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.