Elizabeti’s story

Elizabeti’s story

December 3, 2023


Rachel Monger, Country Manager for Tanzania, shared a first-person account from Elizabeti*, mother to a young child with albinism.

Trigger warning: the write-up below contains events that some may find upsetting.

*not her real name

Elizabeti's story


Rachel Monger, Country Manager for Tanzania, shared a first-person account from Elizabeti, mother to a young child with albinism.

Elizabeti, based in northern Tanzania, was eighteen and 5 months pregnant with her first child when her husband died. Grieving, she went back to her family and in time gave birth to her child, a child with albinism. She named him Baraka, which means “blessing” but she was immediately cut off from her late husband’s family; shunned and shamed, she was seen as a curse.

Later, a man approached Elizabeti and her family, asking to marry her. The family was initially delighted at this unexpected turn of events. But before the marriage took place, Elizabeti was approached secretively by a friend of the man, who warned her that the future husband had dark intentions to kill her child in order to sell his body parts for witchcraft.

Elizabeti broke off the engagement with the man, but after escaping intruders in her home one night, she knew the life of her child was in danger, and her own life as well. Warned by a friend of imminent danger a week later, she fled in the darkness, running with her baby boy for his life. She ended up in Mwanza, where she found the support of Under the Same Sun. She received a sewing machine and was looking to support herself and her child by sewing clothes when she joined the Upendo wa Mama (“Mother’s Love”) group.

Now, nine years later, Elizabeti is happily married with more beautiful children. She has trained and excelled in her sewing skills and is valued member of the albinism women’s group, making beeswax products to sell. She takes the handmade batiks that the women make and turns them into aprons, cushion covers and cloth napkins. During COVID, she sewed an uncountable number of colourful batik face masks!

And now, with support from Bees Abroad, as the women start their own honey and beeswax social enterprise as a national NGO, rebranding themselves as “Mama Hive,” Elizabeti is boldly taking a step not many women in Tanzania have taken … onto a motorbike! She has spent the last few months with MJ Piki (“Mwanamke Jasiri ya PikiPiki” or “Brave women on motorcycles”) learning how to drive and maintain a motorbike. She is about to start her training on a 3-wheeler, in order to become the official driver for the Mama Hive Bajaji.

This exciting new project is going to convert a normal Tanzanian bajaj (3-wheeler used for transporting goods) into a trendy mobile shop which the women will take around the city to sell honey and beeswax products.

From the desperate terror of running for her life with her baby boy, Elizabeti is now a brave advocate for women and children with albinism. She has overcome persecution, adversity and stigma; gone from being homeless, alone and destitute to being part of social enterprise earning her own income, to show that truly this beeswax artisan can!

Elizabeth's story


Rachel Monger, Country Manager for Tanzania, shared a first-person account from Elizabeti, mother to a young child with albinism.

Elizabeti, based in northern Tanzania, was eighteen and 5 months pregnant with her first child when her husband died. Grieving, she went back to her family and in time gave birth to her child, a child with albinism. She named him Baraka, which means “blessing” but she was immediately cut off from her late husband’s family; shunned and shamed, she was seen as a curse and the cause of her husband’s death.

Later, a man approached Elizabeti and her family, asking to marry her. The family was initially delighted at this unexpected turn of events. But before the marriage took place, Elizabeti was approached secretively by a friend of the man, who warned her that the future husband had dark intentions to kill her child in order to sell his body parts for witchcraft.

Elizabeti broke off the engagement with the man, but after being attacked but escaping intruders in her home one night, she knew the life of her child was in danger, and her own life at risk as well. Warned of imminent danger one night a week later by a friend, she fled in the darkness, running with her baby boy for his life. She ended up in Mwanza, where she found the support of Under the Same Sun. She received a sewing machine and was looking to support herself and her child by sewing clothes when she joined the Upendo wa Mama (“Mother’s Love”) group.

Now, nine years later, Elizabeti is happily married with more beautiful children. She has trained and excelled in her sewing skills and is valued member of the albinism women’s group, making beeswax products to sell. She takes the handmade batiks that the women make and turns them into aprons, cushion covers and cloth napkins. During COVID, she sewed an uncountable number of colourful batik face masks!

And now, with support from Bees Abroad, as the women start their own honey and beeswax social enterprise as a national NGO, rebranding themselves as “Mama Hive,” Elizabeti is boldly taking a step not many women in Tanzania have taken … onto a motorbike! She has spent the last few months with MJ Piki (“Mwanamke Jasiri ya PikiPiki” or “Brave women on motorcycles”) learning how to drive and maintain a motorbike. She is about to start her training on a 3-wheeler, in order to become the official driver for the Mama Hive Bajaji.

This exciting new project is going to convert a normal Tanzanian bajaj (3-wheeler used for transporting goods) into a trendy mobile shop which the women will take around the city to sell honey and beeswax products.

From the desperate terror of running for her life with her baby boy, Elizabeti is now a brave advocate for women and children with albinism. She has overcome persecution, adversity and stigma; gone from being homeless, alone and destitute to being part of social enterprise earning her own income, to show that truly this beeswax artisan can!

The Big Give, a Big Thank You

Our work is only possible with your support.
Support bees wax entrepreneurs like Elizabeti.

From all donations will be doubled until Tuesday the 5th December – one donation, double the impact.  

We can’t do what we do without your support, so thank you!   

Elizabeth's story

Rachel Monger, Country Manager for Tanzania, shared a first-person account from Elizabeti*, mother to a young child with albinism. Trigger warning: the write-up below contains events that some may find upsetting.

*not her real name

Elizabeti, based in northern Tanzania, was eighteen and 5 months pregnant with her first child when her husband died. Grieving, she went back to her family and in time gave birth to her child, a child with albinism. She named him Baraka, which means “blessing” but she was immediately cut off from her late husband’s family; shunned and shamed, she was seen as a curse and the cause of her husband’s death.

Later, a man approached Elizabeti and her family, asking to marry her. The family was initially delighted at this unexpected turn of events. But before the marriage took place, Elizabeti was approached secretively by a friend of the man, who warned her that the future husband had dark intentions to kill her child in order to sell his body parts for witchcraft.

Elizabeti broke off the engagement with the man, but after being attacked but escaping intruders in her home one night, she knew the life of her child was in danger, and her own life at risk as well. Warned of imminent danger one night a week later by a friend, she fled in the darkness, running with her baby boy for his life. She ended up in Mwanza, where she found the support of Under the Same Sun. She received a sewing machine and was looking to support herself and her child by sewing clothes when she joined the Upendo wa Mama (“Mother’s Love”) group.

Now, nine years later, Elizabeti is happily married with more beautiful children. She has trained and excelled in her sewing skills and is valued member of the albinism women’s group, making beeswax products to sell. She takes the handmade batiks that the women make and turns them into aprons, cushion covers and cloth napkins. During COVID, she sewed an uncountable number of colourful batik face masks!

And now, with support from Bees Abroad, as the women start their own honey and beeswax social enterprise as a national NGO, rebranding themselves as “Mama Hive,” Elizabeti is boldly taking a step not many women in Tanzania have taken … onto a motorbike! She has spent the last few months with MJ Piki (“Mwanamke Jasiri ya PikiPiki” or “Brave women on motorcycles”) learning how to drive and maintain a motorbike. She is about to start her training on a 3-wheeler, in order to become the official driver for the Mama Hive Bajaji.

This exciting new project is going to convert a normal Tanzanian bajaj (3-wheeler used for transporting goods) into a trendy mobile shop which the women will take around the city to sell honey and beeswax products.

From the desperate terror of running for her life with her baby boy, Elizabeti is now a brave advocate for women and children with albinism. She has overcome persecution, adversity and stigma; gone from being homeless, alone and destitute to being part of social enterprise earning her own income, to show that truly this beeswax artisan can!

Now, nine years later, Elizabeti is happily married with more beautiful children. She has trained and excelled in her sewing skills and is valued member of the albinism women’s group, making beeswax products to sell. She takes the handmade batiks that the women make and turns them into aprons, cushion covers and cloth napkins. During COVID, she sewed an uncountable number of colourful batik face masks!

And now, with support from Bees Abroad, as the women start their own honey and beeswax social enterprise as a national NGO, rebranding themselves as “Mama Hive,” Elizabeti is boldly taking a step not many women in Tanzania have taken … onto a motorbike! She has spent the last few months with MJ Piki (“Mwanamke Jasiri ya PikiPiki” or “Brave women on motorcycles”) learning how to drive and maintain a motorbike. She is about to start her training on a 3-wheeler, in order to become the official driver for the Mama Hive Bajaji.

This exciting new project is going to convert a normal Tanzanian bajaj (3-wheeler used for transporting goods) into a trendy mobile shop which the women will take around the city to sell honey and beeswax products.

From the desperate terror of running for her life with her baby boy, Elizabeti is now a brave advocate for women and children with albinism. She has overcome persecution, adversity and stigma; gone from being homeless, alone and destitute to being part of social enterprise earning her own income, to show that truly this beeswax artisan can!

Ambassadors of Hope

Ambassadors of Hope

December 1, 2023

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.

Bees wax: from waste to premium product

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.

A fly-wheel effect of positive change

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.

Ambassadors of hope

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.

Four women of The Hive, Tanzania standing outside. Two of them have Albinism. They are all holding wheels of bees wax

A blossoming social enterprise

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!

The Big Give, a Big Thank You

Our work is only possible with your support.
Support groups like Upendo wa Mama (“Mother’s Love”).

From Tuesday, the 28th November for one week all donations will be doubled – one donation, double the impact.  

We can’t do what we do without your support, so thank you!   

Four women of The Hive, Tanzania standing outside. Two of them have Albinism. They are all holding wheels of bees wax

Crimes of Colour, a Ray of Hope

Crimes of Colour, a Ray of Hope

November 29, 2023

Rachel Monger, Partnership Manager for Tanzania, shares first-person accounts from women with albinism and why having albinism can lead to marginalisation and persecution in Tanzania.

Trigger warning: the write-up below contains events that some may find upsetting

Crimes of Colour

It was on August 14, 2014, when Munghu, a 35 year old woman with albinism, was attacked in Tanzania. Her left arm was hacked off below the elbow, her right arm mutilated, and she was left to bleed to death. Her husband (without albinism) was killed as he tried to defend his wife and their two children. Just nine days earlier Pendo, a 15-year-old girl had been attacked. Her attackers ran off into the night with her right hand, hacked off below the elbow with a machete.

These were terrifying times for people with albinism. “White and Black: Crimes of Colour,” a documentary produced in collaboration with Under the Same Sun, revealed to the rest of the world what was happening. It followed the undercover work of Vicky Ntetema, (a Tanzanian journalist and later recipient of the International Women of Courage Award) examining the superstitions and fears surrounding albinism in Tanzania and the brutal consequences of these prejudices and the witchdoctors who prey on people with albinism for profit.

White & Black: Crimes of Colour. A documentary directed by Jean-François Méan

About Albinism in Tanzania

Albinism is a genetic skin disorder that results in the lack of production of melanin in the skin, hair and eyes, resulting in light or no colour. People with albinism are visually impaired and they are dangerously susceptible to skin cancer, often leading to early death. But more horrific is the stigma attached to this condition in Tanzania. People have called them “ghosts” considering them inhuman. Their body parts, which can be sold for a great deal of money, have been sought after for witchcraft potions to bring fortune and good luck. And tragically it is the children who are the most vulnerable to kidnapping, mutilation and murder.

A woman who gives birth to a child with albinism will often be considered a curse on the family or village and cut off, mistreated or sent away homeless, ostracised from community with her child at constant risk of being attacked or killed.

Under the Same Sun – a ray of hope

In Mwanza, Tanzania, a small group of women were brought together by Ester Rwela, an incredible ambassador for people with albinism, working at the time with Under the Same Sun.

These women were just some of the many mamas who were walking the difficult and painful journey of albinism in Tanzania. Mamas whose young children had been brutally murdered or attacked. Mamas who were cursed and shunned by their family or village for giving birth to a child with albinism. Mamas whose own husbands had played a role in horrific attacks. Mamas who had given birth only to have their husband leave them alone and unsupported, to find a wife who “not cursed” to bear his children. Mamas who had every shred of security, confidence and love stripped from them.

Ester introduced me to these precious women who had been told in every possible way, “you can’t…” This was the beginning of my journey with Upendo wa Mama, which means “Mother’s Love”, Rachel shares. 

Upendo wa Mama - “Mother’s Love”

The Upendo wa Mama group came together to support one another in the pain of all they were going through. Two had albinism and the others had children with albinism. They had all lost so much. They also needed income to survive, and we worked together to find ways to generate income. Over the past 8 years I have been immensely privileged to journey with these women. Together we have laughed and cried; we have struggled, and we have celebrated and each one of us has learned and grown in different ways. Here is a little of the story that takes us to Mama Hive and Bees Abroad today…

Join us in the next blog to find out how Bees Abroad and the women of Under The Same Sun are collaborating.

The Big Give, a Big Thank You

Our work is only possible with your support.
Support groups like Upendo wa Mama (“Mother’s Love”).

From the 28th November to the 5th of December, all donations will be doubled – one donation, double the impact.  

We can’t do what we do without your support, so thank you!   

The unstoppable women beekeepers in Nigeria

The unstoppable women beekeepers in Nigeria

November 20, 2023

Gender equality in Nigeria

Nigeria’s progress on gender equality is a mixed bag, in some areas Nigeria is a top performer, such as legal frameworks that promote, enforce and monitor gender equality. However, overall Nigeria has a low ranking in gender equality placing 139 out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. 

What does this mean for the reality of being a woman in Nigeria? Though there are success stories such as the recent election of Bolanle Ajayi as the deputy speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, finding quality work to make a sustainable living is more of a challenge for women. 

Self-organizing for Success

Amidst these challenges, the Ori-eru (Iwo) progressive beekeepers have emerged as a beacon of hope. This group of Muslim women, facing the difficulties of securing employment, decided to take matters into their own hands. United by a mission of self-reliance and mutual support, they embraced beekeeping as a means to empower themselves economically.

Diversifying Skills and Building Resilience
The group, with diverse skills ranging from farming to tailoring, identified beekeeping as a valuable addition. A former Bees Abroad trainee sensitised the group to beekeeping. The Ori-eru beekeepers have not only sustained their enterprise but expanded it significantly from an initial 5 hives to 43 hives.

Entrepreneurial Collaboration
A key aspect of their success lies in a collaborative approach to production and sales. While each member tends to a specific number of hives, the women work together to produce high-quality bee products under a single label. The profits are then reinvested or distributed among the group, fostering sustainable growth.

Burned hives, fire in the belly

In 2023, tragedy struck when their apiary was raided and hives destroyed by fire, reflecting the broader economic challenges in Nigeria. Undeterred, the Ori-eru beekeepers responded with determination.

They recognised the need to solve this problem quickly; essentially to replace hives in time to attract local swarms to restock hives. If they could rebuild and relocate their apiary by the start of the local swarming season, they stood a good chance of harvesting sufficient honey to recover lost income.

The group took this setback in their stride… They salvaged what they could and set to work devising a solution. However, their assessment was they only had sufficient reserves to replace 10 hives – an insufficient number to generate an adequate level of income for the group. They reached out to Bees Abroad, presenting a video outlining their situation and needs. 

Innovative Solutions and Rapid Recovery

Bees Abroad swiftly responded by funding 25 replacement hives. The Ori-eru beekeepers, showcasing resilience and innovation, built and sited these hives in record time. The new location is secluded and un-disclosed. For good measure the group also reinforced the hives with chains and padlocks. As of November 7th, 8 out of the 25 Bees Abroad sponsored hives are colonised.

This is a significant high rate of colonisation, which reflect the fact that the group made a great choice in beekeeping as an activity for income generation. In their area, bees are like flies! The group continue to monitor, clean, re-bait and invite bees to occupy empty hives.

 

Update: 5 months later

Five months after we replaced the hives and three months after we first shared this story we had a message from one of the group  leaders, Mr. Akanni:

Good day! This is from ORI ERU PROGRESSIVE BEEKEEPERS, We harvest honey from the hives that was replaced last year October, 2023 by Bees Abroad at our apiary. We make the harvest on 27, February. 2024 This is so wonderful, after the process, we have 15 litres of honey. In which the women are so happy and grateful to the Bees Abroad.

May God bless Bees Abroad

Mr. Akanni

 

Ori Eru progressive beekeepers February 2024

Accessible beekeeping in Sierra Leone

Accessible beekeeping in Sierra Leone

November 15, 2023

A two-part story

Part one of this blog covered a brief history of the war in Sierra Leone, the challenges faced by those living with amputations as a result of the war and how survivors have taken up football, farming and beekeeping.  

In this blog, part two, we go into a bit more detail about the challenges, possible solutions and aims of accessible beekeeping in Sierra Leone. 

beekeepers on crutches around a beehive

Adapted hives and harvesting

Part of this project is working out what accessible beekeeping means in Sierra Leone. During the workshop Bees Abroad want to help work out what participants feel safe and comfortable doing. The workshop includes hive visits and practical experience, which will help answer questions such as what is the right height for a hive for someone with an amputation, do beekeepers with amputees need to be partnered, can it be done seated?  

Harvesting from the hive is one small part of the whole process. Harvest is only once a year, but inspections need to be done on a regular basis. Lack of mobility during inspections could be an issue, will people who aren’t as mobile need thicker bee suits? 

Beekeeping in the bush, on crutches

Another complication factor is the location of the hives. The hives are in the bush, the forest, which makes things more difficult in terms of accessibility for people using crutches. The area around the hives needs to be cleared once month to keep the hive pest free (no one wants termites eating the hives!). We will work with participants to figure out what the best approaches are to these challenges. 

As mentioned in the previous blog, one of the aims of the workshop is to develop an accessible beekeeping manual for amputees but lived experience is better than any manual. The aim is that those who become dedicated beekeepers can become trainers for other people with amputations. 

Wax kits as a solution lack of intermediate income

Beekeeping is a long game, it takes two to three years for a hive to produce a viable honey harvest, a huge time investment and act of faith for farmers who mostly make a subsistence living. Part of this project is exploring stop-gap options, specifically a wax kit to bridge income. The wax kits will include three types of value-added wax products: neem (mosquito repellent), lip balm, body cream.  

A local value chain for value-added wax products

It’s not just honey that has a long lag time, wax takes a long time to accumulate too. Fortunately, another Bees Abroad project in Sierra Leone is producing three quarters of a tonne of honey a year, and a significant volume of wax. This wax can be transferred to newer projects to help them get off the ground.  

There’s also an opportunity in this project to explore the sustainable, local production of essential oils. At the moment the oils need to make the creams have to be brought from the UK, which is one of the biggest challenges for the viability of the wax kits. Sierra Leone is home to the Gola Rainforest, the largest remanent of the Upper Guinean Tropical Rainforest, so there is potential to make oils from plants in the forest. 

This Beekeeper Can

If you want to support beekeeping groups like the beekeepers on crutches, we have a great opportunity…

From the 28thNovember – 5th December all donations will be doubled – one donation, double the impact.

We can’t do what we do without your support, so thank you!  

This story is part of a series of stories we will be sharing over the next month as we celebrate the campaign ‘This Beekeeper Can’. Stay tuned to hear more stories, join our events or enter our prize draw. 

beekeepers on crutches around a beehive

Sierra Leone: beekeepers on crutches

Sierra Leone: beekeepers on crutches

November 8, 2023

The long recovery from the civil war

Sierra Leone’s recovery from the civil war is an international success story. Once a country at the top of the UN Security Council’s concern, Sierra Leone is soon to be an acting member of the council, having been elected in earlier this year.

However, the civil war cast a long shadow and the country still faces the huge challenges that come with sitting near the bottom of the global league tables for multi-dimensional poverty.  

Amputation in the civil war

The civil war in Sierra Leone lasted for over 10 years between 1991 and 2002 and left an estimated 27,000 people with an amputation or disability. Mutilation through limb amputation was a common tactic used by the rebel forces to control communities through fear. Many of the survivors living with amputations were children during the civil war.

In Sierra Leone, as in many countries around the world, having a disability brings with it stigmatisation and marginalisation, as well as physical challenges. Amputees in Sierra Leone face additional social exclusion because they are a stark reminder of the violence of the civil war.

Group of Bee Farmers on Crutches

Footballers on crutches

Those of you who follow our work closely may recall us speaking about the Sierra Leonian beekeepers on crutches, but the origin story has its roots in football. The story goes that a pastor named Mambud Samhai who teaches permaculture saw a group of people playing football on the beach, on closer inspection he was surprised to see many of the players were amputees using crutches, which didn’t seem to affect their ability on the pitch. If having an amputation doesn’t stop you playing football, why should it stop you being a successful farmer? Mambud decided to offer a permaculture farming course to people living with amputations.

Having an amputation or a disability in Sierra Leone is a catch-22, they are discriminated against making it difficult to get a job then are stigmatised for not contributing to society. Having a way to earn a livelihood not only improves amputees’ quality of life but their standing in society.

Beekeepers on crutches

Beekeeping is a fantastic complementary activity to farming, it doesn’t take up much land, it’s not as time intensive as other types of farming and it offers a different source of revenue through products that are high value such as honey and wax-based products. Bees Abroad was asked to provide support to the permaculture course to add beekeeping to the curriculum.

This November, Bees Abroad will be running a workshop in Sierra Leone with 12 participants from the permaculture course. The aim of the workshop is to develop a training course accessible to beekeepers living with amputations. If successful, the course will be made available in the three permaculture course farms that serve three major towns and cities across Sierra Leone.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog where we go into more detail on challenges, possible solutions and aims of accessible beekeeping in Sierra Leone.

This Beekeeper Can

If you want to support beekeeping groups like the beekeepers on crutches, we have a great opportunity…

From the 28thNovember – 5th December all donations will be doubled – one donation, double the impact.

We can’t do what we do without your support, so thank you!  

This story is part of a series of stories we will be sharing over the next month as we celebrate the campaign ‘This Beekeeper Can’. Stay tuned to hear more stories, join our events or enter our prize draw. 

Group of Bee Farmers on Crutches

Dr. Sakina’s Journey: From Childhood Arm Amputation to Beekeeping Leader

Dr. Sakina’s Journey: From Childhood Arm Amputation to Beekeeping Leader

November 4, 2023

Disability in Nigeria

Dr Sakina is a remarkable woman with a remarkable story to tell. This is a story not just about personal achievements in the face of adversity but of also of building a supportive community for people who are otherwise marginalised.  

In Nigeria, having any kind of disability can mean the odds are seriously stacked against you, culturally (‘take your bad luck and go’), economically (‘you can’t contribute anything’) and spiritually (beliefs that God does not give you more than you can bear). Dr Sakina lost her left arm when she was a child and was faced with overcoming all the cultural stereotypes that threatened to impact her future.

Dr Sakina’s journey from academic to beekeeping leader

Dr Sakina determinedly pursued her academic interests, leading her to complete a post graduate master’s degree, then a PhD in medicinal insects. From her studies she developed an interest in beekeeping and started looking for local beekeepers to learn more about bees. What she learnt captivated Sakina and she became a beekeeper herself, starting with traditional beekeeping from local beekeepers. Sakina’s thirst for knowledge left her wanting to learn more, she jumped at the chance to learn about modern beekeeping with Bees Abroad. 

 Dr Sakina saw a need to help other women who shared her struggles with disability and the stigma of being divorced. In Nigeria, and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, being divorced or widowed brings stigma that compounds the challenge of going from a dual-income family to a single-income family. Family relationships and support networks can also be seriously negatively impacted. 

Women Agricultural Development Forum and Bees Abroad joining forces

Driven by her desire to help others who face similar challenges, Dr Sakina founded Women Agricultural Development Forum (WADF) in 2018. Bees Abroad started working with WADF in April 2020. Initially, 24 beekeepers were trained, with another 40 trained in 2021.  

 Unlike Dr Sakina who’s an accomplished academic, many of the women in WADF are illiterate. For these women, who are already marginalised, and with little formal education, earning a living is an extremely hard task. The WADF has been a lifeline and beekeeping is the only source of income for many members of the group.  

What’s next for Dr Sakina

Dr Sakina has leveraged the relationship with Bees Abroad to grow her NGO to reach more and more women and she has ambitions to grow it further. Lots of women approach the group and ask for support and training. The demand for beekeeping knowledge is growing. Dr Sakina wants to package more honey (suitable containers can be hard to come by) and make other products such as bees wax based creams.

She herself has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge on beekeeping, she aims to deepen her knowledge alongside her studies on pests and diseases that affect bees. This Bees Abroad project is in its final year, but there’s always more that can be done. Dr Sakina’s story is the perfect proof that ‘This Beekeeper Can’.  

This Beekeeper Can

If you want to support beekeepers and groups like Dr Sakina and WADF we have a great opportunity for you! From the 28th November – 5th December all donations will be doubled – one donation, double the impact. We can’t do what we do without your support, so thank you!  

 This story is part of a series of stories we will be sharing over the next month as we celebrate the campaign ‘This Beekeeper Can’. Stay tuned to hear more stories, join our events or enter our prize draw.