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!