I am proud of being a businesswoman. I am proud of being a leader. I am proud of how CAMFED has shaped my life and the role model I’ve become. I love my job as Vice Chairperson of Kibaha Rural District Council, and I am happy to be making life better for women and girls in my community.
My name is Josephine and I was born in Singida, in the central region of Tanzania. My parents were both smallholder farmers, growing crops to support our family. I loved learning, but I found that girls weren’t encouraged to study, and my parents didn’t have their own positive experiences to draw on. My father received an education up to Standard 4 (4th Grade) of primary school, but my mother never had the opportunity to attend school and is illiterate.
However, I always knew education was the right path for me, so even though money was very tight at home, I persuaded my parents to pay my primary school fees (at that time in Tanzania, primary school was not free of charge) so I could attend. After class I would work on the family farm, looking after the livestock.
My education aspirations started to falter when I was looking forward to going to secondary school. My parents were not convinced that continuing school would open opportunities, and felt that marriage was a safer option. But I persevered and eventually joined secondary school three months later.
Because of the delay, I found it hard to settle in and catch up on the work I had missed. Even more pressure was piling on me because my school fees had not been paid and I didn’t have any money of my own to pay them. In desperation, I traveled several miles by bicycle to the local government education office to see if they could help, but unfortunately they were unable to resolve the issue. Eventually after only one year of secondary school, I dropped out of school due to financial pressures.
Seeking new opportunities, I moved to Kibaha District in 2002. There I heard about CAMFED, which had launched in Tanzania just two years earlier and by then had arrived in Kibaha. When I learned of the CAMFED Association — a network of women dedicated to improving educational opportunities for women and girls — I knew I had to join! It was a great feeling to meet other Tanzanian women who held an interest in empowering others, and changing things for the better in their communities.
Right away I started taking up opportunities in several fields, and soon gained a mass media, journalism and leadership certificate from CAMFED. Following the training, in 2007, I worked for a while as a reporter in Kibaha District.
My business ventures and community philanthropy
Through CAMFED and the CAMFED Association I have accessed many types of business, finance, and skills training. I’ve learned to make different products, understand good financial management, and generate an income for myself.
Here in my dressmaking and fabric shop, one of my early business ventures.
Some of my business ventures have included selling chapatis, handmade soap, and dressmaking supplies. I used my profits from each venture to reinvest into my business and either expand or diversify into a new area. Since 2010 I have been running a successful stationery shop called Gunda Stationery, selling office supplies.
Through CAMFED and its partner Kiva, I’ve successfully applied for and repaid multiple loans, allowing me to grow and expand my various businesses. With the latest one, I invested in a computer, a printer, and camera equipment to take people’s photographs for official documents at my stationery shop. By expanding the services I offer, I’m better able to cater for the needs of my community and make higher profits. To complement this investment, I also got the opportunity to train in photography to take high quality photos at CAMFED Association events.
Over the years, I’ve won several local business and entrepreneurship awards, including Best Community Leader from Kwetu Patuma Foundation (an organization focused on empowering women in business), and Best Motivational Community Leader in Social Development from See Foundation (an association of business owners in Tanzania).
These awards have given me the opportunity to speak to large audiences of aspiring entrepreneurs and boosted my profile as a respected businesswoman. I’m keen to pass on my knowledge and skills to others, so I mentor other young women who want to get into business.
I’m proud to have been able to donate my own money to marginalized women to help them start small businesses. Those women come to me with ideas, and I feel great satisfaction to be able to help them venture out in business themselves.
I was invited as Guest Of Honor to the launch of Kwetu Patamu Foundation (an organization focused on empowering business women), where I opened the event and delivered a speech about entrepreneurship, encouraging others to have the daring spirit to start a business.
Going into business has changed my life. I am able to provide for myself and my children with my business profits. I can pay for all their school-going needs, and I also finance the education of three orphaned children, two boys and one girl, whom I take care of alongside my own children. The first boy has completed his vocational studies and is looking for a job, the second is expecting to start his end of school exams in August, and the girl is now in her last year of senior high school. In addition to this, I have reached more than 50 children in my community with material support including uniforms and exercise books.
I am passionate about tackling poverty in families, and helping vulnerable children as much as I can. I give back to the community through the CAMFED Association Philanthropy Fund, where we CAMFED Association members pool our resources to support more vulnerable children through school.
Here I am donating menstrual health supplies to secondary school girls in Kibaha, Tanzania.
My work as a policy game changer
My experience with CAMFED, the CAMFED Association, and becoming involved in community philanthropy helped ignite my passion for working with communities. I knew I wanted to represent the views of young women and children at a higher level, so I decided to get involved in local politics.
When I started out, it was highly unusual for women to work or volunteer in political roles in my area of Tanzania, but I was inspired by Tanzanian female politicians like Hon. Hawa Mchafu Chakoma (Member of Parliament for Special Seats), Anna Makinda (the first female speaker of the National Assembly of Tanzania), and Zainabu Vuru, (the former Special Seat Councilor for Kibaha Rural), who showed me that women can successfully lead and govern.
In 2008, I contested the position of Ward Secretary for Kwala and Dutumi wards, and that experience built my confidence to campaign for the position of Special Seat Councilor for the 14 wards of Kibaha Rural District in 2010, which I won.
As an elected Councilor of Kibaha Rural District, I represent the welfare of women and children, and oversee economic development in the area. Together with my fellow councilors, we work on the planning, allocation, and delivery of resources in the district. I represent the views of young women on the decision-making board for the district, and at District Council meetings. I always ensure that issues concerning women and girls’ rights are high on meeting agendas.
In 2020, I was elected Chair of the Community Services Committee for Kibaha Rural Council, focusing on the development of education, health, and water services in the district.
My political career has continued to go from strength to strength. In 2022, I ran for the position of Vice Chairperson of Kibaha District Council, and was successfully elected in July that year! I ran for this position because I wanted to show that women can achieve high positions in politics and local government.
As Vice Chairperson I have many different responsibilities, including running board meetings, managing issues within my district boundaries, administration, supervising other wards in my district, and providing solutions to issues arising in meetings and in the wider community in general.
I use social media to raise awareness of women’s empowerment and leadership. I take time to visit schools all over the district to talk with girls and inspire them to follow careers in politics and government. In community meetings, I encourage women to take up leadership positions, and most recently I have advised them on preparing for the Tanzanian local government elections in 2024. I love my work and I am happy to be making life better for women and girls in my community.
My continuing growth in education and leadership
Alongside my political work and running my business, I volunteered each week as a Learner Guide at my local secondary school, between 2013 and 2017. I delivered life-skills and self-development sessions to students, using CAMFED’s bespoke curriculum called My Better World. These sessions improved attendance because students loved the topics so much. I also provided sexual and reproductive health information to help students to make informed choices, and if a student was absent from class, I would follow up with them at home to discover the issue and ensure they return. Sometimes I would visit different schools in my local area and talk with the girls, motivating them to continue working hard and persevere with education.
To complement my training as a Learner Guide, I also received training in Child Protection from CAMFED, and I volunteer as a Guardian of CAMFED beneficiaries in Kibaha. As a Guardian, I visit CAMFED supported students at school to check up on them, encourage them to study hard and help them with any issues.
In 2017, I took up the opportunity to study for a BTEC qualification through CAMFED. This internationally recognized qualification, accredited by Pearson and designed in partnership with CAMFED, has helped me gain transferable skills in teaching, leadership, and business. Gaining qualifications helped me to realize my inner strengths and gave me the courage to apply for different local government positions before my application to become a councilor.
A game changer means someone who uses their ideas and strategies to bring positive change to society. Now, as a CAMFED Association member and Vice Chairperson of Kibaha District Council, I am that game changer!
I’m definitely not working alone though. The CAMFED Association as a whole has changed my community through women’s empowerment and education. Together we advocate for girls’ rights and raise awareness of education and health matters that affect women and girls. We conduct community outreach, providing business education and leadership skills to members of the local community. Now there are many more women in my community who conduct their own business or are leaders in various positions.
In the future, I hope to see many changes in my community and beyond. I want to see more women involved in international business. I want to see women fighting for the highest positions in politics. I want to see gender equality well practiced in the community, with women and girls fairly treated.
Hear from more young women leaders in our sisterhood!
As a passionate champion for girls’ education, I have grown a well-established reputation in my community and beyond, as an anti-child marriage activist. I regularly facilitates awareness campaigns around child marriage, speaking out in front of large groups of parents and children, teachers and school committee members, together with local traditional leaders, mother support groups, social welfare officers and the police.