Millions of people are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free. ~ Nelson Mandela

Unite partnered with St. Joseph’s and program director Mr. Elias Shayo to launch the Women’s Empowerment Fund in the Fall of 2014. The loans tend to be small in nature, $300-$500/each, and are paid back in full with a 15% commission within 12 months. Our intention is to vet, train and “groom” these women to become borrowers from FINCA, one of the world’s largest micro finance industries in the world. Unite is currently in discussions with FINCA to outline the details of our partnership. To date, 10 women have received loans and/or grants to help grow their small-but-proven businesses.

Philomena Eliakim Kivuyo

Philomena Eliakim Kivuyo

Philomena is Unite’s first microloan recipient. We have worked with Philomena for the past two+ years to source beaded jewelry for our Ashe Collection. 29-years-old, Philomena supports her parents, sister and two young brothers and their education through her work as a handicrafts- woman. She travels each year to Nairobi to purchase beads and cloth, which she uses to make baskets, jewelry and clothes that she then sells primarily at Maasai Marketplace in Arusha. Her “stall” is a plastic sheet laid on the far corner of the parking lot. Unite sends all our clients to visit Philomena as the quality of her wares is excellent and consistently surpasses that of the many competitors that surround. Philomena will use Unite’s loan to purchase more materials and design lines of batik dresses, shirts and bags to sell in both Arusha and Dar Es Salaam. As her business grows, she plans to recruit, train and employ other women.

Sophie Mollel

Sophie Mollel

Sophie, 30, is an urban Maasai wife and mother of three. Unite team has been involved with her family since 2010 and this year we awarded her a grant to establish a hair and cosmetics salon with her aunt and sister. Women in Africa (not unlike women in America) tend to place much importance on — and therefor allocate many resoures towards — their hair. Most urban, educated women will regularly don new and often elaborate hairstyles. The market is there, and we are excited to see what they create.

Katherine Felician Peter

Katherine Felician Peter

Katherine, 35, operates a small-yet-profitable restaurant in Arusha called Mama Lisha that serves mostly poor day laborers who have few options for healthy, affordable food. Katherine will use her Unite loan to expand her space, which is about 8x8 feet, so she can accomodate more customers and hire help. Currently Katherine wears every hat — chef, waitress, manager, cleaner, etc. — and is in great need of support. Raised by small scale farmers with no money to pay for her education, she went to work as a housegirl following primary school. Nearly 20 years later, in 2010, as a single mother of two, Katherine took a leap of faith and invested all her earnings to open Mama Lishe. She is very respected locally, and we look forward to sharing stories of her continued success.

Mama Esta Slaa Elias

Unite has awarded a small grant to Esta, 55, to help her grow an egg- and-meat chicken and vegetable garden business. Esta has already proven success with her 47 chickens and small shamba/farm. With Unite’s grant she will purchase more chickens and secure a water source for her gardens. Esta was born in Karatu. She was raised by her father, a small-scale farmer. With no funds for education, Esta went to work as a house girl on a coffee plan- tation. In 1977 she married a local teacher and had five children and three grandchildren. Esta’s goal is to have a thriving farm and at least 500 chickens so she will have the income necessary to train more women and hire them to work alongside her.

Mary Sebastian

Mary, 42, was born and raised in Moshi. She graduated primary school in 1985. Mary attended a technical school to learn how to operate a sewing machine, but she was forced to drop after six months due to lack of funds and poor teaching. In 1991 Mary married, and stayed home to keep house and care for her husband and two children. In 1999, Mary's husband died and left her with nothing. Mary took up selling old clothes as a traveling street vendor, but a back problem that made the physical work unbearable forced her to stop. Her two sons are now 23 and 21-years-old. The older attends a teacher's college and will graduate in May, but employment will depend on the government. The younger son drives a doll dola (motorcycle taxi) and would like to go back to school but has no way of managing the time and money. With Unite's 400,000 Tsh loan (equivalent of $235 USD), Mary went from selling fruits on the street to opening her own store front general store where she is now selling clothes, fruits, and more.

Rose Ambrose

Rose, 33, was born and raised in Moshi. She graduated primary school in 1997 and worked as a house girl before moving to Arusha in 2000. In Arusha she survived by selling old clothes on the street as a traveling merchant until she married in 2003. She then took care of the house and her two children. Her husband died in 2008, at which time, Rose began selling old clothes on the street again. Her children who are now 11 (boy) and 8 (girl) are both in primary school. With Unite's 400,000 Tsh loan (~$235 USD), Rose opened her own store front.

Regina Edward

Regina, 29, was born in the Maji Moto area and graduated primary school in 2002. She stayed with her family following school and did various tasks in the area to make money for her family. Regina married in 2007 and has two children, a boy who is 7 and a girl who is 4. Her husband deals with small shops in the area and she manages a shop in Olkeryen village. Regina used her Unite loan to open a small restaurant next to her shop and to invest in larger items for her shop, such as cooking oil, which are more expensive and do not sell as quickly. 

Monica Innocent

Monica lives and works with her husband Innocent at the St. Joseph's Orphanage in Kiseriani village. She is the nursery school teacher at the Heaven School, and used a loan from Unite to invest capital in the shop that she manages outside the center. The shop currently sells such typical, generic items as rice, soda, beer and sugar. With the loan Monica is now also selling clothes, shoes and slippers (sandals).  

Top photograph by Remy SIMON and Helene Wallaert