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Helping women thrive through Covid-19 twists and turns

Saturday November 21 2020
WOMAN PIC

From Left, Emelda Mwamanga, Lilian Madeje and Lilian Mwasha during one of the sessions. PHOTO | COURTESY.

On Saturday November 14, women from different social backgrounds gathered at Serena Hotel for the Woman of Influence empowerment conference.

The aim of the conference organised by East Africa Bang magazine and themed I’m Possible, was to discuss challenges affecting women in the wake of Covid-19 such as the increase of human rights violations, the collapse of businesses and job loss. Women shared their struggles as well as coping mechanisms.

Different topics were discussed during the conference’s four sessions, where women shared their struggles after their businesses were affected by Covid-19. They also discussed how to bounce back and use the challenges as an opportunity to thrive.

The first session’s topic was titled; Unexpected Paths, Thriving Through The Twists and Turns, where speakers talked about challenges facing businesses due to Covid-19. Some have closed while others are struggling. The panellists shared their experiences on how their businesses were affected and how they are struggling to get back on their feet.

Speakers included Zainab Ansell, founder and CEO of ZARA Tours, which organises African safaris and climbs to Mount Kilimanjaro, Elizabeth Swai, founder of AKM Glitters Company Limited, dealers in integrated poultry business, Araika Mkulo, founder and cognitive psychologist at Safe Space Group of Companies; an entity dedicated to seeing Africa’s potential realised by focusing on gender equality, mental health and access to health information and Leina Lemomo, an entrepreneur and rotarian in Mikocheni

Leina, who is in the tourism industry, was depressed for about four months after she was rendered jobless following huge investment in a project that could not take off due to Corona.

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During the four months that she was struggling with depression, Leina stopped attending social gatherings to the point that got her friends worried.

“Before Corona hit the country I was away in Serengeti for a certain project. When I came back in March, the world had turned upside down and nothing was moving due to corona. Everything in the tourism industry is ruined,” said Leina.

A working out fanatic, Leina used to walk from Shoppers Plaza to White Sands area every morning but stopped after her investment plans failed. Her friends encouraged her to go back to walking, which she did and now walks seven days a week.

“I am glad that my friends pulled me out from depression and I can proudly say I have gone back to my walking, back to my socialising. Nothing has changed much but my mental state has changed. I turned around and looked at what am good at as tourism is not coming back any time soon,” says Leina.

Since people think she is good at cooking and Leina believes so too, she decided to start a catering business. She cooks for friends and does small deliveries, as most hotels were closed during the pandemic. Through her new business, Leina has been able to focus and that is how she has been able to regain her state of mental health.

She says, supporting each other is very important and opening up about different challenges we go through in life helps a lot to bring solutions instead of suffering in silence.

During the second session on Making the Future Work for Women, participants discussed about human rights violations and suggested what should be done to make a safer and better tomorrow for women.

The panelists were Sarah Mhamilawa, founder of MS Legal Consultants, Madeline Kimei, a practising commercial and corporate lawyer and Emilia Siwingwa, an advocate of the High Court of Tanzania.

Sarah Mhamilawa blamed society for denying women and girls their legal rights in issues like gender-based violence because instead of taking legal action, society prefers solving such matters at family level.

She also mentioned shortfalls at the gender desks at police stations, which are meant to help girls and women. These, she said, are not friendly enough for women and girls to easily and freely report abuse. However, Sarah said this should not deter women from seeking their rights.

“I have been to these desks so many times and so I understand the environment there. They are too open and this scares a lot of women from going forward to explain the challenges they face for them to get justice.” Sarah said Tanzanians are still afraid to report crimes for fear of being looked down on, a culture she said should be fought and that women should be put in the front line to fight for their rights.

Emilia Siwingwa said it is important for women to own property and suggested that men need to accept this.

However, Joyce Mlemwa, a conference participant who found the sessions very helpful thinks it would take time for men to let women own property.

The third session’s topic was on how to Promote Holistic Health and Financial Wellbeing presented by Scholastica Kimaryo. The 72-year old mother and grandmother spoke about the importance of health and wellness through lifestyle changes and empowering women to achieve their health and wellness goals.

The founder and chief executive at Maadili Leadership Solutions said women have to take care of themselves and their children and that it is important for women to deal with their mental health and manage stress levels to avoid holistic problems.

Mrs Kimaryo said it is important to raise children in a way that they will learn to be independent. Each child or family member should be given age-appropriate tasks to complete so as to ensure they understand what it takes for a family to be how it is.

“Most parents are too busy chasing money that they forget to parent and end up bribing children with gadgets and gifts. Parents should make time to raise their children in the required manner. Failure to do so could lead to raising children who will not listen to their parents in future,” she said.

Session four was all about investing in a woman’s personal capital. The panellists included Lilian Mwasha, a Television and radio host and Lillian Madeje, who uses the power of innovation and engagement to serve the global community.

The session explored how to define and consciously build one’s personal brand through long term strategic thinking, personal insight and consistent implementation across an array of communication channels.

Lilian Madeje said with personal capital, it is important for women to make sure they stick to their business goals and not use the capital for other things. She said most of the small businesses started by women never prosper given that women divert funds to solve their other needs.

“It is advisable to invest both profit and capital in the same business without taking any amount of money at least for the fisrt six months. This helps in business sustainability,” said Madeje.

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BY Salome Gregory