community.

Read more about DinéHozhó here.

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12 Days of Remarkable Women to Inspire this Holiday Season

If you have been following along this holiday season, you will have noticed that we have been highlighting some of the remarkable women that Planeterra partners with around the world. Some of these women have their own businesses, are part of cooperatives in their communities, or even work for Planeterra. Enjoy their inspirational quotes and stories here, and click here to help us change the lives of more women in 2019.

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“When I see other women succeeding, it means I’m succeeding, too.”

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“I am happy, very happy, because sometimes that side when there’s no business, at least here [at Tribal Textiles] you’ll find I have customers so I am able to take care of my family and to keep my business going.”

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“With this tourism activity, I got money, I built the house. It changed my life 150%.”

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“My dream is to manage a five-star restaurant one day.”

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“I have so many blessings through Ubuntu. My job allows me to pay for school fees.”

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“I always had a vision to create more opportunities for me, my friends, and neighbours.”

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The tourists are helping us to keep our village clean”, she said. “When the tourists came, people noticed that they weren’t throwing plastic on the ground. Now everyone encourages each other to keep the community clean.”

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“Women can do anything!”

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“The school helped us to be independent, as well to feel how important we are in our family and how we can contribute, as women, to our families.”

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“Today, I am supporting my parents by all means I can and I am independent to make my own decision.”

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“Through this rural tourism project that Planeterra has helped us to do – Homlunch – we get the necessary funds to do our activities and maintain our programs. We are now stronger towards meeting the requests for help and support for vulnerable people.”

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“People with disabilities can have a normal life. I get an education I get skills. And then the best thing, I get married, and I have a son. At first I did not believe it. I can have a job, I can have a marriage and I am happy in my life. For the future if I am lucky I want to be like a businesswoman who has some hotel or has some restaurant, and then from that money I will support some organizations like this. I am very happy if I can help others like that.”

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Chandni Yadav’s Inspirational Story

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Planeterra asked Women on Wheels what our partnership meant to them, and how tourism was impacting the lives of the women that they work with. They felt that individual stories best showcased the impact of how the women they work with are changing the lives of their families, and becoming strong role models in their communities. Here is the story of one of the Women on Wheels drivers, Chandni Yadav:

“I have always wanted to continue with my studies. I have never thought that I would have to leave my studies but when I reached to the age of adolescence, I realized my family situations does allow me to continue my studies further. I have 3 brothers but there was no financial support from them and my parents were struggling financially. I had to leave my studies and started working in a hotel. I have never liked the job in the hotel. One day I learnt from a neighbour about Azad Foundation and its “Women on Wheel” programme. I discussed about joinig the programme with my parents, but they asked me: ‘Why do you want to leave your current job which is a big financial support to family for a 6 months training of WOW?’

But I decided to become a driver, which had cause many issues. Once I started the training, I faced difficulties at home, my parents used to scold me and they were pressuring me to do a job and earn. But I persisted and finished Women on Wheels training.

Today, I feel very happy that I have become independent and since joining Sakha as a cab driver I feel proud of myself. Earlier, I wished to be a driver but never had had the confidence to pursue such profession. Today, I am driver and I feel very confident. I can go alone anywhere, which I could not do before. Now, I am supporting my family and I even have helped my father financially to build a home in our village. I have repaid the loan of my brother’s marriage. Today, I am supporting my parents by all means I can and I am independent to make my own decision. In our community, people are happy to see me as driver and everyone tells my parents that I am better than my brothers. I always used to resist my desires and never used to say anything to anyone. I never used to do anything for myself but now I have started doing things as per my wish. In future I want to buy a scooty for myself, soon I will do this. I am so very thankful to Azad and Sakha for changing my life for better.”

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Virtual Tour of magdas HOTEL

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Take a virtual tour of magdas HOTEL, a social enterprise hotel in Vienna, Austria that empowers migrants, refugees, and newcomers to the country through their training and employment program. At one time, this eclectic hotel was an elderly residence, but with crowdfunding and a grant from a local non-profit, Caritas, the building has been transformed into an accommodation well worth visiting.

magdas is the first social business hotel in Austria, and employs 10 professionals in tourism, who work alongside 10 refugees. This job-shadowing and mentorship between refugees and professionals in the industry an important part of the program, alongside initiatives like language lessons and other services. The idea here is that refugees will later be hired by other hotels in tourist-heavy Vienna, allowing a steady stream of refugees to learn hospitality skills at magdas.

Along with an internationally-themed breakfast buffet (serving things like baba ganoush and other dishes from the refugees’ home countries), magdas has been entirely decorated with up-cycled, donated, or recycled materials. Old doors have become mirrors, repurposed lockers have become serving bays for the buffet breakfast. Rooms were decorated thanks to the Academy of Arts, which resides next-door, and other sustainable initiatives such as a honey-making business that keeps beehives on the rooftop are displayed in the hotel’s lobby.

Click the video below to enjoy the full virtual tour, and see for yourself!

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Zambian social enterprise empowers rural community

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It’s a journey in itself to get to the Mfuwe Village, nestled in the Eastern Province of Zambia, whether you take a car, bus, or plane. Nearly 10 hours by road from Lusaka, or a one-hour flight, one gets the impression straight away that they are in the middle of nowhere. With Mfuwe’s proximity to South Luangwa National Park, famous for its herds of elephants, scores of lion and regular leopard sightings, it’s hard to find a place as beautiful as this.

The beauty, and wildlife, have all created a perfect arena for tourism in South Luangwa National Park, which boasts a plethora of lodges, and more than 45,000 annual visitors – the most of any national park in Zambia. Despite its remoteness, there is a vibrant tourism economy here, and the Mfuwe Airport is constantly receiving flights of travellers eager to take in the safari experience.

Nestled between this airport and the park’s gate is Tribal Textiles, a workshop and bustling business that employs more than 100 Mfuwe locals. With an impressive corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, countless staff benefits, and a social enterprise model, it’s hard to imagine a business as socially conscious.

“South Luangwa is really benefitting from tourism a lot,” says Nsabila Njobvu, Tribal Textile’s Retail Manager, who has been working at the social enterprise for more than seven years. “The higher the number of tourists that we are receiving, the more poverty is decreasing because people have jobs and they are able to take children to school, able to afford a basic meal every day.”

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However, Tribal Textiles is constantly attempting to tear travellers off the road, or away from the lodges nestled far within the national park. As a result, they are regularly finding new ways of marketing their products, and last year they launched a new restaurant in an attempt to acquire tourists on their way to and from the airport. The restaurant, named the Courtyard Café, is run by local entrepreneur and chef, Dorica, who also runs a restaurant in the village.

“Before the restaurant, I had to go do farming in a nearby village to get money,” explains Dorica, who balances her new café at Tribal Textiles, and a restaurant run at her home in the village. “I am happy, very happy, because sometimes that side when there’s no business, at least here [at Tribal Textiles] you’ll find I have customers so I am able to take care of my family and to keep my business going,” Dorica explains. Not only is her restaurant and the Courtyard Café bringing income to her family, she has also been able to onboard staff as a result of the café’s success.

As it grows, the business expands their social enterprise model. Many proceeds from the products sold at the showroom go to initiatives such as Conservation South Luangwa (CSL), the Malimba School, and the Hanada Orphanage. The business has also opened a Community Artisans’ Market, to provide local artists with a space to sell their handicrafts.

Tribal Textiles is the perfect example of a business expanding as tourism increases, and with their social enterprise model and passion for giving back to the community of Mfuwe, they are set to remain an important part of the safari experience for travellers, all while empowering the local community to earn a sustainable living.

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Celebrating Women’s Day in Zimbabwe

When Zimbabwe experienced the world’s worst case of inflation in 2008, many of the country’s inhabitants struggled to meet the basic needs of their families. However, there is a growing movement to form cooperatives to create thriving businesses. Despite a traditional gender disparity, many Zimbabwean women are forming cooperative groups to provide services like tailoring, catering, and animal husbandry. These groups are taking matters into their own hands – creating income for their families and communities while empowering other women to build and launch their own businesses.

One such cooperative is the Lusumpuko Project (Lusumpuko means “progress” in Tonga), which was formed by 20 women from the Chinotimba township on the outskirts of Victoria Falls who found themselves without the means to support their families.

“If everyone had something to do or had an income at the end of the day, then people would be able to take their children to school, they’d be able to get healthcare, they would be able to get shelter over their heads,” explains Merlyn Mpofu, the Secretary of the group.

Taking a turn most cooperatives do not, Lusumpuko decided to partner with Planeterra, in order to harness the tourism industry and launch a catering business for visiting foreigners.

Planeterra has been working with this group since July 2017, with the help of Evie Ndhlovu, who has been assisting the ladies on behalf of Planeterra with training in hospitality, marketing, and more. Lusumpuko is one of 13 Planeterra partners who directly benefit women’s empowerment, and the newest project to launch in 2018. The Lusumpuko Project, originally a chicken-rearing endeavour, has expanded to a catering business – with G Adventures travellers to Victoria Falls as their main customer base and Planeterra providing a kick-starter grant to get their business off the ground.

“If tourism grows, the opportunity of employment will grow, too,” noticed Linda Makarutse, the President of Lusumpuko. “The problem now is some of our age group and youth, they are not educated enough to get a job in the tourism industry. There is a need for hospitality training classes, and opportunities for women and youth here in Victoria Falls.”

Despite the gap in ability for many in Victoria Falls to benefit from the tourism industry, both Merlyn and Linda, along with the rest of the Lusumpuko members, believe they can have a hand in helping the next generation.

“We’re feeling very positive for the future,” says Merlyn. “Also, looking forward to, as we grow, maybe also changing the community, teaching others, helping others invest in their own thing and maybe our Lusumpuko company also having a sister company.” To this, Linda nodded her approval: “It’s our dream to help more women in our community,” she concluded.

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Empowering the Women of Moshi

The town of Moshi bustles with tourists who have just come off the mountain, but in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, there’s a school that’s empowering women to harness the power of the tourism industry in the town, start their own businesses, and change their lives.

It’s graduation day for the Give a Heart to Africa (GHTA) school, who became a Planeterra partner in March 2014. The school’s graduates have been providing travellers in Moshi with handicrafts from their cooperative, Moshi Mamas, and spa treatments from their day spa, Lala Salama, ever since.

A female-only school, founded by a Czech-Canadian in 2009, GHTA provides classes in business, entrepreneurship, English, and more. It is run solely on donations and the fees paid for by international volunteers. Graduates from the school have gone on to be successful entrepreneurs in Moshi and beyond – and three businesses related to tourism are thriving thanks to the free classes the school offers for successful applicants.

“It has helped us a lot,” says GHTA graduate Beatrice, who works at the Moshi Mamas Cooperative. “We didn’t know how to plan or design the things, and now we know. The school helped us to be independent, as well to feel how important we are in our family and how we can contribute, as women, to our families.”

On this rainy December day, 34 women are graduating from the GHTA school after a year in the program. One graduate happens to be the daughter of Beatrice, who is one of the handful of ladies running the Moshi Mamas Cooperative.

“I am glad. I feel very happy that my daughter has managed to graduate from this program,” says Beatrice. “I feel like it’s going to help her and improve her life. She passed the examination very well! She’s also doing the massage.”

Beatrice, however, will not be in the crowd at the graduation. The cooperative is hosting travellers for a bead-making tour, and the shop is open as it’s the weekend and travellers are milling about and looking for a reprieve from the weather.

“This kind of business that we’re doing… travellers are so interested and they support us,” Beatrice explains why she’s staying at the cooperative that day. “They create income for us, so we are very thankful.”

It’s not just a monumental day for the graduates, as GHTA manager Rhiannon Chainey announces a new graduate program that’s being launched, to cheers from the crowd. Rhiannon and the GHTA board have realized the need for a graduate program to support those who move on from the school as they start their own businesses. To ensure they are successful, sections of the week’s curriculum will be dedicated to helping GHTA graduates to continue using the skills they learned at the school, thus ensuring their success as small business entrepreneurs. 

It’s a monumental day for the women who are graduating, and the smiles on their faces never flicker – though they listen intently to Rhiannon as she closes off her speech on a profound note that resonates to all.

“Today we are celebrating the people you are. You are intelligent, kind, caring and capable women. You are beautiful, smart and hardworking. You are full of strength and power. You are role models to your children, your husbands, your friends and your communities. You are particularly impressive role models for our school and the women that will come after you at GHTA.  You are our inspiration,” she says.

The crowd erupts – laughter, clapping, whistling, and singing, into their new lives as empowered, emboldened female entrepreneurs in Moshi.

 

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