“Individual stories can be transformed by hope”

This week we are meeting Upendo wa Mama.

We talked to Rachel Monger about her projects and women with albinism. We also asked her to share her idea of volunteering in Africa and many more;

Can you briefly tell us about Upendo wa Mama?

Upendo wa Mama (“Mother’s Love” in Swahili) exists to support and encourage women who have albinism or who have children with albinism. The goal is to empower women by using their skills as artisans of beeswax handicrafts. Focussing on individual strengths and skills and working together as team, these women are overcoming obstacles and increasing their ability to support and benefit themselves and their children.

There is a group of mamas in Mwanza and another in Dar es Salaam. The Mwanza group has just this month opened The Hive, their own shop!

What are the challenges of albinism?

For people with albinism (PWA) in Tanzania, life has been painful. Many PWA have been attacked or killed, due to the belief that their body parts transmit magical powers through witchcraft. Men have left wives who have birthed a child with albinism, believing they are cursed. Family members have sought to kill children with albinism. Women and children have been left vulnerable, at risk of attack and rejection by their community. On their own, they have struggled to provide for their children. But we believe the individual stories can be transformed by hope. The women have walked through trauma, rejection and pain, but as they share their stories and support one other, they move on in strength

How do you reach vulnerable women?

These women have come together with the help of Under the Same Sun, an organization that has worked hard across the country on advocacy programs for PWA and educational support for children.

In which fields are they getting trained?

Women are trained in handicrafts skills, particularly in beeswax products. Women have also been taught to sew, make tie-dye and batik products, to bake, and had computer skills training.

Do you have an online market for women’s products?

We hope to have a website soon! For now, we use our Business What’s App (+255 746 879 901) and Instagram and Facebook (#upendowamama.tz) to advertise and promote our products! Through this, we have been able to deliver products across the country!

The main area is a shop, displaying and selling the beeswax products that the women have made in the workshop over at the Standing Voice property.

Are you selling the products abroad?

We have been able to send our products overseas with individuals from the US, Sweden, UK, and Canada to sell there.

The women also work on beeswax products, making a variety of lip and body balms, Kitenge Beeswraps, taper candles, tealights, “Nyuki Stix” (our own version of WikiStix), all using local pure beeswax and nourishing oils.

“Build confidence in people!”

What are the essentials of social work practice in vulnerable groups especially for Africa?

Encourage and build confidence in people! We believe every person is special, created with God-given gifts and qualities! Equip and empower people to use these gifts! Let people work and build from the skills they have!

Do you have specific difficulties in doing social work in Africa?

It has been very difficult to start an income-generating project as a charitable group due to government restrictions and complicated tax laws. It is very hard for vulnerable women to navigate the system and be understood and helped. They are not encouraged to succeed, but rather face obstacles and costs which threaten to strangle their efforts.

Arife Kabil Mede; Turkish ex-pat in Africa. Sociologist, journalist. Interviews with NGO leaders in Africa. Updates, researches, projects.