Young women transform lives through business

A $5,000 grant has been put to good use by 30 young women in Mutasa District of Manicaland. Calling themselves Young Women in Enterprise (YOWE), the group has boosted the capacity of females to launch businesses that impact their communities and transform their lives.

Cathrine Matimati - I have learned business skills that have helped me to launch my shop.
Cathrine Matimati – I have learned business skills that have helped me to launch my shop.

The grant from Foundation Mutual Trust (FMT), a charitable organization, in 2012 enabled the women to continue their initiative to economically and socially empower young women in the district.

The Programmes Director, John Huruva, said 30 adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 30 from low-income areas of Mutasa district had been empowered the project . “We are working with the young women so that they can avoid problems such as HIV/AIDS and go on to create employment for themselves. We have helped some of them to own businesses that support their communities,” he said.

The women have been trained on using tools to plan, implement and manage a small business. “We have linked the women to financing with an emphasis on the importance of savings. They have been receiving mentorship from leading women entrepreneurs. We have also launched mini-business plan competitions, which identify promising business ideas and enable talented entrepreneurs to further advance their businesses,” Huruva said.

YOWE has already made a big difference in people’s lives. Joining the group enabled Catherine Matimati, 30, to stitch together her entrepreneurial vision of selling knitted goods. She became responsible for her family’s welfare after her parents died. She managed to attain a secondary school education but lacked a steady income.

“Through YOWE, I learned new business skills and used them, together with the $500 in seed capital I won in the YOWE business plan competition, to launch a shop for my products,” she said in a recent interview. She firmly believes that within 10 years she will be running a successful business with many employees and locations.

Daphne Mugaradziko, 28, who operates a salon said the business skills, support network and life skills such as HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention obtained through YOWE had created new economic opportunities for her.

“This has helped me to avoid the vulnerability that too often leads girls to become child brides or at risk for HIV and AIDS,” she said. “Because of my business, I have choices that help keep me safe and HIV-free. And today, I employ other girls from my community so that I can pass on what I learn and keep them HIV-free too,” added Mugaradziko.

Shylet Kadzura, 30, and Tsverukai Gonzo, 26, who run a sewing shop at Watsomba Business Centre said: “It was due to trust, belief and reliance on each other that kept us going and we are sure that our goals have been fulfilled.” Gonzo said after sharing their profits, which they did not disclose, she had managed to buy roofing sheets for her house and send her two young sisters to school.

“We are saving other profits and we will put together our savings to expand our business to other areas and employ other women. This means that next year we can plan for other things, which will change our lives for the better,” she said.

“I am very thankful for this group as it has made us realise that we are not poor. Before, we had no chance for saving and planning, but this is exactly what this project has taught us,” Gonzo said.

The women in the group hope that the programme will reach out to others who are not yet aware of this kind of wisdom and that they will be encouraged to form their own groups.

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