In the last blog, Rachel Monger, Country Manager for Tanzania, shared some first-person accounts from women with albinism and why having albinism has historically led to marginalisation and other challenges in Tanzania. In this blog, we delve into the partnership between Bees Abroad and the women of Under The Same Sun and how bees wax is helping transform lives.
The women of Under The Same Sun were looking for a way to generate a livelihood for themselves. The perfect came with the introduction of a beekeeping project in nearby villages with the charity, Emmanuel International (Bees Abroad local partner). These new rural beekeepers had no idea that beeswax had value and were discarding it in the bush.
“But there is no market for wax!” they said. And so, we created the market. The Upendo wa Mama group agreed to buy the wax from the beekeepers. They also bought from other beekeepers in the area. They learned how to make basic balms and candles to sell. With the provision of a workshop space from Standing Voice, the business grew. By 2019, they were making beautiful Kitenge Bees Wraps, a wide variety of balms and soaps, polish, Nyuki Stix, batiks and all kinds of candles. Together with support from Under the Same Sun, they opened a shop, The Hive and established markets with tourists and ‘expats’ across the country. They started buying honey from the new beekeeping groups and labelling and bottling it for sale locally.
There have been many struggles and challenges, but the strength and resilience of these women is inspirational. As well as their group work, making and selling beeswax products, they have been able to put the skills and confidence they have gained through being part of the group to amazing benefit at home.
Two of them had never been to school and could not read or write. They have been able to have literacy training and are working hard to gain and improve these life-changing skills. Two have been for computer-literacy training to develop skills, two have been for intensive tailoring classes. One who suffered serious mental health issues from the trauma she experienced is now producing and selling her own product; another has started a pig project and another is making and selling soaps and lotion.
The change in these women is clearly evident; they can hold their heads high and be proud of who they are and what they can do. They are beginning to push boundaries and challenge opinion on the possibilities open to people with albinism.
The women have spoken to young people with albinism about the importance of love and family (something that young people with albinism doubted could ever be possible for them). They have been involved in community seminars for women in Mwanza, aimed at encouraging support groups and entrepreneurship for people in similar situations.
Bees Abroad has now just joined their journey and there are exciting things ahead! With support from Bees Abroad and BMCC, a local church, last month they registered “Mama Hive,” their own national NGO, a honey and beeswax social enterprise. With a managing director and sales and marketing manager, they are looking to launch to a new level of business and become a means of training and support for other marginalised women and girls.
The goal is for Mama Hive to be influential in promoting change in society’s understanding of albinism and to empower ambassadors for others whose human rights have been abused or potential not realised.
Watch this space as we share more about the exciting things happening with this project and more about the amazing women involved!