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Asha,
CAMA District Chair and Entrepreneur,
Tanzania

When Asha passed her primary school exams her hopes of continuing to secondary school tragically faded in the face of poverty. With eleven children, Asha’s parents struggled to support the family. Often, Asha ate only one meal in a day, and sometimes nothing at all. She couldn’t afford to go to secondary school, but nor could she stay at home as a financial burden to her parents.

“These circumstances forced me to get married when I was just 15 years old. My parents simply could not continue to take care of me.”

In 2009, Asha joined the Camfed Association (CAMA network), receiving training in business development, health, entrepreneurship, and agriculture. When she completed the training, Asha received a small seed money grant from Camfed which enabled her to start her own fashion business.

The following year, a revolving fund scheme was launched in Asha’s district for which she was elected project coordinator. By this time, Asha had transformed her CAMA training into hands-on business experience, and, with further capital borrowed through the scheme, had expanded her business into agriculture. Today, she is a successful entrepreneur whose strength and compassion has earned her the respect and admiration of her community.

In 2011, members of Asha’s community encouraged her to run for the elected position of Village Land Council Representative. After serving a four-year term, Asha stood for election again, but this time for Secretary of the Ward Land Council, a position which she holds to this day. In order to reduce the workload of the district courts this council acts as a community court, reporting directly to the District Executive Director on cases of divorce, distribution of assets, and children’s rights. Asha uses this platform, and her authority as Secretary, to advocate for girls’ education and women empowerment.

“We teach children that coming to school helps prepare them for life. The responsibility that a child attends school is not just that of the parent or teacher. It’s the entire community’s responsibility.”

 Asha is a leader in her CAMA chapter and in her community, using her position to advocate for girls’ education and women empowerment (Photo: Patrick Hayes/Camfed).

Asha is a trailblazer whose commitment to bringing about lasting change in her community has led her to hold several leadership positions in CAMA. As the Chair of CAMA in Morogoro District, Asha was selected to participate in a tailored six-week course in Sustainable Agricultural Systems at EARTH University in Costa Rica developed in partnership with Camfed. There, Asha learned that a common plant in Tanzania, usually considered a weed, can be used as fertiliser, a vital resource that many farmers struggle to obtain. “When I returned I took advantage of any public gathering to transfer this training to other people. It’s just like with CAMA training - we share our knowledge and skills so other people can benefit. Even myself, I learned that I don’t have to have a degree, because with these skills and knowledge, I can employ myself and even employ others.”

“I am simply a CAMA member, but in my community I am regarded as a great success and a leader.”

Through CAMA training Asha learned about the importance of community mobilisation. She went on to establish two Parent Support Groups, one of which she currently chairs. In the first year, the group supported four children to go to secondary school, and established a lunchtime meal programme at a local primary school. Since she started these philanthropic initiatives, Asha has noticed a sea change in her community as parents and schools work together to address issues, such as absenteeism and teenage pregnancy, that prevent too many girls from completing school. For her part, through her role in Parent Support Groups and on the local council, Asha is able to reach not only students, but her whole community. 

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